Search Engine Optimization Basics

What is Search engine optimization or SEO? It is the science and art of getting your web pages rank high at the search engines. Some people think that SEO is so complex that they cannot possibly understand it. Still others think that to rank high at the search engine depends on a stroke of luck.

Well, these are all misconceptions. Ranking high at the search engines does not happen by chance. There are some basic things you must do to stand any chance of getting your web pages to perform well at the search engines.

On-page factors

1. Use text not graphics for your web design. Web pages that are loaded with graphics are not friendly to search engines' crawlers. Search engines classify and rank pages by text, not graphics.

2. Build your web page content around specific key phrases. Your web pages must have specific themes. It would be very difficult to rank high for generic terms. Carefully research and select 2 or 3 word phrases pertaining to your niche to optimize. Don't just optimize your home page. Work on your sub pages. You want as many pages as possible to be indexed and ranked well.

3. Organize your website internal links. You want all your web pages to be crawled and indexed by the search engines. You want to make it easy for crawlers to find your internal pages. It is best to include text links to these pages from your home page, and to cross-link all your web pages.

If your navigational system uses Java-script or images, then you have to add text links at the top or bottom of your web pages to make sure that the crawlers follow all the links. Double-check all your links to verify they are working.

4. Include your key phrases at the following places…

a. URL and file names. The URL and file names are important indicator to search engines. It is good SEO practice don't miss to put your key phrases either in your main domain name or in your file names.

b. Title and description tags. Your title text is displayed in the blue line at the top of your browser. It is located in the section of the html document. If your title is "House Pets" then the title tag in your html document should look something like this:

Description tags are not visible to website visitors. Search engines often display them as text form to give searchers a cursory glance of your web pages is. Your description tags should be compelling to pull in visitors. It should contain your key phrase.

c. Headlines and subheadlines. Place your headlines at the top of your web pages page. Your headline and subheadline texts should be enclosed with special header tags such as

d. Body Text of web page. Your key phrase should appear in the first paragraph, center and the last paragraph of your body text.

e. Anchor text. These are your navigational links, incoming and outgoing links of your web pages.

Important note: Don't use the same key phrase in your URL, filenames, title tags, description tags, headlines, body text and text links. Search engines may penalize you for keyword spamming. Use variations of your key phrase or terms related to it.

5. Add fresh content to your website regularly. Both search crawlers and your website visitors feed on content. Web pages with fresh informative content tends to be bookmarked. If you add fresh content regularly, other webmasters would naturally link to your web pages.

Off-page factor

Link Popularity is an important factor, used by almost all of major search engines to rank websites. Link popularity can be increased by link exchange or acquiring one-way incoming links.

Since link popularity is an important factor in determining search engine ranking, plan it carefully. Don't just exchange links indiscriminately, link to web pages that are similar to your niche. Also have your incoming text links centered on your key phrase.

It is not only the quantity of links that counts, but also the quality of the links. So, you will be better off with a few links from good quality web pages (those that ranked high by the search engines) than many links from low-ranked web pages.

How to acquire one-way incoming links? You could either purchase them or do it the organic way – write articles related to your niche and post them at article directories that command high web traffic.

Search engine rankings are extremely important for a successful Internet marketing campaign. Get your basic SEO right. Try the steps listed above. Good search engine ranking does not happen overnight. Be patient. Depending on the competitiveness of your key phrases it could anywhere between 3 to 6 months, in some cases a year, for your web pages to rank high at the major search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN.

SEO can be time consuming if done manually. The good news is there are softwares like Web Position Gold and Web CEO, just to name two, available to automate most of your SEO tasks. Or if you have a big marketing budget, you may want to hire an SEO company for your search marketing campaign.