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What is SEO? It is an abbreviation for Search Engine Optimization. What exactly does SEO do? It is the method of analyzing and constructing individual web pages, as well as entire sites, so that they can be discovered, analyzed, and then indexed by various search engines.

SEO can make the content of your web pages more relevant, more attractive, and more easily read by search engines and their crawling and indexing software.

Why would this be of great importance to you? Would it be important to you if customers were unable to find your telephone number or find the address of your business? I do not think that many businesses could survive for very long in this situation.

This situation could apply to a web site. Can potential customers locate your current web site easily? Traffic to your web site could be extremely low. Potential customers might not even know that your site exists.

"Wait a minute!" you say. "We have a beautiful web site, and we include the web site address in all advertising campaigns. Why would people be unable to find our site?"

Of course, your current customers and persons already acquainted with your business would be likely to find your web site without difficulty. Wouldn’t they?

Are you absolutely sure that your advertising has reached enough potential customers? Did you consider that some people simply do not read the newspapers? How about people who didn’t get the issue of the magazine where you placed an expensive ad?

Did these people hear the WABC radio broadcast when your commercial aired? Were they watching channel 44 during the news hour? Were they on the direct mail list for which you paid thousands of dollars?

So how about those search engines that everyone uses? Potential customers will type a word or two into the box, hit ’Enter’, and immediately find a listing for your company’s web site. One more click and you have another visitor. Search engines sure are great, aren’t they?

Yes, they certainly are great, and the ’type-and-click’ scenario above does happen. More often than not, however, it doesn’t happen without a little work. Search Engine Optimization is that work.

A specific case

As an example, I would like to relate a little story about a certain web site which I found difficult to locate. This particular web site is that of a fine dining establishment in a nearby community.

I did not know if they actually had a web site, let alone the address they would use, so I decided to look in a popular search engine. I typed the company’s name in the search box, then clicked on the search button.

There was a great number of sites listed in the search results. However, none of them seemed to pertain to a restaurant. To get more relevant search results, I decided to include the name of the town where the company is located in the search terms.

I was then presented with listings of web pages that did mention the restaurant I had in mind. Unfortunately, all of these pages were restaurant reviews and business news articles, not the restaurant’s web site. What could be wrong? Did this company not have a web site at all?

As luck would have it, one of these articles mentioned the web site address, though they did not provide a link to the site. So, off I went to visit their web site.

I must admit that it is a beautiful site, with extremely professional graphics, as well as music. (At least they provided a means to disable the music.Many other sites could take a hint from this.)

The content of their site is a Macromedia Flash multimedia presentation which has been embedded as an object in their web page.

Why should I have had such difficulty in finding their site? Perhaps it has some connection to the site developers’ having little apparent understanding of basic SEO techniques.

How much does Google know about that web site? Here is everything Google could come up with (I have changed the domain name and identifying details so as not to embarrass the site owners or developers.):

bob smith dining
www.somerestaurant.com/ - 2k - Cached - Similar pages

bob smith dining
www.somerestaurant.com/noflash.php - 2k - Cached - Similar pages

[FLASH] www.somerestaurant.com/interface.swf
File Format: Shockwave Flash
Similar pages

bob smith dining
www.somerestaurant.com/index.php?flash=true - 2k - Cached - Similar pages

That’s the extent of it. Google knows that the site exists, and it knows that there is flash content, but it has no idea what the site is all about. It doesn’t know if it is a site for a restaurant, or a site trying to sell miniature chainsaws.

This does make sense when you view the underlying content of the site. The only actual text that I could find on their web site, other than seven words listed as keywords in a meta tag, was this (Again, appropriate names have been changed.):

To view the Bob Smith site, your browser must have the latest Flash plug-in.

If you do not have the plug-in, click here to download.

phone: 217.555.1212

To a computer program that can only read plain text, like the Googlebot program that crawls web sites, this doesn’t really convey a lot of pertinent information.

How search engines index and rank pages

How is a web site get indexed by the search engines in the first place? Search engines usually make use of programs which are commonly called spiders, crawlers, or robots which follow the links from page to page and download a copy of each one it finds.

The pages are analyzed, indexed, and, (with luck and good SEO) added to the database of the search engine. The search engines generally do this on a periodic basis visiting some sites more often than others.

How does the indexing of pages work? How do page ranking routines operate? Only the search engine owners know the true answers, and this is usually very closely held information. These processes are improved upon constantly, making them difficult to predict.

Information that the search engine operators see fit to pass on to us, added to the analysis of the results of specific keyword searches, helps us in our quest to discover how the indexing takes place.

By making use of this variety of information, we are able to make reasonable theories about which methods we can use in order to increase the visibility of a web site and increase its ranking in specific search results.

Through a thorough analysis of an existing web site, options which can greatly improve a site’s ranking for specific searches can be recommended and implemented.

Some of the changes which are recommended could include changes to the text content which is contained within individual pages. Other types of changes will not effect what is shown in the browser, but will help the search engine spiders to correctly view and index a site.


What should you avoid?

SEO can greatly benefit your site. Why not increase your chances of being in the results for other more common keyword searches? That would really increase the traffic to your site, wouldn’t it? Yes, it could, but it might not be a good idea.

You have probably noticed that when searching for some topics, some of the results seem to have very little relevancy to your search terms. Certain pages listed in those results may even direct you to an entirely different web site than the one listed.

The creators of those web sites have only one thing in mind: to get people to see their pages. They do not care what they must do to get them there.

The following SEO methods are commonly referred to as spamming, and you should always avoid them:

  • automatically created ’doorway’ pages;
  • false redirects and cloaking;
  • keyword loading;
  • hidden links or hidden text;
  • pages stuffed with irrelevant keywords;
  • duplicate content on several pages;
  • intentional misspelling of certain popular keywords and web site names;
  • centralized or unrelated link farms;
  • similar techniques that attempt to fool the search engines.

Methods such as these can be effective in increasing the amount of traffic coming to your site for a short while, but they quickly fail.

Consider the results of placing a sign that says "Detour" in the road that passes your business, forcing all passing traffic to enter your parking area. Yes, the lot is indeed full. Consider, though, the number of those people who intended to come to your business in the first place.

Do you think very many of those people will still want to shop at your business after seeing this deception? When will the local police remove the fake sign?

Using spamming methods in your web site can produce similar results. Browsers are directed to a web site they had not intended to visit. Will they stay there and shop?

When the search engine operators learn of tricks like these, they often remove the site from their index entirely. Most search engines provide the means for users to report such abuses.

Don’t let your site fall on the wrong side of the line. Use proven, ethical SEO methods to increase your site’s visibility and relevancy in the search engines.


Is your site’s ranking high enough?

The next time you are searching on the web, search for your own site. What keywords would a person use that should include your site in the results? Where is your site listed in those results, if at all?

Search engine optimization is the tool that can ensure that your site will be listed within relevant search results, and as close as possible to the top.

Ignoring SEO could be like having no signs and blank windows in your building. Potential customers will drive past your shop, not even realizing you are there. Should you consider the importance of SEO? You should bank on it.-

About this SEO article

This article was written by Dan Johnson, former SEO Workers Web Architect & Senior SEO Technician and was published October 05, 2007.

Copyright reserved. Not to be reproduced.