The fundamentals of SEO

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If you’ve ever heard the terms SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing), you’ve probably spent a lot of time on the Internet. Although you may have heard or read these words, you may not understand their importance in the world of online marketing. The goal of search engine optimization is to get the highest possible ranking for a website on search engines (such as Google, Yahoo!, Bing and others), in order to gain maximum visibility. The “best possible ranking” would be at the top of the page, or the highest result, because these results have the most visibility and are therefore clicked on more often.

If you read these words, you are – dubious – an Internet user. As an Internet user, you are probably used to using search engines to find information on topics that interest you or that you want to know more about. When you search for replacement windows, for example, you probably type in these words, “replacement windows.” The results page will load with hundreds of thousands (or millions) of articles and websites containing the words you are looking for.

Obviously, you’re not going to read much past the first page or two of results – it’s too long and a bit ridiculous. You will, however, check the results that have been loaded on the first page, starting from the top. This is how our natural reading technique works: top to bottom, left to right. So how do Google, Yahoo, or Bing know which results to show in those few top links?

Retailers who sell replacement windows (or whatever you’re looking for) want to be placed at the top of these results pages so you have the opportunity to browse their business page and become a customer. There’s no point in having a business buried on page 149 of the search results, because no potential customer will ever find them there. Search engine users feel the same way. If they were looking for information about a specific product, the first results they want to see should be relevant, informative, and helpful – not some obscure article that barely mentions the words they typed into the search box.

In a nutshell, that’s what SEO does. It structures a website so that it can get the most attention from a search engine. This is done by incorporating words and phrases that are important to the search engine and to the person doing the search, called keywords, in body text or in headings. The use of these keywords – frequency, positioning, etc. – is important and can make a difference in search engine rankings.

Determining keywords can be difficult. This is to know what Internet users will type in the search field. Some may type in “replacement windows”, while others may search for “new windows” or “energy efficient glass”. Using all of these keywords and phrases in a website can get it to the top of the results page, drive traffic, and produce more customers – and that’s the true measure of SEO value.