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Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

What is it?

Search engine optimization or SEO refers to the "optimizing" of a website so that it performs well with the internet search engines. The goal is to have the site in question come up listed near the top of the search results during searches for specific keywords or keyword phrases. It is most desirable to be listed on the first page screen of results, so position #10 or higher is best.

The benefits of good search engine rankings is seen in the volume of traffic that a website can receive. Also, normal or "organic" search engine listings are free for the website owner, so this type of traffic is highly sought after. Unfortunately, it is also the hardest to obtain, especially in a competitive field.

For a web site to rank well with the search engines, two things must be solidly in place: on-page factors and off-page factors.

On-Page Factors

On-page factors are those pertaining to the content of a web site, and in particular, the occurrence of critical keywords and keyword phrases in a site's content, coding and structure.

To properly optimize a site, it is highly recommended that it be done while a site is being planned and before construction, as opposed to after the fact. It can be difficult to optimize an existing site, and in some cases, the site framework has to be completely overhauled.

Some sites are inherently difficult or impossible to optimize satisfactorily. For example, sites that have little or no readable textual content, or, sites built entirely using Macromedia Flash technology.

Off-Page Factors

Off-page factors are those that are external to a website itself. It refers primarily to the presence of links (hyperlinks) appearing on other websites that point back to the website in question. These are known as incoming links, backlinks or inbound links.

The search engines can see all of these links and their context, and considers each one to be a "vote" for the target site. Both the quantity and quality of incoming links are considered, with those from major authority sites carrying much greater weight.

Obtaining incoming links can be difficult, especially if the target site is commercial in nature. Most webmasters resort to arranging "reciprocal link exchanges", but this technique is recently being discounted or discouraged by the search engines. The best incoming links are one-way (unreciprocated) links that occur naturally.

How much does it cost?

The costs associated with SEO revolve around the time and effort that must to be put into developing critical keywords, integrating them into the site content and coding, and then obtaining or encouraging incoming links. This effort can be considerable, although if successfully executed, the payoff can come in the form of free traffic on a long-term basis.

Unfortunately, results obtained through SEO cannot be guaranteed, and can take many months to take effect. They are subject to fluctuations in effectiveness (sometimes considerable) whenever the search engines change their algorithms. Obtaining incoming links can be met with limited success, especially for overtly commercial sites.

Many webmasters overcome these SEO obstacles by instead paying for traffic directly and employing pay-per-click advertising or advertising on other websites.

How do I get started?

It is recommended that you use the services of an experienced professional to optimize your website. It can be a tricky field, and is subject to constant changes. An SEO specialist can work directly with your site designers, content writers and promotional staff.

SEO should play a key role in most website marketing plans, since the cost vs. reward potential can be quite attractive. To explore search engine optimization for your website, please contact us today.



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