As the Internet evolves and more businesses move to the Web, the meaning of search engine optimization has grown. The original goal of SEO was to create “search engine-friendly” websites that could easily be understood by search engines. Getting listed by search engines was difficult. Yahoo, once the dominant search engine, charged hundreds of dollars for inclusion in its listings.

What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

sample artworkSavvy marketers began to consider the importance of search engine results. They realized that being listed on a search engine wasn’t enough. A higher ranking in the search engine results was important. A higher rank in the search engine results pages generated more traffic to a website.

Through trial and error, marketers learned many of the secret search engine algorithms. Unfortunately this also led to some unscrupulous attempts to fool the search engines. For example, the use of hidden keywords on a page, or paid “link farms” to boost a site’s popularity.

The major search engines are aware of these practices (also known as “black hat SEO”) and penalize, or even de-index websites which use them. When hiring an SEO marketer, it’s important to do your homework and be sure to use only approved, white hat SEO methods.

What’s The Best Approach To SEO?

sinking busIn the broadest sense, search engine optimization is a way to drive more traffic to a website. The best single way to do that is by building a better website. On the Web, content is king. Building a website with lots of relevant keyword content will naturally drive traffic from the search engines, and increase your reputation on the Web through quality backlinks (links from other websites to your site).

A common-sense approach to SEO is to understand what words visitors, customers and clients use to find your website (using the search engines). These words are called “keywords.” For example, if you own a bike shop, then one keyword phrase would be “bike repair” since this is a phrase a customer might type into Google. Make sure that phrase and some variants appear in several places on your website.

Developing a keyword strategy for SEO takes some research and planning. If you’re not sure what your own keywords are, take a look at your competitors’ websites, especially the ones which rank near the top of the search engine results. This will give you clues as to the most effective keywords for your business.

Targeted Keyword Strategy

Using keywords, you can increase traffic to your website or open up potential new markets. Simple ways to do this include a blog, newsletter, articles (content development), press releases and white papers which you can host on your site. Targeted keyword and other SEO campaigns are part of a larger marketing plan. See my article on Web marketing for more ideas on SEO.