Search engine optimization (or SEO) is often made out to be some strange and scary beast that only professionals dare go near. In reality, SEO is a tame beast. In fact, it’s a beast that you have a lot of control over. Sure, once you get past the basics, SEO can be time consuming, and perhaps even frustrating at times, but in reality, it’s still a simple concept.
For a web site to rank well, it’s necessary to understand what goes into the ranking process. SEO is the process of optimizing your pages (and web site) to gain the best position possible in search rankings. And that process is, as I have mentioned, fairly simple – there are only three steps:
- Discovery – search engines need to find your content, however, I wouldn’t leave it to their efforts alone. Search engines need help and that help comes initially in the form of sitemaps that are submitted. You can expedite this process by creating a Google Webmaster Tools account – there you can submit your sitemaps encouraging the search engine to visit and crawl through your website.
- Indexing – the second step in the SEO process is to have your pages indexed. You could submit a sitemap with 100 pages, and still find that a search engine has only indexed half the pages. External links to your pages can help as can social media mentions. It also helps if your web pages are easy to find, and easy to crawl. Pages that are deep within a website often fail to get indexed. Search engines will often only travel three or four links deep into a website. Your web pages should be easy for a search engine to read – that means ensuring your content is as close to the top as possible (of the root index file), and that Java and Flash are limited and SEO friendly as well.
- Ranking – the hardest step in the process is ranking. This is where a page is compared to other pages and ranked for search terms. You can increase a page’s ranking by building inbound links and by gaining social media mentions. This is one area where website owners make life harder for themselves. The real key to ranking well is to create content that others find useful, that others will reference on their sites (inbound) links, and that people will discuss on social media sites (social media mentions).
SEO is the sum of those three activities and you will never succeed if you skimp on one area. You can have the best content in the world, however, if a search engine can’t find it, or finds it impossible to read when it does find it, then it won’t rank. Likewise, poor content will not receive the external support that is so vital to rank a page highly.
In a nutshell, build your site, tell the search engines where your content is, and make sure it easy to find and easy to read and that the content is worthy of ranking. Get that right and you have created a great SEO platform to build on.