Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of editing and organizing the content on a webpage or across a web site to increase its potential relevance to specific keywords on specific search engines and importantly ensuring that external links to the site are correctly titled and in abundance.
This is done with the aim of achieving a higher organic search listing and thus increasing the volume of traffic from search engines.
SEO is one of the key web marketing activities and can target different kinds of searches, including image search, local search and industry-specific vertical search engines.
SEO considers how search engines work and what people search for. Optimizing a web site primarily involves editing its content and HTML coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Sometimes a site’s structure (the relationships between its content) must be altered too. Because of this it is, from a client’s perspective, always better to incorporate Search Engine Optimization when a web site is being developed than to try and retroactively apply it.
Another class of techniques, known as black hat SEO or spamdexing, use methods such as link farms and keyword stuffing that degrade both the relevance of search results and the user-experience of search engines. Search engines look for sites that employ these techniques in order to remove them from their indices.
The term ‘Search engine friendly’ refers to a web site that has been search optimized
Getting Indexed on Search Engines
The leading search engines, Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft, use crawlers to find pages for their algorithmic search results. Pages that are linked from other search engine indexed pages do not need to be submitted because they are found automatically. Some search engines, notably Yahoo!, operate a paid submission service that guarantee crawling for either a set fee or cost per click. Such programs usually guarantee inclusion in the database, but do not guarantee specific ranking within the search results. Yahoo’s paid inclusion program has drawn criticism from advertisers and competitors. Two major directories, the Yahoo Directory and the Open Directory Project both require manual submission and human editorial review. Google offers Google Webmaster Tools, for which an XML Sitemap feed can be created and submitted for free to ensure that all pages are found, especially pages that aren’t discoverable by automatically following links.
Search engine crawlers may look at a number of different factors when crawling a site. Not every page is indexed by the search engines. Distance of pages from the root directory of a site may also be a factor in whether or not pages get crawled.
Eye tracking studies have shown that searchers scan a search results page from top to bottom and left to right (for left to right languages), looking for a relevant result. Placement at or near the top of the rankings therefore increases the number of searchers who will visit a site. However, more search engine referrals does not guarantee more sales. SEO is not necessarily an appropriate strategy for every web site, and other Internet marketing strategies can be much more effective, depending on the site operator’s goals. A successful Internet marketing campaign may drive organic traffic to web pages, but it also may involve the use of paid advertising on search engines and other pages, building high quality web pages to engage and persuade, addressing technical issues that may keep search engines from crawling and indexing those sites, setting up analytics programs to enable site owners to measure their successes, and improving a site’s conversion rate.
Search Engine Optimization as a Marketing Strategy
SEO may generate a return on investment. However, search engines are not paid for organic search traffic, their algorithms change, and there are no guarantees of continued referrals. Due to this lack of guarantees and certainty, a business that relies heavily on search engine traffic can suffer major losses if the search engines stop sending visitors. It is considered wise business practice for web site operators to liberate themselves from dependence on search engine traffic. A top-ranked SEO blog Seomoz.org has reported, “Search marketers, in a twist of irony, receive a very small share of their traffic from search engines.” Instead, their main sources of traffic are links from other web sites.