SEO – The Nuts and Bolts

The mysteries of the web begin and end with SEO, that elusive yet ever-referenced acronym resting heavily on the minds of all website owners. Quality Search Engine Optimization(SEO) literally provides the link between a business owner and an endless stream of potential clients. From a “mom and pop” pie shop seeking a larger slice of their region’s demographic to a smooth talking salesman vying to make his herbal remedy a household name, both businesses have the same goal when it comes to Search Engine Optimization; to find an affordable SEO solution that will lift their sites from the dark depths of cyberspace and into the aura emitted by millions of end users filling online shopping carts with their goods and services.

The key to SEO lies in aligning a website’s architecture with the hundreds of variables contained within the mathematical algorithms search engines like Google and Yahoo use to determine a page’s relevance. The Google algorithm is a tightly guarded secret, and is frequently discussed by professionals in the SEO industry. A website’s relevance is ranked by Google from 1-10 as “Page Rank”, or “PR”for short, and this rank is often displayed on the Home Page. Some SEO professionals have even gone so far as to consolidate a list of hundreds of factors they have extracted from years of study and practice, factors they feel are most directly correlative to a website’s Page Rank. So what are the most important factors to take into consideration with regard to SEO and making your website as relevant as possible?

First of all, it is important to understand how it is that a website like Google gains access to the massive amount of information it displays in its search results. The way Google acquires its information is through a set of “crawlers” it sends about the internet finding websites and navigating their pages. A “crawler” is a computer program with a specific mission to seek out websites stored on servers and dissect their content. These crawlers spend their lives moving from site to site navigating the HTML source code that makes up each page.

The fluid navigation of a website and its subsequent indexing is aided by a handful of variables, one of which being an XML sitemap. An XML sitemap is a map written in a computer language called XML that contains all of the unique URLs (pages) that make up a website. Some websites, especially e-commerce sites, may contain hundreds of thousands or even millions of pages. So you can see how having a map of the site for the crawler to navigate can prove invaluable. If a website does not have an XML sitemap it could take many visits by the search engine crawler before even a small percentage of its pages become searchable on Google or Yahoo. By navigating a site with the use of an XML sitemap the crawlers determine which pages are most relevant for their users and they decide whether or not the page is worthy of indexing. Every search result you encounter on a search engine got there through this intricate process and was individually selected during the time within which the crawler last navigated the site. If a website owner hopes for its site to have success online, it is very important that the site has an XML sitemap attached to it and that the search engines come out to crawl it regularly. There are companies that provide XML sitemapping for websites, as well as programs for purchase that will create an automated XML sitemap that is then attached by the owner to the site.

As discussed earlier, the way a crawler dissects a website is through dissecting the HTML code that makes up the architecture of each page of a website. There are several vital variables contained near the top of each page of HTML code that can be optimized to facilitate better visibility on the search engines. These variables are contained within a subset of descriptive words known as metatags. Contained within this subset of metatags displayed in the HTML code are Keywords. Keywords are one of the most important factors Google uses to determine a website’s relevance with regard to each search performed by users of their site. Keywords give Google an understanding as to what type of information and services are reflected by the content of the page. Meta tag keywords should be aligned with whatever search terms you believe users will be typing in to Google and other search engines to find results relevant to the services or products you describe on the page. More importantly, it is vital to make sure the keywords within the content of each page are aligned with whatever keywords you believe people will be using to search for services or products relevant to those that you provide. It is understood that a 3-5% keyword density per page is considered to be search engine friendly and most optimized for search engine crawlers and the algorithms used to determine a site’s relevance.

Another important meta tag with direct search engine implication is the site description. The site description will be what the search engines will use to describe the indexed page in search results. A typical site description tag might look like this within the HTML code:

meta= “description”= “content”= An SEO article dedicated to educating website owners about Search Engine Optimization and its practical applications.

It will be reflected as shown below in a Google search result:

1. *****.com- An Example Search Engine Optimization Company

An *****.com blog dedicated to educating website owners about Search Engine Optimization and its practical applications.

Many websites are not optimized with meta description tags, in which case Google will oftentimes retrieve a random descriptive sentence from the content of the page. Some websites have thousands of pages and optimizing each page might be considered too time consuming. But when you have thousands of products and thousands of pages specific to each product it can be very important to make sure your page description matches the product displayed on each page and is an exemplary summary of the quality of merchandise or services the user will find if they choose to navigate away from Google and to your site.

Among the more basic but equally important variables to consider when first conceiving your site are domain name and domain age. Many business owners, having constructed a website, will pick a domain name that has maintained online registration for at least several years. Domain names can get expensive when buying them from a domain owner, but domain age is considered to be one of those most important variables Google uses to determine a site’s relevance. This is understandable, as a domain that’s been registered for ten years is likely to contain more solid and reputable information and services than a site that has only been around for a few months. This might not make sense, since the domain might have been sitting there inactive for ten years and void of content, but we must remember that we are dealing with an algorithm, and Google has devised these variables to be efficient, and oftentimes that means working from generalizations that may include some special cases.

Along with domain age, it can be vitally important to pick a domain name that contains keywords relevant to the services or products contained upon your site. Remember, people will most often be searching for services on search engines with no prior information with regard to your company’s name. It is what took them to Google in the first place, the fact that they needed something they had no idea how to find. So more important than emphasizing your specialized company name within the domain, it can be beneficial to include as many relevant keywords as possible within the domain.

You may have noticed that most websites have a page upon which is contained a variety of links. Also, a site might link to other sites by hyper-linking words contained within the content. When Google and the other search engines crawl a site, they detect how many other websites it links to. If a site links itself to a handful of relevant, high Page Rank sites, Google deems it to be more relevant. This is especially true if those sites link back to it. When two sites link to each other this is called reciprocal linking, and it is very important to have a variety of relevant reciprocal links on your site. Links to social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook can be helpful in establishing a few reputable and frequently crawled links.

When it comes to the most important factors making up a website’s relevance, the preceding topics have proven to be most effective and most easily optimized features for a website to align with. Quality keyword content within the meta tag description, as well as a 3-5% keyword density within the content of each page, is crucial when it comes to getting found online. An XML sitemap will enable the search engine crawlers to effectively navigate your site, and updating this map frequently and submitting it to the search engines is vital for a website’s success. Proper back-linking, as well as reciprocal linking, and having keywords contained within your domain name will also be vital in optimizing the potential visibility of your site.

This information should prove useful for new website owners hoping to effectively manage their site. There are affordable SEO services dedicated to aligning their clients’ websites with these oftentimes elusive variables. But be careful, because there are many scam artists out there ready to take your money and do very little for you when it comes to establishing and maintaining visibility online.

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