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Search Engine Optimization Basics

By Donovan Baldwin

People who decide to begin an Internet marketing business may or may not have some good ideas about running a business or marketing it in general.  However, selling online can be quite different from selling things in a store or door-to-door. Just for one example, the new Internet business owner must realize that their webpage can do a lot of the work for them. Therefore, getting a lot of website traffic is important.

This is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.

First of all, if you are new to the subject of search engine optimization, it is a broad topic.

There is no way to effectively cover all aspects of the subject in this small article, as it includes selection of the domain name, website hosting, website design and many other topics. However, I am hoping to speak to those who have NO idea of what it is or why it matters.  Maybe they will be encouraged to at least take the first steps to having a successful website.  As time goes by, I will be adding topics on the subject to this page, so stop back by and check the bottom of the page for new links to other articles on the subject.

Internet marketing can be rough.  You can literally be up against millions of other Internet businesses trying to sell the same thing you are to the same people you are trying to reach.  It is a constant education and re-education to keep up with the Joneses all over the world from Alaska to Albania.  They, like you, are all doing everything they can to make their site better than yours, and only the best will wind up at the top of the heap.

This is the crux of the basic concept of attaining high search engine placement

You will see the letters "SEO" around a lot and also "SEM". 

Not to worry: SEM simply means "Search Engine Marketing", and SEO means "Search Engine Optimization".  You apply SEO techniques to your site so you can do SEM more effectively.  Search engine optimization is exactly what the words imply.  When SEO techniques are applied to your site, they are the things that needed be done to make search engines aware of your website and give it as high a ranking as possible.


Well, you can probably agree, without even knowing why, that it may be in the best interests of any Internet business to present itself to a search engine with the most effectively designed and organized website.

This comes under the heading of website design and this is very important both from the viewpoint of your human visitors and search engine "robots".

While it is probably somewhat self evident that a well designed and effective website may be a good sales tool when dealing with humans, it might not be quite so evident why you have to be so concerned, and what you have to be concerned about, when dealing with a search engine.

Well, while we are certainly trying to display our internet business to human eyes, it is the search engine "spiders" which first must be approached, attracted, and appeased. After all, according to whose figures you believe, up to 85% of all websites visited by humans are found through the use of search engines and directories. 

When you consider the huge number of people looking around the internet for all kinds of "stuff" you can begin to grasp the power search engines have in the online marketplace. It seems natural then to somehow join the words "search engine" and "optimization" together to define an Internet marketing strategy or technique which can be used to improve website traffice.

After all, website traffic is the underlying basis for sales, assuming that the product is good and the presentation is professional.

Add into this mix the fact that for any given search term presented to a search engine or directory, there are thousands, millions, or even billions of possible sites that may meet the query terms provided by the human searcher.  At this point, you can begin to grasp the vast competition going on at any given time for any given subject. Making a website more interesting to the search engines themselves, i.e. search engine optimization, begins to become more obvious as an important goal of the Internet marketer.

Consider this: Out of those potentially billions of pages which may be presented to the searcher by the search engine, only about ten or so will fit on a page. Therefore, if your website is not on the first page, it's almost as if you are not there at all.  If you have ever used a search engine, I probably don't need to explain this to you.  Think about it.  How many times have YOU bothered going on to page two, and especially page three?

Hardly anybody else does either!

Another aspect of the searcher versus the search engine is something that anyone who has been on the internet for a week has discovered.  You really have to be especially specific when doing searches or you could wind up with some really worthless results.  Search for a general term, such as "money" and you get millions of pages, many of which simply have the word "money" somewhere in them.  "Making money" gets fewer pages, "making money online" fewer still, and so on.

As you can see, it becomes imperative that you DO something that can CAUSE your web page to get listed in the first ten results returned by the search engine.  This important Internet marketing technique is called search engine optimization.  You are "optimizing" the structure and content of your web page to attract and appease the search engine spiders so that your web page will have a higher search engine placement than others on the same subject.


Unfortunately, each search engine has its own method of assigning value to each website it visits and chooses to include in its listings. 

These determining factors are included in the instructions which are given the search engine spiders which visit the sites, and the programming of the software controlling the listings on the search engine site.  There are often human overseers as well who can override the decisions of the software judges.  This set of circumstances is what can make SEO a little difficult.  What is top priority for one search engine may not figure in quite as strongly, or at all, for another.  Of course, every Internet marketer is trying to figure out how to second guess Google, the biggest kid on the block, but don't forget, there are many other search engines also providing traffic to a great many sites as well.

If you think you have figured out by now that I am dancing around this question, you are right.  You see, not much is actually known about the exact science by which search engines, Google in particular, select and rank the pages they show in response to a searcher's query.  However, a lot can be deduced by looking at some of the sites that DO make it to the top of the list.

This is why search engine optimization sometimes seem to require all kinds of adjustments in many different areas related to the web page.  While one search engine may be addressing one factor and ignoring others, other search engines may be concentrating, or at least giving some importance, to something ignored by the first one.


1. Choose a niche target for your website. As I pointed out earlier, don't just put up a site for "travel". Make it a site for "travel to Ireland". Better yet, make it a site for "discounted travel to Ireland". Even better, make it for "discounted family travel packages to Ireland". Each narrowing of the target reduces the competition and improves your chances to stand out in the results. It is also easier to optimize a web page for a very specific keyword or keyword phrase topic.

2.  Choose a domain name that specifically reflects your target keywords.  In the example above, I might want "".  Unfortunately, someone beat us to that site, so now we have to play with some ideas.  Maybe we can still get "".  Unfortunately, someone beat us to that one too.  Don't give up hope.  There are "", "", and "" to look at.  In fact, I just took a look while writing this article and all three of those are available.  They might not be by the time you read this.  If they weren't available, maybe we could have used "" or "" although that is getting a bit long...particularly if we want to put it on a business card or on a magnetic sign on our car.

The next three items are found within the "head" of your web page.  If you cannot control what goes in that area, you are losing control of an important area within search engine optimization.

3.  Pick a title for your website that includes the basic idea and the keywords that you hope people will search on.  Don't just stick the words up there and hope, however.  Make it a headline.  It will be the first thing the search engine as well as the human learn about your site.  Make it a headline that will catch both their apparatus.  "Family travel to Ireland for a dollar a day!"

4.  Create a description that includes and expands the information and keywords stated in the title.  Some search engines will display the first few words on a site, but some will display the description Meta tag.  "Travel to Ireland does not have to be expensive.  Learn how you can visit the Emerald Isle for as little as a dollar a day."

NOTE:  Since this article was originally written, most search engines have started finding their own keywords within the content of the site, and many people no longer even bother to list keywords.  I decided to leave the information in this article as you may find sites with a "keyword" META tag in the HEAD area and wonder if you needed one.  Probably not, but have your list ready, as some directories will not automatically extract the keywords and will ask for such a list when you submit your web page to them.

5.  List five to ten keywords related to your subject.  Make these words that will appear logically in the content of the site.  For example, "travel, Ireland, travel to Ireland" is a list you might want on our mythical web page.

6.  Throughout the web page, provide logical, relevant, valuable content. Make sure your chosen keywords and phrases appear at intervals, but do not overuse them.  Also make sure they appear in the first few lines of your site.  For example:  "Welcome to our site where you will learn how to travel to Ireland without breaking the bank."

These are just the first baby steps towards search engine optimization.  There is more to learn, such as putting a statement with your keywords in headline form near the top of the page. You can also look into linking.  You might for example, find other high-ranking sites with content relevant to yours who might be able to provide a link to your site, but don't hope for it at first.  They usually want to link to sites as which are as powerful as they are.

Despite all the tricks and tips, however, it appears that one major key to search engine optimization centers around quality content provided in a consistent, rational package.  You will find that often even fairly simple sites will rank well because they provide the goods.  However, a ton of broken links and a lot of coding errors coupled with horrible site navigation can make it difficult for the search engine to find its way around, much less recommend the site to its users.

Finally, let me advise you not to stop with this small article.  There are many sites which offer free information ont search engine optimization.  There are also Internet marketing courses which cover the topic in a very comprehensive manner, and there is even search engine optimization software which can help even the most amateur Internet marketer optimize their website. 

To get started, read some of the articles posted at sites such as on the subject.  I just checked, using their search engine, and they have over 8,000 articles which mention the subject.  Of course, some of those might not have anything to do with search engine optimization, but we knew that, didn't we? 

That's just the way search engines are!

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Page Updated 7:48 AM Monday 10/1/2012