SEO — what is it, and why do you need it? Search Engine Optimization can increase the quantity and quality of traffic to your site through search engine results. While there is a lot of useful information on SEO on the interweb, here are 6 things to know to get started.

  1. The majority of web traffic is driven by major search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Search engines are the new Yellow Pages; they provide users with answers to queries for information, services, products, and sites. Search engines accomplish this in two ways: they crawl sites by keywords, determining what sites are most relevant to the words you’ve typed into the search bar; and they rank those sites in order according to popularity. When you optimize your site for search engines, you increase your chances of higher rankings and more traffic. Without optimization, engines may not find the content that you want to advertise to the world.
  2. The higher your site appears on a web search, the more traffic you get. Links in the 1, 2, and 3 positions on Google, for example, receive disproportionately more click-throughs than links further down the page. Links appearing on subsequent pages are unlikely to be seen and clicked. If you are offering a service, there is a huge financial incentive to ranking high in search engine results. How are these engines crawling your site exactly? Here are a few of the major ways: indexable content, link structures, and keywords.
  3. Indexable content: Engines crawl the HTML content of your page mainly by text. They often ignore non-text content such as images, Flash files, and Java applets. The most important content for your site should be in HTML text format — this ensures that it is being picked up in a search.
  4. Once you’ve got the content in place, make sure that the various pages of your site are linked to each other. A search engine finds its way through the content of your page by looking for links to other pages. If links are not placed appropriately in your text content (or if they are not there at all), the engine may not find all of the pages on your site and will miss valuable content.
  5. Keywords may be the most important part of SEO. Search engines base their searches on keywords. As they crawl and index sites, engines keep track of keywords in keyword-based indexes. How you choose keywords and where they are placed in your text content are all important, as are the order of keywords within phrases, spelling, punctuation, and specificity. If you haven’t already carefully considered the use of keywords in your site, it may also help you clarify your mission and brand.

You may be able to do SEO for yourself! While SEO is a complex subject, the basics can be easily understood and implemented by beginners, especially if your site is relatively small in scope. There is also a lot of good, free information on the web to get you started. Here are some links to our favorites.

MozPro: The Beginner’s Guide to SEO

Wikipedia: Search Engine Optimization

Kissmetrics Blog: A Simple Step by Step Guide to SEO

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