What Is SEO? Part One – Defining Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization Helps Your Small Business Get Discovered

Lets face facts here, you’re a small business owner, or marketer, and you’re competing with some big names on the internet for the attention of your potential customers.  Without the use of proper search engine optimization methods your small business marketing website is going to be buried under all the other content that is available on the net. However, with the application of a sound SEO strategy, you can quickly become a recognizable brand online if your doing it right.

what is seo

What is SEO exactly then?

There are a couple of key things that you need to know in order to get started.

First, lets define what is SEO.

According to Search Engine Land SEO stands for “search engine optimization” and its nothing more than the process of getting free traffic from search engines.

The process consists of your site showing up in the search engine results (SERPS) under the “organic,” “editorial,” and “natural” listings of Google and Bing (Yahoo is showing results from Bing).

These listings are computed by the respective providers “search algorithm” that attempts to rank web pages (not websites), video’s and other types of content based on the keywords the search types into the search box.

The goal of SEO is to take what we as marketing professionals understand about the search engines and optimize our web pages in order to let them know what are content is about.

Here is a short 3 minute video to help you visually understand the question of what is SEO.

Second, when you’re trying to learn what is SEO about, you are going to find that there are some solid truths that you need to know and some information that is going to get you into trouble.

We’ll get into these more as we go through this entire eight part what is SEO series.

RobotWhat is SEO? – How Search Robots Work

SEO for your site starts with knowing a bit about how the search engines actually read or find your website.

This is the first step to getting your site ranked properly, so lets dig into is a bit.

Don’t worry about this being too complex though because I have added the infographic below to help you understand it a bit better.

Also, this is a simplistic breakdown and its done on purpose.  There are over 200 different things these robots look at, and it changes everyday, so don’t sweat this stuff.  It just important to have a basic working knowledge of what is going on.

The first step to ranking is getting the robot (also known as “spiders,” “bots,” and “crawlers”) to find your site. You can do this the fastest by signing up for a Google Webmaster Tools account and a Bing Webmaster Tools account.  This is the quickest way to let both sites know that your web property exists.

Note:  There are a lot of people out there teaching that you should just “let” the search engines find your content on their own.  I disagree, that’s like building a store on a highway with no exit ramp nearby.

Now whenever you update your website the engines send in their robots to take a look at your site for changes.

The first thing that they do is cache an image of your site.  You will usually see the last image that they have taken inside your webmaster tools account.

With Google, if you find your site in the SERPS that thumbnail will appear when you hover over the link. This is a great feature when searching around as well because it allows the user to determine if its a good fit for what they are looking for.

The next thing that happens is the search engine spider starts to read your source code (the programming that make your site look the way that it does).  In the source code the crawler is attempting to find out what your site is about and we have a few things that we can use to help it do that.

  • The first is your URL.

Its always a good idea to have the keyword about your topic within the url.

If you don’t have a topic specific URL, but a brand name URL like mine this is really more important then ever.

If you are using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress then more than likely with a few simple tweaks it can be done automatically for you.

  • The next place that is real important is the title of your content.

Again, you want to have your keyword in there. But its also important to create compelling titles that people actually want to click.

When it becomes a toss up between keyword optimization and a compelling title always lean towards the keyword though.

We have one more spot we can use to generate the click.

  • The meta description is just that place.  Of course as with the url and title we want are keyword inside there. But we also want to make this our advertisement for the click.

You don’t have a lot of space to optimize the description however, so you have to choose your words carefully.  I’ll dive more into this and other “on-page SEO factors” at a later date.

The final place that the robots look is at your content itself.

Now this is the tricky part, and quite frankly you can ask 200 different SEO’s the same question and get 200 different answers to this one.

You want your keyword in your content obviously, maybe around 1-3 percent keyword density. But its 1000 times more important that your content is very high quality.

Note:  Keyword density used to be a really important factor in the search engines.  Today however there is really no focus on it.  I teach method that you can try on your own sites as it relates to density that I will publish on the site someday.  In the mean time, stick to writing naturally and stick you keywords in your content every now and again.

Google in recent months has launched several different filters to its algorithm that have all but shut down thousand, even millions, of websites that have horrible content.  Specifically the Panda Update.

So there are a few do’s and do not’s that you have to know about right off the bat before you start writing for your site.

How Search Robots Work

The Do Not’s For Content Writing for SEO

  1. Do not copy other people’s content onto your site. It might be tempting to be able to run to different article directories and other such sites and pull that content onto your web pages. But the thing is that duplicate content and just plain crappy content doesn’t rank well. As a matter of fact it hurts your chances of ranking at all. So just don’t do it.
  2. Do not copy your content onto other websites. This was an old back linking technique and I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t work. Keep the content that you have on your web pages your exclusive copy.
  3. Do not keyword stuff your content. There was a point in time that them more instances of a keyword the higher that you ranked in the search engines. Today however, they have caught on to this method and have targeted sites that have done it. As a general rule of thumb we keep our keyword density down to around 2%. Anything more than that really tends to ruin the reader experience anyway.
  4. Do not over-optimize your web page. This one will become more clear when we talk about on-page optimization so just remember this don’t when we get to that point.

The Do’s for Content Writing

  1. Do write for readers. Remember that the goal of the search engines is to end the search. The more likely they are to end the search right away, the more likely users will prefer to use it right? The same goes with your web pages. The better your content, the more they will hang around and even come back.
  2. Do write high quality content. Remember a piece of content doesn’t need to have a specific amount of words to it. Just because you can write a novel doesn’t mean its going to be good write. Answer a question in your post. Be concise as possible to make sure you are addressing everything.
  3. Do use images. We will go over how to optimize these as well. But images break up the look of a web page and keep your readers focused so use them in your content as well.

I’ll address content creation in an whole other series to help you get the most out of your work. But those two lists should keep you going pretty well when it comes to the SEO aspect of content.

So The Robots Found Your Site, Now What?

Now that the spiders have found your site and know what its about, what is the next step.

Most people would say that it ranks your site in search results. But that might not always be the case. There are plenty of sites out there that are not in the search engine indexes even after the robots did their work.

But don’t get stressed out about it if they don’t list your site right away.

First, it might take some time to get them listed.

Second, both the major search engines have a few thousand different computer banks all around the world and that information needs to be passed to all them.

If your lucky though, your site will be listed in around 24 hours. If your really lucky it will be listed on the first page of the SERPS for your chosen keyword.  If its not, don’t worry we will get you there soon.

Questions or concerns?  Leave your comments below, they will only help make this What is SEO series better!

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10 thoughts on “What Is SEO? Part One – Defining Search Engine Optimization

  1. Good start, for the most part.
    I will have to disagree with your disagreeing about letting the search engines find your page on their own.

    If you register with webmaster tools or submit your pages to the search engine’s self registration tool it is simply “self promotion” with no real “weight” behind it.

    If you let the search engine find you through a RELEVANT link, it carries the weight of the linking page (site) behind it.

    Let me ask you a question in the form of an analogy.
    If you were making a presentation about SEO at SMX would you rather step up on the stage unannounced or be presented by Matt Cutts?

    It is the same with the discovery of your site. (Page).

    • So are you saying that using the webmaster’s tool in Google is entirely “self promotion” and should be avoided?

      I hope that’s not the case because your advise would be incorrect. The goal of submitting your URL’s to the search engines to to aid them in getting indexed. This is obviously the first step in getting your sites ranked.

      I don’t disagree with the fact that Google finding your content though a highly relevant link would do the same thing, but the index rate of your site would be slower if that is all you relied on. At least in the beginning until your promotion activities began to increase your returning audience.

      Think of it this way, your presenting and Matt Cutt’s walk’s right past you, because you didn’t bother to introduce yourself.

      • Not in the general sense Clint, only if you use it for this purpose.

        You are saying that one of the factors Google uses to judge a page is a link, correct?
        If you used either the supplied submission tool or the Webmaster’s tool you would not receive any authority from those submissions.
        You would only get authority (PageRank), if the GoogleBot found you through another page’s link.

        Slower to use a link on a relevant page?
        A matter of hours perhaps, but that is all.
        If I check my website metrics across some 30 odd sites, it seems The GoogleBot visits daily. (Last night all the sites were visited between 02:34 and 04:41).
        It doesn’t seem to matter if the site has been updated or added to, (some of the sites have not had ANY work done in years), they all get a visit on a daily basis.

        I have to assume that this is fairly standard across the industry.

        • Your talking about getting link juice from your backlinks. I am solely (at this point in the series) discussing getting your link indexed. Two completely different processes.

          The fact that you choose to knock out two bird with one stone by using your backlinking campaigns to both help with indexing and rankings at the same time is just another method. No different than the backlink indexing services that do nothing but building backlinks to your backlinks to help get them indexed.

          Again, why wait for hours to see if Google is going to find a link on its own and judge its quality and rankings then when you can tell Google about it via webmaster tools straight away. Especially at this point in the process where all you are worried about it getting “found” and indexed.

          The promotion efforts I will discuss later will show how I recommend using your links to promote your website to both drive traffic and increasing rankings at the same time.

          As an added note, I get what your saying. However, what I am saying is don’t discount submitting to webmaster tools in favor of your method. Instead do both, why would would I want to only rely on one method and maybe get indexed, when I can do both and know I am going to get indexed.

          • I don’t think you can separate link juice from “getting linked”, Clint.
            You would naturally want to maximize the value of getting links. You can only do this by getting links from another relevant page.

            I don’t agree with using “Backlink Services” as it seems that this would be against the Google TOS.

            I don’t see what a couple of hours waiting time would mean at the start of a website.
            My experience shows that Google often indexes websites before they are ready. Once you register a site Google is privvy to that information, being a registrar.
            I am never worried that G won’t “find” my sites.
            Actually it is just the opposite, I don’t want my site indexed before it is ready.

            My SOP is to use a “noindex” until the site is ready for publication, then place a link on a relevant site, and then remove the noindex.

            And I am certainly not devaluing webmaster tools as they are a great asset.
            I am just saying that getting linked from an authoritative, relevant, web page gives you more than a manual submission.

          • “I don’t think you can separate link juice from “getting linked”, Clint.” As I stated several times I am discussing getting “indexed” not backlinks.

            “I don’t agree with using “Backlink Services” as it seems that this would be against the Google TOS. ” Building links of any kind is a violation of Google’s TOS, yet you advocated doing it to get indexed in the search engines and get link juice.

  2. \” As I stated several times I am discussing getting “indexed” not backlinks.\”Right, but I am saying you CANNOT separate the two. \”Building links of any kind is a violation of Google’s TOS,\” Sorry, it is not Clint. Google states:\”Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site\’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.\”Note the \”links intended to manipulate\”…… Links to build information silos, such as links between relevant pages and nofollow links are fine. Google does not object to marketing or to improving the information silo. You yourself confirm this in your \”Link Building with Promotion\”
    Perhaps we should agree to disagree.

    • Agree to disagree I can do that.

      Folks this is clearly a case of two people going the same place but just getting there a different way.

      Reg has brought up the use of backlinks in order to both get your website indexed as well as pass link juice to your website.
      I use the initial method to using webmaster tools in Google and Bing to do the same thing, we just don’t get the benefit of link juice.

      There is nothing wrong with Reg’s method, actually I use it myself as I stated before, I however choose to use webmaster tools as directed by the engines too.

      This conversation is a pretty clear example of how SEO’s think for the most part as well. No matter how much I agree or disagree with Reg the argument would continue until we are both dead and buried because our way is the right way. Quite frankly its kind of sad considering that we are both trying to get to the same place and acknowledging each other as professionals and working together to find an even better solution would serve both of our customers better right?

      Reg has provided us with some great food for thought. Just remember folks, learn with your blinders off. Just because you have learned or are doing something in one way doesn’t mean it can’t be modified to work 100% better by just tweeking your process a bit.

      And to Reg, yes I agree to disagree and agree with you. You’ll see later in the series that (as I have stated before) we are doing the same thing, I just added an extra step.

  3. I have developed this website 3 years ago and spent about R60,000 on it. I allowed for SEO, but my website became non existent. Although I still think it’s got potential. I am still a dummy when it comes to SEO’s, but I found your article most helpful. I have decided to give the website one last chance before I will make a decision to close it.

    • That’s great Erna, I am glad I can be of some help and inspiration.

      Now let me offer some advice.

      I have taken a couple sites and removed manual and algorythmic penalties from them and I have to warn you can it can be a lot of work. However, since you already invested a lot of money into it (and hopefully it was making you money in the past) then it might be a good idea to at least try.

      The first thing I would do is go into Google webmaster tools and see if the site has a manual penalty on it. If it does, then you have a great starting point on where to begin your repairs. If you don’t have, then your were most likely hit by Panda or Penguin. Panda is really the easiest to fix at that point because its all about getting rid of any content that is not unique to your site. Fixing the on page factors to improve your bounce rate. And some other stuff.

      I wish you luck, be sure to come back and let me know how you are getting along in the process.