Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance Small Business for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.
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Updated December 07, 2019
What is Search Engine Optimization (also known as SEO)? A broad definition is that search engine optimization is the art and science of making web pages attractive to search engines. More narrowly, SEO seeks to tweak particular factors known to affect search engine standing to make certain pages more attractive to search engines than other web pages that are vying for the same keywords or keyword phrases.
The goal of SEO is to get a web page high search engine ranking. The better a web page’s search engine optimization, the higher a ranking it will achieve in search result listings. (Note that SEO is not the only factor that determines search engine page ranks.) This is especially critical because most people who use search engines only look at the first page or two of the search results, so for a page to get high traffic from a search engine, it has to be listed on those first two pages, and the higher the rank, the closer a page is to the number one listing, the better. And whatever your web page’s rank is, you want your website to be listed before your competitor’s websites if your business is selling products or services over the internet.
Search engine optimization has evolved greatly over the years. In the early days of SEO web designers would “stuff” keywords into web page keyword meta tags to improve search engine rankings – nowadays Google’s web search ignores the keywords meta tag.
Current search engine optimization focuses on techniques such as making sure that each web page has appropriate title tags and that the content is not “thin” or low-quality. High-quality content is original, authoritative, factual, grammatically correct, and engaging to users. Poorly edited articles with spelling and grammatical errors will be demoted by search engines.
Also important for SEO are the so-called “off-page” strategies. Rather than examining just the webpage itself, modern search engines take into account other factors such as the number of links to a page. The more inbound links to a web page the higher it will rank in the search engines.
Guest blogging (publishing work on the sites and blogs of others) is one method of link building that is safe and effective.
Building links can also be accomplished by sharing content across social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and YouTube. Content that has been extensively shared on social media is taken into consideration by search engines as an indication that it is of higher quality.
Do not pay for links! This kind of practice can get your site banned from Google and other search engines.
Search engines find and catalog web pages through spidering (also known as webcrawling) software. Spidering software “crawls” through the internet and grabs information from websites which is used to build search engine indexes. Unfortunately, not all search engine spidering software works the same way, so what gives a page a high ranking on one search engine may not necessarily give it a high ranking on another. Note that rather than waiting for a search engine to discover a newly created page, web designers can submit the page directly to search engines for cataloging.
One of the things that SEO specialists do is keep track of all the changes in search engine operations so they can optimize pages accordingly. They also keep up with changes in the different search engine submission policies.
When you choose a designer to create a business website, you should ask them about search engine optimization, as SEO should be built into your pages. While it’s never too late to optimize or tweak pages that have already been published, it’s a lot easier and more sensible to include search engine optimization when the page is first written.
According to NetMarketShare, Google is still by far the dominant search engine provider, with approximately 73% of the search engine market, followed by Baidu (Microsoft):
Google – 72.47%
Baidu – 13.47%
Bing – 7.64%
Yahoo! – 4.74%
Yandex – 0.86%
Ask – 0.30%
DuckDuckGo – 0.22%
Also Known As: SEO
Examples: Sales on Karen’s ecommerce site rose 210% once she had the website redone with search engine optimization in mind.