Before you panic, this series of articles is for someone who knows nothing about websites or how to get one found, but would like to have some knowledge about it for their own benefit. If you already have some knowledge of SEO, this is a great refresher. I’m not promising every detail here, I’m just trying to help you digest how and why SEO and search engines impact your business and what you can do about it.
There are many, many aspects of proper SEO and different techniques for different websites. However the basic topics discussed here are by far the most useful and universally accepted practices any website owner should know.
Know the Types of Search Results
Well you probably know a search engine delivers your search results based on what keywords you type in, but which results are the best to click on? What’s the difference between those “sponsored results” links at the top and side of the page and those others on the left under the sponsored results?
Well first, make sure you know which is which. This short video to the right is a little hard to hear but it does explain and show the diferences.
Pay Per Click Search Results
Pay Per Click (PPC), also knows as Cost Per Click, is the search results shown in the upper most part of the page or to the right. These results are labled “Sponsered Links” because businesses pay to have these links here. This is mainly how search engines like Google make their money. Every time you click one of those links, the link owner pays.
Free Search Results, or “Organic Search”
This is the remaining group of links with descriptions on the page to the left, sometimes under a local map (which is free to). These are free results because websites that appear here did not have to pay the search engine to be here. They get here by merit, quality of their content and sometimes popularity of search visitors. This is the main point of understanding SEO in the first place – getting to the top of the free results. By the way, don’t ever believe everyone clicks the top link in the sponsored results. These are often biased ads and not always relevant search results. Most people have already learned to ignore these just for this fact. I tend to get better results with the free search anyway so I ignore them. In fact, over 70% of regular internet users IGNORE the sponsored search all together!
So How Are You Searching the Internet?
Let’s get started. To know about SEO means you know about search engines and how to properly use them. Think you know already? Be sure you do and watch this short but highly effective video, compliments of CommonCraft.com, on how search works before you move on. You’ll probably see search from a whole new perspective.
The whole idea of getting your website found revolves around the principle of having quality, unique content.
First Thing to Know: Search Engines Look at Everything
Search engines use highly sophisticated programs to “crawl” the internet to find web pages containing text. Notice I said “text” and not “content”. Your content could contain images, videos, audio, flash animation, and text. But everything besides text is meaningless to search engines unless it has description text assigned to it. The whole idea of getting your website found revolves around the principle of having quality, unique content. So let’s lay down some simple ground rules to remember:
- Content for a website is considered to be “text”.
- A pretty website is useless for searchers and search engines trying to index your website. Pictures, flash animation, colors and videos cannot be seen by search engines unless they have alternate text assigned to them.
- Search engines look at your content (text) and try to make sense of it.
- Search engines file away (or index) your content into search categories.
- Search engines like Google filter the search words you enter and provide you with the most accurate and relevant results it has stored away in it’s index.
- Your job is to provide search engines the proper organized content if you want your website to be found.
When you perform a search, you are actually typing in keywords. Keywords don’t have to be just a single word either. In fact, they are most effective when in combination with other words, or search phrases. For example the video above reference “fish” as the keyword but it brings up way too many results. It wasn’t until they used search phrases to get the optimal results.
To find exactly what you’re looking for, you need to be more specific in your search terms. An important function for getting traffic to your website is to properly place the keywords within your website’s content so search engines learn what your website is all about. That’s what we’ll discuss next.
Pretend Your Website is a Book in a Bookstore. How Will People Find It?
The idea of getting quality content on your website revolves around the main theme of what your website is all about. For example, let’s compare your website to a book in a book store, and the search engine’s index of files is the book store. How do you make your book (or website) stand out from all of those other books? Ah! The burning question of every author! If you want exposure for your book, you have to know some important stuff: (go get your notepad and jot down your book ideas while reading this)
- Don’t think about advertising, shelf placement, or the color and design yet. Think about what your book (website) is about and who would look for it — your target audience. Create a general theme for your book (or website/web page title) to be placed on the book’s front cover and spine. Notice my web page here is about SEO 101. This is the general theme of this page. What you’re reading right now is some content detail to compliment the theme.
- Break down the theme of your book (website) into chapters (sub pages of a website). When you look at your book’s title, the book shopper (or search engine) should get a general idea of what it may be about. Next, open the cover and find the table of contents. This represents the pages of your website! This is important to understand: A website theme (or book title) generalizes your website’s content. The home page of your website should just give an overview of what is on the other pages! The pages of the website must contain individual and detailed information (or book chapters). This organization is exactly what search engines want to find. The more organized your content is, the better the search results will be for the searcher.
- After your book (website) is well written for an intended audience, is categorized within the book store’s filing system (or search engine index), is placed into the proper shelf within the store (again, the search engine index), only then will your book (website) be marketable. Otherwise, look for it on the discount rack (or beyond page 3 of the search results).
A website theme, or title, generalizes to website’s content. The home page of the website should just give an overview of what is on the other pages. The pages must contain individual and detailed sub themes (or book chapters)which take a general theme to a specific detail.
What About Looks?
You may notice I didn’t mention much about website looks, design, style or navigation yet. Yes, this is important to create the right perception to the site vistor, but ONLY after they have found your site in the first place.
You see, most website owners (and website designers too) focus mainly on how the pages should look. As my slogan says, “What good is a website if nobody knows it exists?”.