An Honest Summary of Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization is a process of first determining a website’s competitive keyword phrases and then ensuring that the structure and content of the site appear relevant to search engines for those topics. The more specifically relevant content, the better. SEO doesn’t generate traffic and you can’t cheat.

The Basics of Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization can be broken down to three areas of focus:

  • Coding – Does the code of the site and posting conform to a few basic SEO guidelines?
  • Meta-content – Do all your pages and posts have descriptive meta-titles, meta-descriptions, image titles, and urls?
  • Content – Given your chosen keywords and phrases, does your site have enough original, relevant, and targeted content to compete for search rank?

SEO Begins With Market Research

Without understanding a good deal about your market and competition you can’t formulate a strong content strategy for you website. You have to determine where you have some leverage and then focus all content of the site at that point.

Creating effective content requires research to determine:

  • Your basic keyword profile – What are the most relevant keywords related to your industry?
  • Which keywords specify your competitive space – With main categories often out of reach, what sub-categories are more accessible?
  • Your competition – Who is trying to do just about the same thing you are? What can you do better?

Search Engine Optimization Is All About Content

At least 90% of what can be accomplished with SEO revolves around content.

Search engines assign rank based on not only the amount of content, but more recently, it’s apparent relevance. In other words, you can’t hope to game the system with auto-generated or pulp content. Search engines are getting smarter.

As a result, content writing has recently become a lot more research-heavy and skilled as the demand for relevant and less superficial content has increased.

SEO Doesn’t Generate Traffic

SEO isn’t about creating traffic. SEO is about optimizing your site so that when you DO have traffic, you can effectively take advantage of it.

Many developers and marketers include link building in their list of SEO services. It might be more accurate to consider link building a part of your marketing budget as it’s really a form of promotion and largely concerned with off-site content and relationships.

General SEO Recommendations

Everyone needs their website to be well set up for SEO. And people need to be disciplined about adding meta-content. But not everyone has time to write, or can pay for, a lot of written content, the most important element.

Whatever your budget or time constraints, the following suggestions should be relevant:

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of market research to determine a competitive content strategy. Who’s your competition? How much content do they have? What are their keywords? Can you afford to compete? Can you carve out a unique niche to distinguish yourself from them?
  • Websites should avoid content being repeated on different pages. This is a very common problem. If you have your blog feeding to your homepage, write a unique excerpt. Search engines may ignore pages they find on your site if the same content is found on another page.
  • Don’t spread yourself too thin. The more specifically your content is targeted, the more leverage it can have.
  • Consider a location-based focus for you content.
  • You may not consider yourself a writer. Who cares? No one reads web content anyway. Commit yourself to posting one search engine optimized article or blog post per week.
  • Don’t overestimate the benefits of SEO. To optimize is to make something only as good as it can be. Many online businesses and projects find that their Facebook page receives more traffic than their website. In contrast, search results may not pull much traffic at all.

No Cheating

There’s really no cheating with SEO. No major short cuts. Unfortunately, the web is teaming with people selling SEO snake oil. You’ll find exaggeration and deceptive claims about potential results coming from some very seemingly reputable sources.

It’s important to understand that search engines, Google being most important, penalize a site’s rank for coding or behaviors that appear intended to fool the search engine or artificially skew a sites keyword profile.

For more information on how Google determines site rank, see their Webmaster Guidelines at the link below.

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