What is SEO?
SEO is the acronym of Search Engine Optimization. For the understanding of beginners, search engine optimization is the art and science of making a website to perform better with various search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com. In other words, SEO involves a number of activities that make your site search engine friendly.
As you know, search engines offer the platform to extract particular information on almost anything existing in the world. Users generally type in some text known as keyword or key phrase in the search box and get the most relevant information on that keyword in the form of listed web pages. Have you ever wondered how and why these web pages appear in that sequence for a particular keyword?
Search engines normally adhere to a set of rules or algorithm to rank websites or web pages for a certain search query (keyword). So, if your website contains good, original content related a search query and receives high-quality inbound links from other similar websites in great quantity, then the site is highly favored by search engines that give it a high rank in the search results for that query.
Now, we can provide a more advanced definition of SEO which is the process of optimizing your website (or setting it right) according to the preferences of search engines through the implementation of some techniques both on and off the site, so that it obtains a high ranking in search engine result pages (SERPs).
SEO – Advantages & Impact
Preferring search engine optimization can deliver a number of advantages and positive impacts for your website. These include:
- As search engines nowadays are the most popular online tools among web surfers to look for specific information, the scope of SEO is quite enormous. With millions of search queries every day, search engines can prove to be the ultimate source of potential customers for your products or services.
- Conventional advertising and promotional techniques bear a local impact. Global promotional techniques call for huge investments that small and mid-size businesses are unable to make. So, search engine optimization becomes all the more important as it is the most powerful online promotional tool having a deep impact on global customer base.
- Optimizing a website for search engines is the cheapest technique around. Generally, the costs involved in a full-fledged SEO campaign are much lower than that of conventional promotion. Converting a sales lead to a customer can also be performed in a cost-effective manner with the optimization technique.
- With the help of search engine optimization, your website can receive a large number of highly qualified leads that have maximum chances of becoming customers because they land on your website through search engine result page, looking for their desired product or service you sell.
- Implementing SEO techniques can allow you to gain valuable knowledge of keywords used by your potential clients to find the products or services you offer. This information will be helpful in identifying customer tastes and preferences and formulating your optimization strategies accordingly. You can also target your end customers in a better way through better positioning of products or services.
- Search engine optimization can open the door to nonstop generation of revenues through increased web traffic and sales. When your website obtains top ranks for all your profitable keywords, it becomes highly visible among millions of search engine users.
- This technique is the quiet means of product promotion, devoid of any extravagant advertising tricks. As a result, your prospective clients will find your website offerings more reliable and believable.
SEO – The Past, Present & Future
The field of search engine optimization has been witnessing rapid changes and the same trend will continue in the future also. So, both webmasters and SEO service providers have to be on their toes always to cope with these changes. We’ll take a look at the evolution search engine optimization over the years and its future ahead.
During the beginning of search engine optimization in the late 1990s, more attention was given to optimizing the on-page factors of websites rather than building link popularity through off-page optimization. We’ll discuss both on-page and off-page optimization in detail later in this article. The reason behind lack of efforts on link popularity is webmasters and Internet marketers were exchanging links with other related websites freely. That was enough to bring traffic to their websites. Banner ads were actually popular during this period.
During the early 2000’s, the popularity of link building gained momentum. You can say, this was the beginning of the era when link popularity outclassed on-page activities. Numerous websites concentrated on building more and more links from related websites and creating sub-domains. On the other hand, it was also the era of rising SEO companies who adopted unprincipled and unfair strategies and techniques to achieve link popularity.
During the middle period of 2000’s, more than 75 percent of all SEO activities were focused on link popularity. This period also witnessed the rise of social networking websites such as Facebook, MySpace, Digg, StumbleUpon, Orkut, etc. that revolutionized the process of interlinking. Search engine optimization turned so prominent that it did away with the need of listing on Yellow Pages for countless businesses around the world. This period was also important for Google as it established itself as the number one search engine.
Talking about the present scenario, the concept of SEO is in full swing and has become the paramount choice of online businesses to promote their products or services. As stated by Internet Retailer Magazine, the expenditure on search engine optimization worldwide is expected to rise by a staggering 43% this year.
As far as link popularity is concerned, there is no sign of dying away as more than 80 percent of all activities are currently revolved around link building. Such is the craze of link popularity that links have got the status of commodity and are often traded over the Internet by link brokers. The PageRank toolbar offered by Google regarding the importance of a web page has lost some of its sheen for ranking intentions, but it continues to exist for viewing by web surfers only.
As the number of websites is presently numbered in millions, the competition for optimizing the majority of 2-word phrases is getting tougher. The keywords that had mere 50,000 search results some 6 years back have now more than 300,000 search results, thereby making the task of top 10 ranking all the more difficult. This implies that only the most innovative SEO techniques employed by the most competent SEO firms can get you the top ranks for your targeted keywords. So, guaranteed optimization services are not a cakewalk anymore. The advice for webmasters is to choose a service provider cautiously after planning their expenses meticulously.
In the future, search engines will start to present search results that can be controlled locally. Though noteworthy progress has already been made in this regard by Google, it would be more prevalent in the days to come. Browser-specific results will also be witnessed. Link building will continue its growing streak, but the evaluation of links will get trickier with the advent of more complicated search engine algorithms and link determination factors. On-page optimization will get back to the popularity chart with mounting emphasis on cutting down the website size. Video search will grow in stature with the potential to become the most preferred choice of online marketing.
SEO – Various Processes Involved
Preliminary Analysis of Website
The typical process of search engine optimization starts with the analysis of the present status of the website. Various aspects of the site are closely examined to find out potential problems that need to be sorted out. The content on different web pages is reviewed for duplication and for the presence of keywords. If the present list of keywords is found inadequate, a new list of profitable keywords is prepared. Various important on-page factors that are evaluated during the preliminary website analysis are discussed below.
Keyword research is the technique employed to investigate and find out potential search phrases that people use to extract information from search engines. Some of the popular tools for keyword research include Google Keyword Tool, Google Webmaster Tools, Google Suggest, Google Trends, Wordtracker, Yahoo Keyword Tool, and Hitwise. This technique must be able to produce keywords that have good search volume and potential capability to compete. Keyword research is also termed as the fundamental principle of web page optimization.
On-page optimization is usually carried out on the website itself and aims at rectifying a number of potential website problems. It has quicker and straighter bearings on SEO results than off-page optimization that takes some time to show effects. On-page optimization takes into account the text and content on various web pages. There are several on page factors that must be addressed properly to make your website search engine friendly. While optimizing your web pages, you must stay away from hidden link or text, cloaking (two versions of the same site for search engine robots and users), and duplicate content.
On Page Factors
Various on-page factors include:
- Search engine optimized web page URLs in your site
- Meta Tags optimization of title, description and keywords
- Link optimization that includes the use of proper anchor text, clean internal linking between various web pages, linking between the home page and other major web pages, and avoidance of broken or dead links
- Image optimization that includes the presence of ALT text or Alternate Text to depict site images, use of purposeful file names for images, use of image title and image linking
- Keyword optimization that includes the use of proper keywords on web pages, modest keyword density, use of synonyms or other pertinent keywords on web pages, etc.
- Vital HTML tags such as header tags (h1, h2, h3), bold (strong) and italic (em). Make sure that there are no errors and warnings in the HTML code.
- Implementation of sitemap to ensure the indexing of all web pages by search engines
- Original and high quality page content
- Browser compatibility for smooth functioning of all web page elements on all browsers
- Fast loading of website
Off-page optimization involves SEO techniques that enhance your site visibility and link popularity with the help of several external sources. It is all about generating quality backlinks from other websites in massive numbers. The higher the number of quality backlinks for your website, the better ranking your site gets in search engines compared to competitors.
(A) One-Way Backlink Techniques
Directory Submission: It is the technique of submitting a website, its address and description to a large number of web directories that allow webmasters to list their websites in the most appropriate category or sub-category. Some of the large and well-known directories include DMOZ (open directory project), Google and Yahoo. Submitting your website to these directories is very essential from SEO point of view.
Article Submission: It is another effective off-page optimization technique that can create more one-way backlinks to your website. In this technique, well-written articles related your products, services or industry are submitted to hundreds of article directories. When these articles get approved, more and more potential customers can read them to enrich their knowledge as well as click on the link to visit your website. All the articles must be informative and should not contain promotional materials in the title and body.
Press Release Distribution: It is a great way to let your prospective clients know about the special events, developments, offerings and accomplishments happened in your online business. Various press releases highlighting the important features of the website are submitted to online PR directories to give maximum exposure to your business.
Blog Posting: Blogs and blog posts play a significant role in search engine optimization due to their search engine friendliness. They can be enriched with good-quality content as well as links back to your website. Regularly updated blogs can attract a lot of readers as well as potential customers for your website. Blogging is a popular activity on the Internet nowadays with countless blogging websites to server your purpose.
Blog Commenting: Commenting on various blogs related to your business theme is a good way to build one-way backlinks. In blog commenting, you’ll receive a free and open invitation to keep your website link. However, your comments must be meaningful, appealing and related to the subject of the blog. It is said that 3 blog comments are equivalent to additional 100 inbound links per month. So, always search popular blogs posted on high quality blogging websites for commenting.
Forum Discussions: Since search engines index various forum websites frequently, participating in forum discussions can be a good source of generating backlinks with the anchor text of your preference. It is also beneficial from site traffic standpoint. Visit popular and active forums having relevancy to your business and take part in discussions by replying to existing threads. The more time you spend in forums, the more popular you will be among fellow members. Always put links back to your website in your signature.
Social Bookmarking: It is used extensively in search engine optimization to augment your site visibility and promote your online business. There are many social bookmarking websites like Digg and Del.icio.us where you can submit stories or bookmarks containing your website link. Make your bookmarks public so that others can view and follow them to build strong online social networks. Always prefer websites that offer do-follow links to help your SEO endeavors.
(B) Two-Way Link Building
Reciprocal Link Exchange: Reciprocal links are also known as link exchanges, link swaps and link partners. These links are obtained when two websites having similar business theme agree to link to one another. A good amount of reciprocal links can boost your search engine position and site traffic alike. However, you must not overdo this technique. Search in Google to find the list of link exchange websites that provides information on webmasters who regularly swap links with one another. Never go for automated link exchanging to avoid the situation of being involved in link firms that link to completely dissimilar websites.
(C) Three-Way Link Building
Three-Way Reciprocal Link Exchange: This form of link exchange involves three websites instead of two. Though it is practiced on a limited scale, you can give your link exchange a more natural look with it. In three-way link exchange, three distinct websites must be present. For instance, A, B, and C are three websites. Here, A links to B, B links to C and C links to A. Elaborating further, B receives a one-way link from A, but doesn’t link back to it. Similarly, C receives a link from B, but doesn’t reciprocate the same to B. A receives a link from C without linking back to it. You can say three-way link exchange is arranged to hide reciprocal link exchange.
Website Traffic Generation Techniques
Social Bookmarking & Social Networking
Social bookmarks let you to share your favorite websites with other individuals by means of bookmarking or tagging them. There are sites like Digg, Reddit, Del.icio.us and StumbleUpon to create social bookmarks for your online business. However, do not promote your website excessively to bear the wrath of some service providers. You should only bookmark your most excellent pages, blogs and articles to increase traffic to your website.
On the other hand, social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace can promote your products or services in a great way. Just create accounts on those websites particularly for your offerings and update the information regularly. Add surveys, contests, polls and newsletters to arouse interests of people in your business.
Video promotion or video marketing can ensure constant flow of prospective clients to your website. Visual aids are an effective means to capture the attention of people. Post interesting videos related to your business that can generate interests among the viewers to go for your products or services. YouTube is the prominent website where you can share your videos. Others include DailyMotion, Google Video, Vimeo, Flixya, and BrightCove.
PPC or Pay-per-Click Promotion
PPC advertising services are an alternate to organic search engine optimization. When it becomes difficult to bring your website into the first or second page of search engines for targeted keywords, you can opt for paid searches or sponsored links through Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing, or MSN AdCenter. Just select your keywords and determine how much you are ready to pay the hosts when a user clicks on your sponsored links or ads. You can acquire a top position in paid searches by paying the highest price for every click.
Online article marketing is a free way of generating substantial traffic to your website. It involves promoting products or services through the powerful medium of article directories. The majority of article directories witness voluminous traffic and are highly regarded by search engines. So, submit your articles to many different article directories simultaneously to gain good amounts of traffic straightway. Search in Google to get the list of top 50 or top 100 article directories for submission.
Press Release Marketing
When you want to publish some newsworthy events, offerings or achievements of your website, press release marketing is the most popular choice. You can create good traffic for your site by submitting press releases to many PR websites concurrently. However, all the PRs you submit must be attention-grabbing to have productive press release marketing. Some of the popular PR websites consist of PR Log, i-newswire, Pr Log, Press Release Point, Online Pr News and so on.