Search Engine Optimization — The basis for good SEO

High rankings in the search engines is the goal of most sites on the web. This only makes sense because most websites depend on the search engines to generate traffic to their site. Over the years webmasters have tried to unravel the secrets of the search engine rankings to make their site number one. Often the webmasters have found a way to trick the search engines into giving their site high rankings only to find their site stripped of its high ranking when search engines change their algorithm. This is because search engines are constantly changing their algorithm to keep sites from achieving higher rankings than they deserve. Instead of trying to stay on top of the changing algorithms and constantly trying to develop ways to trick search engines into giving high rankings, it may be wise to learn why search engines rank sites. Once the goal and purpose of search engines’ site rankings are discovered, we can build sites that the search engines will consistently rank high. Since no tricks or hacks are used, we do not have to worry about changing algorithms taking our high-ranking site out of the running.

That established, what is the goal of the search engines? To answer this question we need to take a look at the purpose of the entire World Wide Web. The WWW was established as a way for people to find information. As you look at a page with information, that page should have links that will take you to more pages with additional information, and then those pages will take you to other pages, and so on. The search engines help you find what pages have the information you are looking for, and they are only successful if they show sites that are relevant to the search that was made. For instance, if you are doing a search for “office chairs” and get a number of pages that are about “Orlando theme parks” you would either change your search words or go to a different search engine. To keep your business, every search engine will do what it can to make sure the sites they suggest are relevant to your search. And that is the purpose of the search engines – to keep you coming back time and time again to perform searches on the web.

So how do search engines make sure their search results are relevant to keep you coming back? That is the real question that must be answered to create good quality SEO that will keep your site rankings high in the search engines. Search engines do not have people looking through every page of every site and then associating that page with different search terms. Instead, they have programs called spiders or robots that follow link trails to different sites on the web. These spiders take note of what the page is about by reading through the text on the site. Then when someone searches for "office chairs", sites that are about "office chairs" end up in the results. Your site may be #2 on the list or it may be #592, and those 590 spots make all the difference in getting people to your site. The search engines will place the sites that they think are the most relevant at the top of the list. So how is relevance calculated? There are three big factors that the search engines look at to determine how relevant your site is to the search: quality of the site, text, and links.

The quality of your site is measured by several factors. One factor is how quickly your site loads. Search engines like sites that are fast loading because users like sites that are fast loading. Most people will not wait 60 seconds to see your site, no matter how great it looks. Search engines know this and slow sites get placed further down the list. Search engines also like sites with good, clean, streamlined code. Good code makes it more likely that the user will find a site that is usable in his or her browser. If your code has errors in it, search engines my give you a penalty and dock your site ranking. One other important factor of the quality of the site is how often it is updated. Search engines figure that sites that are updated more often must have people behind the scenes working to make sure that their site has the best and most important information for its topic. There are several more features of a good quality site, but for the sake of time, the only other I will mention is the longevity of the site. The longer your site is on the web, the higher your site ranking will be. This is because the search engines figure that if your site has stood the test of time, it will most likely still be there for the user to look at. Search engines do not re-crawl the web when you submit a search to them, so they are relying on information that may be months old. If your site has been there for years, the search engine will assume it is still there. New sites that are here today and may be gone tomorrow do not get that kind of treatment.

Search engines also look at your text to determine where you should be ranked in their search results. This is a large topic and rightfully deserves an article by itself, but let me just mention a few points here. Search engines love sites with lots of text. The more text you have, the greater the possibility that the spiders will rightfully determine what your site is about. Along with the sheer volume of text, search engines also look at where that text is placed. Text that is in the title of your page gets more weight than the text in the body of your page because search engines figure that if a word is in the title of the page then that is what the page will be about. Most search engines weight words in the following order: title tag, header tags (h1, h2, h3), emphasized text (bold, italic), and then body text. Text is also weighted by where it is in the code of the page. Text that is placed closer to the <body> tag is given more importance than the text that is right before the </body> tag. Again there is much more to say about this subject, but there hints will get you pointed in the right direction.

Last, but certainty not least, is the value of links in your site ranking. Search engines are placing more and more importance on links, inbound and outbound. Again this subject deserves an entire article of it's own, but we will try to hit a few of the highlights here. If you remember, the World Wide Web is just pages linked to other pages. Search engines use these links as kind of a popularity vote for a site. The search engines figure the more that people link to your site, the more likely it is that your site has valuable and important information. Not all inbound links are created equal, though. It is more important that a site similar in content link to you than a site that doesn't share any similarities. Also it is more important that a site with high ranking link to you than a site that has a poor ranking. Slightly less important is outbound links. Search engines like sites that will "share the wealth" so to speak and encourage their visitors to link to other sites like theirs. Be wary of linking to "bad neighborhoods" though, or sites that the search engines do not consider to be good sites. You do not want the search engines associating your site with undesirables. There are many other factors to consider when looking to get more links, but it will just have to wait for another article.

This information is just the first in an entire series of articles about what makes good SEO. Check back often to see the next installments. If you can't wait for the next articles, check out the following sites which will help you understand the components of good SEO: Website Helpers, HighRankings, and Google's Webmaster Help Center.