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SEO Basics


Search engine optimization (SEO) is a tool. Every tool has a purpose and SEO’s purpose is to drive users to a website. How does it do this? By helping the website to be clearly defined in the “eyes” of a search engine it drives users to that website. Because most people find a website by typing a word or phrase into a search engine like Google, Yahoo or Bing, the search engine tries to return the best results to the user.

SEO is the process of convincing a search engine to return your website as the top result in a search for something that describes what you have to offer. This negotiating with search engines is basically convincing a piece of software that you are important. This is not like talking to humans; search engines use things called algorithms to evaluate a website. These algorithms change on a regular basis as the companies that run search engines genuinely try to provide the best results for a user’s search.

SEO, like any other tool, can only perform as well as the skill of the person using it. Most of what makes SEO work is writing skill. That doesn’t mean that Stephen King can do a better job than a 12 year old aspiring novelist, it simply means that knowing what the search engines are looking for when writing content for a website is important. It is also important to keep track of the changes in search engines that influence the results they provide. There are four things that can help writers create SEO friendly content.


The value of a name

Artwork, books, movies, all have a title. That title describes what it is all about. In the world of SEO, that would be a key word which means exactly that. It is a word that describes what the purpose of the website is. When search engines evaluate a website the key words are the first things they should find. Titles and taglines need to be similar but they should never be duplicates.


The Art of Meta Descriptions

A Meta description is the brief line of text that appears under the title of a website in the list of search engine results. Its purpose is to provide a little more information about the website to help a user figure out whether that particular website is what they are looking for. Think of a Meta description as a tagline or a quick, one sentence, sales pitch. It should be short, no more than 165 characters, so it isn’t cut off and complete, so it gives the message you want, grabs attention and is honest.


Key words are just that, Key words

A key word is a word that someone would think of to describe what you do. For example, if you run a garden center, using words like landscaping, flowers, and lawnmowers would be the key words that someone would think to type into a search engine to find you. Key words need to be used carefully. While they should appear frequently in your website content, they should not be over used. This is called “key word density” and any more than 5% is usually considered spam by search engines and will hurt your ranking. Make sure your website content is easy to read and makes sense. Don’t overuse key words. You want people to read what is on your website. Key words can also be added in image titles and other places that don’t interfere with the readability of the copy.


Careful what you link to

Page links are very important in SEO. The more links to your website, the more your website looks like an authority in the area you are involved in. It is very important that the links on a webpage come from legitimate sources. Think of it like this. Who do you want to be associated with? If you aren’t sure of the source of a link, don’t use it. Not only will it make you look bad in the eyes of your website users, search engines also can tell the difference between legitimate and illegitimate sources too. Remember that old saying, “You are judged by the company you keep.”


The proper use of the SEO tool can make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful web presence. The knowledgeable use of any tool in the hands of the more skilled craftsperson provides better results. While anyone with time and a little knowledge can be successful with SEO, the professional will yield the best results. When you hire a professional carpenter to build a bookcase, he or she will usually do a better job and do it faster than an amateur who really enjoys working with wood.

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