What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization
Whenever we search for something, we use a logical system to find it. If you are looking for something in your house, you would first decide what kind of object it is you are looking for. Then you would decide which room that ought to be in. Then you would search within that room for the most likely spots. Over time we develop a logical reasoning which helps us find things. Searching for things on the internet is very similar.
How the Internet is Indexed
All the web pages on the internet are indexed. Search engines, such as Google and Bing, use logical algorithms which attempt to match the words that we enter into them with results that match those words. Over time these algorithms become more and more precise. Search engines use robots to index the webpages on the internet. These robots are programmed to go from website to website, follow about three links into the website, and create a map of each website. All words, image names, and file names are recorded and remembered. The information collected by these robots then is placed in a database. When you search on Google, you are searching their database which provides you with the links to the websites which (hopefully) provide you with the results you were looking for.
Black Hat is Blacklisted
Years ago, website programmers would fool these robots. They did so by “black hat SEO” techniques. These would include throwing keywords into the background of the website and have the font match the background color. This meant that users could not see the words, but robots would read them. Google and other search engines realized that they were getting played. So they added an element to their algorithms which blacklisted any websites that use methods like that.
There is no real way to fool the major search engines. They are working all the time on refining their algorithms so that actual results come up on the front page of Google. What does that mean? Search Engine Optimization, that is SEO, has become much simpler. If you have honest content on your website, and you use the typical keywords that relate to that content, then Google will find you and rank you. If other people have better content than you, then they will be ranked more highly. But as you persevere in maintaining your website, you will find that your site will rise in the rankings.
The Importance of Keywords
Search engines search for keywords. What is a keyword? A keyword is the kind of word that you would enter into Google when you are searching for something. To brainstorm about what keywords apply to your website and webpages, just think about what words you would need to enter into Google to find your site. Those are the keywords.
Although there are many ways to increase traffic to your website, as long as you focus on what is called “on-page SEO,” your website will do well in the long run.
For on-page SEO, what should you look for?
1- Header code: if the header code is done properly, then your browser will provide a short description of your webpage. It looks like the image below.
If your website is programmed incorrectly, then the browser will only say generic words like “home” or “about.” The image below provides an example of this error.
It is necessary that your website not have those generic names on each page. Instead, you will need precise names for each page. These names ought to be descriptive and perhaps tie back into the organization of your website. See below for an example of that.
2- Descriptive URLs: your URL needs to have words that describe it. These words need to be separated by hyphens so that the search engines realize they are separate (and not compound) words. See the image below for an example of what this should look like.
3- Use Keywords in your Headers: In HTML there is a certain mark called a “header.” Headers can be from “H1” (that is, “Header 1”) all the way to “H6.” In your website, be sure to use H1 and H2 tags to mark important sections and subsections in pages. The search engines check for the words used in these headers. Use keywords which relate specifically to your content. Sometimes we want to get cute or artistic with our headings and subheadings. Be careful: if you are too cute, search engine robots will not be able to index your website properly because they won’t know what you are talking about.
4- Image File Names: here is one tip that is very important. Whenever we take a picture with a digital camera, the camera will name the image something very generic like “DSC1003.jpg.” When search engines search your site, they will index your image as “DSC1003.jpg” because that is what you saved it as. If you go to Google Images search DSC1003, you will find a conglomerate of photos. It could be a groundbreaking tape-cutting, or it could be two preschoolers coloring at a table. Google has no way of knowing what is in those photos. Those photos are not adding any information to your website.
However, if you label your image of preschoolers coloring at a table as “preschoolers-coloring.jpg,” then Google will be able to realize what the photo is about. And – here is the cool thing – Google will develop its picture of what your website is about. If you use keywords which relate to your page (and which relate to the photo), then Google will rank your site more highly because it understands more fully what the content on your site actually is.
Don’t Sweat It Too Much
Search Engine Optimization can actually become very complex and convoluted. There are entire strategies out there to improve a website’s rankings through “white hat SEO.” However, if you have good content, if that content is described with normal keywords, and if persevere in your website, then search engines will rank your website well. Search engines are looking for authentic content. If that’s you, they’ll find you. Don’t sweat it too much.