Search Engine Optimization Basics

Search Engine Optimization Basics

In preparation of this week’s Google Hangout on Air, I’d like to start with the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  If you’re familiar with SEO, this article is not for you.  However, if you’re not vary familiar with SEO and are planning to watch our weekly hangout, there are some things you may need to know ahead of time.  Hopefully this post will have even the SEO novice able to follow along with the conversation.

Search Engine OptimizationWhat is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization is a term used to refer to affecting a sites ranking on Search Engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, and others.  Because these “search engines” are used by so many people to find information that the user may not have knowledge about, ranking highly on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) can bring your site a lot more traffic.

Two Main Parts to SEO

The first thing that you need to understand about Search Engine Optimization is that there are two primary parts to SEO; on-site and off-site.

On Site SEO

On site SEO is made up of things that are actually on your site.  This can be a lengthy aspect in itself, but I’m going to try to cover the basics here.  Assuming you have a keyword, we’ll take “Search Engine Optimization” for this article, the first thing is to make sure the word or words are in the content.

As an aside, Search Engine Optimization is longer than one word and would be considered a “long tail keyword.”

You’ll notice that I not only have our keyword in the text, but it is strategically placed in other parts of the post as well.  It is in both an H1 and H6, which are the variations in text size for titles and such.  The small print above is an H6.  The keywords are also listed in the title, the URL, the meta description, and as title and alternate text for the photo.  This is all done to make sure that the search engines have no problem deciphering what your content is about.

Since you’re obviously using WordPress (or at least you should be), there are plenty of tools that will monitor this information for each post and really help you if you’re new to SEO.  The WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast is my favorite and I often use it to make sure I haven’t missed something silly.

 Off Site SEO

Off site search engine optimization is anything that helps your ranking that is not done on your site.  This almost entirely boils down to back links.  Back links are any link to your site from another.  The various search engines will “crawl” the internet and keep track of all the links pointing to your site from across the web.  Think of each link as a vote for your webpage.  Keep in mind, however, that not all votes are created equal in the SEO world.  In fact, some can even hurt you.

Before I dig any further into this, it’s important to note that search engine algorithms are always changing.  I will broadly discuss this but know that the specific values for each back link, or “vote”, are unknown and can change.

How valuable a given back link is depends on the importance and relevance of the page it’s coming from.  There are various ranking systems that determine the importance of a site, but for our purposes today we’re going to stick with Google Page Rank (PR).  This is a score that Google assigns to every page on the internet ranking from 0-10.  The higher the number, the more important the site is.  So if a website with a PR of 7 links back to this post, that’s great!  However, relevance is also important.  If that PR 7 website is about cooking, it would be far less valuable of a link than if it were a prominent site about web design.

Anchor text is also important to understand.  Anchor text is the text used in a link.  For example, linking to our homepage like this is not anchor text.  Linking to our home page like this “the best website about WordPress EVER” is anchor text.  Both are links to our home page, but the one with the anchor text tells readers and search engines what our site is about.  It used to be that the more anchor texts you had, the better.  They’re still important in letting search engines know what your site is about.  The search engines now factor in how many of your links are likely to have anchor text naturally and you can be penalized if they see too many anchor text links.

Ready For Tonight?

Hopefully this post is covering the basic information you will need in order to follow the conversation this evening.  Search Engine Optimization is as much an art as it is a science, particularly since all search engines keep the exact details of their algorithms heavily guarded.  If you have any questions, feel free to join the discussion and ask them tonight as we host our live Hangout on Air.  Or ask them in the comments section below.

See you this evening.

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