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Search Engine Optimization 101

Author: Abby

By definition, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of making a site and its content highly relevant for both search engines and searchers. In layman's terms, it means getting your website on the first page of Google. Sure, there's a bit more to it than that and there are certainly other major search engines, but this is usually the definition that resonates with businesses and initially captures their interest.

So why is it beneficial to have your website listed on the first page, or even in the number one position, of a search engine? Studies have shown that 95% of traffic comes from the first page of search results. Think of your own search habits. How often do you enter your search term and then click to page five to view the results? My guess is, you don't! In the busy environments we are all immersed in, there is no time for this. We are impatient and impulsive and want the answer to our question now. That is why search engine optimization is so important to your website.

So what does this all mean? It means that when building a website, SEO must be at the forefront of your mind. Everything about the site design is important, from how easy it is to navigate, to the amount of Flash used, to the site map and most importantly, content. If you find this all a bit overwhelming don't be afraid to seek advice from an SEO specialist, it is well worth it. An ineffective SEO program implementation can be detrimental to your business because your customers, be it current or potential, will not find you. And for every missed customer there is a competitor waiting in the wings that will gladly snatch them up.

When delving into the world of Search Engine Optimization, it's helpful to first know a few terms.

  • SEM (Search Engine Management): The process of building and marketing a site with the goal of improving its position in search engine results. SEM includes both search engine optimization (SEO) and search advertising, or paid search.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization): The process of making a site and its content highly relevant for both search engines and searchers. SEO includes technical tasks to make it easier for search engines to find and index a site for the appropriate keywords, as well as marketing-focused tasks to make a site more appealing to users. Successful search marketing helps a site gain top positioning for relevant words and phrases.
  • PPC (Pay-Per-Click ads): A performance-based advertising model where the advertiser pays a set fee for every click on an ad. These can be found at the top of a search results page in the ‘sponsored search' box.
  • Organic Rankings: Also known as ‘natural rankings.' It is any web site list on the free or unpaid section of a search results page.
  • Meta Tag: Information placed in the HTML header of a Web page, providing information that is not visible to browsers, but can be used in varying degrees by search engines to index a page. Common meta tags used in search engine marketing are title, description, and keyword tags (see below).
  • Title Tag: An HTML meta tag for each page on your website that briefly describes that page and is found in the blue bar at the top of your internet window. In my experience, this is one of the most important aspects of SEO because many search engines pay special attention to the title text when indexing pages.
  • Description: A meta tag that is found on each page and describes the content for that specific page.
  • Keywords: A meta tag in the form of a word or phrase entered on the back-end of your site in an effort to get the search engine to return matching and relevant results.

The best place to start SEO is with the set of keywords that you will use to optimize your site. These are words or phrases that your customers or potential customers use when searching for you. So how do you know what words or phrases they use? You do your research! There are many tools out there that can suggest keywords for you based on your site content (if your site is already built) or based on a keyword (if your site is not built yet). Google offers this tool and many other tools for free. The more specific and targeted your keywords are, the better. If you sell shoes, for instance, the likelihood of getting ranked on the first page of Google for the search term "shoes" is about a million to one. However, if you target more specific keywords, such as "saucony running shoes dayton ohio" you have a much higher chance of doing well in the rankings. That is, if you really sell Saucony running shoes in Dayton, Ohio .

Once you have your set of keywords and phrases, the hard part is done. Now you must "optimize" your site for this list of keywords. This includes a few steps. First, make sure your content contains the keywords you are targeting. You can never have too much content as far as SEO is concerned, however, do not pad your pages with keywords from top to bottom. Just use them in a natural way that flows with the rest of your copy. Second, include individual landing pages for each keyword you are targeting. Back to the shoe example, dedicate a page (known as a landing page) to Saucony running shoes and one to New Balance, Brooks, and on down the line. And third, do the proper back-end work to include the keywords and phrases in the title tags, description and keywords for each page.

Run an initial report so that you know where your rankings are when you started the whole process. To do this, simply write down the keywords/phrases you are targeting and search to see where they are ranked. This can be done manually or with the aid of software. This gives you a baseline from which to monitor your success. From there, you can check in on your rankings whenever you like. Daily, weekly, monthly… it's up to you. Tweaks to your SEO as well as keeping your content fresh will enable you to maintain your rankings.

Pay-per-clicks are a whole other animal. These are much easier to manipulate than organic rankings. With these, I suggest targeting more broad keywords for which it is very hard to get high natural rankings, but even something like "shoes" would be hard to pull off, unless you have a limitless budget. The idea of pay-per-clicks is simple: you set the keyword you want to target, you write an ad, someone searches for your keyword, your ad shows up and if they click on it, you pay for that click. You can set your budget and maximum amount that you want to pay for each click. You can also set your budget for the month and let Google do the rest. A good SEO program would incorporate both PPC as well as organic listings. If you are just starting out, PPC's can start generating traffic to your site quickly whereas organic rankings take longer to achieve. Once your natural rankings are rocking, then you can back off the PPCs, if you so choose, to save money.

Helpful Hints:

Know your customer. Any research you do will pay off. Knowing your customers' habits and how they found you on the Internet is very useful. This insight takes the guesswork out and allows you to target your specific audience.

Have a good website. This is crucial to a successful search engine optimization plan. Again, do your research. Is your site easy to navigate? Do you have plenty of keywords in your content? Do you have specific landing pages for your targeted keywords? What are your competitors' sites like?

Be realistic. Don't expect your rankings to change in a day. Don't expect to get a number one ranking with a highly competitive, vague keyword (shoes, for example). Be realistic and have realistic expectations when it comes to your SEO program.

Be patient. I have seen organic rankings change in a matter of a week. I have also seen them not budge in 3 months. Patience and persistence is the key. If you have done a good job, your efforts will be rewarded so do not give up.

Ask tough questions. If you've chosen to work with an SEO company, don't be afraid to ask questions. They should be more than willing to help you and answer your questions. Be leery if they will not openly share their process for improving your rankings. There are plenty of shady tactics out there and if they won't disclose what they do and how, then you may want to reconsider. In the end, your site can be punished or even banned from Google and other search engines for taking shortcuts or an unethical approach. For instance, inserting hidden links or text that are only readable by search engines but can not be seen by the human eye.

If you want your potential customers to find you, you must keep search engine optimization at the forefront of your mind when building your website. If your website is already built, it's not too late! Just remember the hints provided above, and above all, know your target audience and know what terms they use to find you. Once you know that, build or tweak your website accordingly.

Don't be afraid to seek help if you need it. A good SEO program and proper implementation will be well worth your money and will provide a return on your investment. If nothing else, knowing and understanding the basics of SEO and that it is indeed important, is a step in the right direction.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/marketing-tips-articles/

About the Author

Abby Morris is an Account Manager for TDH Marketing, Inc., a leading business development and marketing firm headquartered in Dayton, Ohio since 1994 with joint ventures and affiliations throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. TDH offers many web-based services including web development, eCommerce programming, online streaming media, social media marketing and eMarketing programs, including Search Engine Optimization.

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