SEO is a mystery to many, and often even those who proclaim to have an understanding are often confused about the concept, elements of SEO, and proper intent for it. As it is always our desire to have informed clients, we preface specific information about your site with some general information. Your understanding of the terminology and concepts will not only go a long way to understanding what we are doing to assist you, but will also allow you to better help yourself and us along the way.
The "mission" of any SEO project goes beyond developing just high rankings, but getting solid rankings for those specific words and phrases that represent the phrases and words that are likely to be used in searching by the those individuals looking for the products or services being served by the site.
Good SEO will bring "quality" traffic to the site, as the site is being found for "relevant search criteria." It will reduce traffic that arrives at the site via "accidental rankings" and as such improve the conversion rate of visitors to those who make contact, buy, or execute other site goals.
Core SEO involves the following practices:
1. Site Structure Analysis: This is a review of the client site to determine if there are any design structure or programming issues that would hinder the ability of a search engine to "crawl" the site, and takes no consideration to the site content or tags.
2. Site Business Analysis: This is a review of the site content often coupled with conversations with site representatives to gain an understanding of the products and/or services being provided. There will be many times the SEO provider will need this to develop insight into services or products they have little to no familiarity with to develop a search strategy.
3. Keyword Research: In SEO there are often misunderstandings about the definition for "keywords" as it has multiple meanings based on context. For keyword research the definition would be along the lines of developing a list of those specific words and phrases that are likely to be used by people searching for those products and services been offered by the site. This list will often undergo scaling. Quality research is the result of tapping real search data through known sources and is never the result of assumption or guesswork.
4. Baseline Reporting: The use of a software product to report the site's current rankings for those phrases developed through research.
5. Implementation: Applying physical changes to the web site in content and structure based on the findings of the prior items.
6. Rank Monitoring: The use of the software product to measure the gains in rankings after the implementation.
7. Matrix Monitoring: Monitoring changes in traffic, and gains in conversions from that traffic
Any SEO project is a "project over time" as often there is little history to work with, and there is time required for "implementations" to be discovered by the search engines and updated in the indexes. SEO never produces overnight results and often require "tweaking" along the way.
HOW SEARCH ENGINES WORK
In order to facilitate a greater understanding of the workings we will omit the programming aspects and provide analogy descriptions and definitions for as few terms necessary.
The following definitions however will be useful along the way:
A search engine is a software application that catalogues Internet web sites and web pages via "crawling" the Internet. The crawling is performed by "robots" that are sent out in search of information, and return back with their findings. An easier way to understand would be along the order of this.
Imagine your house is a search engine, your neighborhood is the Internet, and you are a robot. The rooms in your house contain various programming modules that run the operations of the house. In a closet of the house is a filing cabinet that contains files full of pictures of all of the other houses in the neighborhood. To keep these updated, you go out into different sections of the neighborhood per a set schedule to take new pictures to return with them, placing them in the filing cabinet.
A search site would be defined as Google, Yahoo, AOL Search, MSN, or any other site that represents a point where a search can be conducted.
The words/phrases that are used at a search site to perform a search.
The list of web sites that the search site displays based upon the search criteria, also known as SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages).
The order in which the results are displayed on the result pages. In theory this order is to be based on the relevancy probability to the searched criteria. This relevancy probability is based upon a "score" that is determined by the search engine algorithm.
A formula or set of steps for solving a particular problem. To be an algorithm, a set of rules must be unambiguous and have a clear stopping point. In this case the problem is how to rank the web sites, which gets solved by the set of rules that the search engine determines provide the highest relevancy score.
It should be noted that these rules and the values assigned to them vary from engine to engine, which is why rankings vary from search site to search site for the same search query
PARTS OF A WEB PAGE
Web pages are often a combination of programming languages, style sheets, html, scripts and other elements. For the purpose of SEO however we are primarily concerned with specific parts of the document rather than the technologies that put it together. The technologies only become an issue if they establish roadblocks to the search engine for gaining access to the content.
The document title does not appear on the page but does display on the title bar of the browser window, and also displays in search engine result pages.
Another element that does not appear on the page, the document description is often also displayed in the search engine results as a brief narrative as to what the web site or specific web page is about. It displays immediately below the document title.
The areas of your web pages that contain text are called content. Search engines cannot see images, graphics, movies, animations, photos etc.
Putting It All Together:
As mentioned earlier the algorithm a search engine uses varies from engine to engine. And, while there are a large number of attributes that get scored in determining popularity, the primary elements in the scoring of relevancy are those spelled out here.
Step back in history to a time when you would go to the local library to find a book about a specific topic. A time when the primary search method was index cards in wooden drawers.
For this example let's say you were looking for information on how to fix your sink. The logical choice would be to find some sort of plumbing book. So you open up the drawer where the "Ps" are located and proceed to search for plumbing. You find 3-4 titles that look good, so you read on to the descriptions of the books. From those descriptions you make a choice of which one you feel best suit your needs and go the shelf and get it.
Search engines work much in the same manner. The difference being since we're not working with something as small as an index card, the page content can also be considered by the search engine when determining which order the search results display in, or more appropriate, the order of which is likely to be more relevant.
How It Relates To Your Site:
Explore places like Wordtracker.com and the Google External Keyword Tool to discover the phrases that people are using to search for your products. Review them and determine which to omit. After that, look for phrases that are related and combine them into groups, but limit the groups to 3-5 phrases.
With that completed, look for the pages on your site that you can apply specific groups of words to. You may find you need to add additional pages of content to the site.
Update your content, titles, and descriptions to place your site in front of the people that are searching those criteria.
REMEMBER: The methods contained here are not the end all to SEO, but are the core where a large percentage of ranking problems lie. Monitor your results over time.
Just as there are means for determining who should rank on top, there are means for determining who is trying to exploit the engines. Do not spam phrases.
Remember in the end it is people who make buying decisions or the choice to contact you. With that in mind, write your content so that it speaks on an individual level and is not just phrase rich for the sake of rankings.