What Is Search Engine Optimization? An Introduction

Computers & TechnologySearch Engine Optimization

  • Author Dawson Gao
  • Published February 24, 2012
  • Word count 441

Any business who’s serious about establishing a strong web presence have to maximise the traffic and exposure from search engines because they are capable of driving millions of potential customers to a business. Search engine optimisation (SEO) refers to the methods and techniques that can improve a website’s ranking (or visibility) on search engine results. There is a whole industry devoted to SEO.

To understand search engine optimisation, one must first understand how search engines compile their results.

How do search engines generate search results

Search engine companies have created computer programs that robotically scan the internet and gather information on all the websites they find. These computer programs or ‘bots’ are called spiders because their job is to ‘crawl’ the ‘web’. These ‘crawlers’ download information from each website, which are then stored in the search engine’s database.

When someone carries out a search, the search engine compares the search keyword(s) against the information in their database. In a fraction of a second, search engine’s powerful super computers search through billions of websites in their database and pick out a list that match the user’s criteria. Websites that are deemed most relevant are displayed at the top of the search results.

Each search engine has its own unique proprietary formula to determine relevance and the exact formulas are usually closely guarded trade secrets. It is said Google’s formula contains over 200 variables. Although the exact formulas are unknown, there are a number of variables that are known to influence a website’s search results ranking.

Common SEO methods

SEO companies like to divide different techniques into two broad categories: onsite SEO and offsite SEO.

Onsite SEO refers to modifications a webmaster can do to their own website to improve its search results ranking such as search engine friendly URL, effective meta tags, internal links and sitemap.

The most talked about and widely emphasised offsite SEO variable is link popularity. Virtually all SEO companies provide some form of link popularity service. Link popularity refers to the quantity and quality of a website’s back links. Quality can be affected by a number of factors: whether the originating website is in the same sector, whether the link has relevant anchor text, the page rank score (PR) or link popularity of the originating website and the link’s visibility.

Webmaster should always try to get the best quality links and get as many of them as possible. Quantity is key but sometimes quality can be more important. For example a link coming from a highly relevant website with PR5 score could be worth more than ten PR0 links.

Dawson Gao is a member of the administrative team at lacartes.com - an online business platform designed to help businesses gain direct exposure to high quality search engine traffic and reach new customers.

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