What Is Search Engine Optimization?
If the Internet is a dark night sky, search engine optimization - or SEO - is the waving spotlight that draws attention to your webpage. While most business owners have accepted the need for a website, many do not understand why these sites aren’t attracting customers. To explain this, we need to understand how searching for information on the Internet works. Let’s start with the search engine.
Putting the Search in Search Engine Optimization
You probably use search engines all the time. Think Google, Bing, and Yahoo. A 2011 study cited on SEOmoz.org states that 59% of people use search engines; the same site indicates that Google alone is responsible for 90% of all search engine requests. This has made Google the main player in the SEO game.
A search engine matches a string of words to websites that seem to have the most information about those words. For example, to learn about dogs, you’d type “dogs” into the box, hit enter, and browse through a list of dog-related sites. Unfortunately, sites that simply repeated the phrase “dogs dogs dogs dogs dogs” would often rank higher than sites that had actual information about dogs.
To remedy the situation, Google and other sites began implementing a series of rules that would help their programs differentiate the worthwhile sites from the junk. As unscrupulous web developers have figured out ways to get around these rules, Google has introduced new protocols in an attempt to keep the search engine process relevant.
What Search Engine Optimization Means for You
Now, let’s apply all this to your specific website. Your site can easily get lost among the trillions of pages currently online. To reduce that risk, it’s best to play along with Google’s rules for search engine optimization. These rules are complex; almost everything can influence your page ranking results, from specific bits of HTML code (the stuff that makes your website appear on Internet browsers) to when, where, and how often certain phrases appear in your text. Too few instances of the word ‘dog’ and your dog-grooming site won’t get noticed; too many, and it will get penalized for an unpleasant and unethical practice called keyword stuffing.
Why is all this so important? Because how your site complies with search engine optimization greatly influences where it is placed on the list of sites that Google and other engines compile. Add to this the fact that most people don’t search beyond the first page or two of results, and you can see why optimizing your site is key to drawing new customers.
So if your website is struggling along at the back of the pack, it likely needs a search engine optimization overhaul. You may not get the same effect as a spotlight in the night sky, but potential customers will definitely start noticing you online.