What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)


People ask me all the time how to be "Number 1" in the search engines. There is no magic formula that will get you to the top, especially in a short period of time. If there was, everyone would be "Number 1" and that, obviously, is impossible. There are some things I can implement that will help rank your Website higher. Some of those include meta and title tags, optimization of the HTML code, and direction on how to get other Websites to link to yours.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a Website or a Web page in search engines via the "natural" or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results. Other forms of search engine marketing (SEM) target paid listings. In general, the earlier (or higher on the page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, video search and industry-specific vertical search engines. This gives a web site web presence.

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work and what people search for. Optimizing a Website may involve editing its content and HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links, is another SEO tactic.

Getting Indexed

The leading search engines, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo!, use crawlers to find pages for their algorithmic search results. Pages that are linked from other search engine indexed pages do not need to be submitted because they are found automatically. Some search engines, notably Yahoo!, operate a paid submission service that guarantee crawling for either a set fee or cost per click. Such programs usually guarantee inclusion in the database, but do not guarantee specific ranking within the search results. Two major directories, the Yahoo Directory and the Open Directory Project both require manual submission and human editorial review. Google offers Google Webmaster Tools, for which an XML Sitemap feed can be created and submitted for free to ensure that all pages are found, especially pages that aren't discoverable by automatically following links.

Search engine crawlers may look at a number of different factors when crawling a site. Not every page is indexed by the search engines. Distance of pages from the root directory of a site may also be a factor in whether or not pages get crawled.

Preventing crawling

To avoid undesirable content in the search indexes, webmasters can instruct spiders not to crawl certain files or directories through the standard robots.txt file in the root directory of the domain. Additionally, a page can be explicitly excluded from a search engine's database by using a meta tag specific to robots. When a search engine visits a Website, the robots.txt located in the root directory is the first file crawled. The robots.txt file is then parsed, and will instruct the robot as to which pages are not to be crawled. As a search engine crawler may keep a cached copy of this file, it may on occasion crawl pages a webmaster does not wish crawled. Pages typically prevented from being crawled include login specific pages such as shopping carts and user-specific content such as search results from internal searches. In March 2007, Google warned webmasters that they should prevent indexing of internal search results because those pages are considered search spam.

Increasing Prominence

A variety of methods can increase the prominence of a Website within the search results. Cross linking between pages of the same Website to provide more links to most important pages may improve its visibility. Writing content that includes frequently searched keyword phrase, so as to be relevant to a wide variety of search queries will tend to increase traffic. Adding relevant keywords to a web page's meta data, including the title tag and meta description, will tend to improve the relevancy of a site's search listings, thus increasing traffic. URL normalization of web pages accessible via multiple urls, using the "canonical" meta tag or via 301 redirects can help make sure links to different versions of the url all count towards the page's link popularity score.


There are several companies that offer "guaranteed" rankings. In some cases, the methods they use are unethical, because they attempt to "trick" the search engines. While some success in tricking them may occur, the programmers of these search engines will adjust their algorithms to block the tricks and spam. Then, you're out of luck... and probably out a lot of money. The best way to get good search engine rankings are site optimization (which I do) and getting lots of people to link to your Website.

One final thought.  If you are interested in getting your Website professionally optimized and you are ready to spend the big bucks doing so, do a Google search for "search engine optimization" and check out the first few results.  These are the ones that are good at it, because they have succeeded with their own optimization of their own Websites.