At its most basic, the idea behind Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is to put great content on a Web site whose great programming and strategies will attract interested parties and links. There is a huge range of possible outcomes depending on how you do this, so be skeptical of anyone who says SEO is a guaranteed way to top rankings in Google. It might be, it might not be, but you will give yourself the best opportunity for rising in the search engines if you take care of the basics well: good content, good links, and good coding.
Anyway, so here you are, wondering what to do about this SEO that everyone tells you will make or break your site. Again, this has a grain of truth, but is not the whole story. Your product or service, its value and quality, the things your customers and clients say, and information about you available on the Internet all add up to a much more complex picture. It is hard to get the right message out all the time, but it is very important to keep trying, especially with your Web site.
A little background
SEO was not created in a vacuum and was actually developed as the popularity of the Internet soared during the 1990s. In the early days the SEO strategies relied a bit much on certain kinds of tricks that the search engines of the time would fall for, like so-called keyword stuffing where you load your site up with the right terms and phrases. Yes, this actually worked at one point in time. However, search engines have grown up now and are pretty much immune to that sort of trickery.
When the search engines first started maturing, Google and others introduced the notion inbound links being a factor ranking, which purported to show how popular or widespread a particular site's content was (yes, even linking itself comes back to having good content). Search engines are now built to evaluate a site's links (as well as its links' links), its location and even its grammar. Fact is, today Google uses literally hundreds of factors to evaluate sites and combines the information in numerous different ways to supply a range of useful data.
Real life ranking
Even today, large businesses (with IT employees that should know better) still fall victim to what are essentially worthless SEO strategies. Almost as bad are the techniques that worked in 1998 but rarely do today, even with the new names and window dressing the unscrupulous firms hang on them. Now, you may have deleted all the e-mails promising top rankings in Google, but the fact remains that what you want to hear about are, quite simply, ways to get top rankings in Google. So what do really need? For our purposes, we will say three things, starting with the most important one.
Need #1: Good content
No question about it, the single most effective way to get good rankings is by having good content. An artistically impressive site with limited, poorly presented information will quickly fall behind a less visually-creative site with well-written, relevant, and useful information. When search engines discover that people are visiting, buying from and linking to the poorly-designed Web site because of its excellent content, then that site will be judged more relevant to a search for the products it carries. The search engines' purpose is to provide relevant information, so sites with good content win just about every time.
Need #2: Good programming
When two sites are fairly equal in terms of content, site programming can be the dividing line between success and failure. Calling something search engine friendly is a quick way of saying that search engines can easily locate and index a site for pertinent information. The key things are (1) accessibility and (2) relevance. Your site needs to be accessible to search engines via the thoughtful use of page titles, internal links and content headings. The content should always be relevant and, whenever possible, original, too.
Need #3: Good links
Trust is very important in every social relationship, including commercial ones, and this truism extends to how you relate to and work with search engines, as well. Search engines like Google and the others place a range of value on the relevant links pointing to your Web site, and the ones your site points to. This is a rough measure of the trust that the search engine places in the site(s) that link to you, the site(s) that link to that particular site and so on.
As search engines continue evolving, becoming ever-more sophisticated as we move into the future, some people wonder if SEO will even matter. The folks in the brain trust at Google (like the ones at Apple, Microsoft and other leading tech firms) certainly think so. Your watchwords are simple and straightforward: Keep learning, be accessible, be unique (by being yourself) and be relevant.