Search engine optimization has evolved over years. In good old days, tweaking on-page parameters like meta tags, headlines, alt tags, keyword shoving and anchor texts used to fetch good results. This is less likely these days since the techniques are simple to implement. As a result there is no dearth of optimized websites.
Be that as it may, for new websites it is always a good idea to start doing all that before exploring other avenues. In this article I will look at why search engine optimization is necessary, proceeding to unravel basic issues in this game before touching on aging factor which I believe is the cornerstone of success on the web.
Why search engine optimization?
When you are looking for information on a topic on the web, you usually query your favorite search engine for search terms relevant to your topic. The search engine on its part displays a list of web-pages which it thinks are closely related to your search term. The web-pages that appear at top are considered more important than the ones that appear successively below. Question arises as to how search engines must know which pages are more important for the search query.
This is where you step into the realm of search engine optimization. For all your painstaking effort, if your webpage is not considered important by search engines, you will remain undiscovered forever. Remember, search engines are not humans. They are machines. Which is why you need to let your webpage talk to them to achieve top ranking.
The mental block – do I need it?
If search engine optimization is important, why is it that many website owners still do not feel any need for it? One may say they are naive, so they are. I have come across many of them who strongly feel that after a website is launched, nothing more needs to be done. There is a perception that once a website is there in world-wide-web, it is bound to be ‘known’ soon. Known to whom? ‘Why, Google will know me’ is a common refrain. It is only much later that one discovers that nobody, not even Google knows his site.
To be true, Google’s knowing your website is not a big deal. Just have an already-indexed website point a link to your main page. Google will shortly find out your main page and from there your other pages as well. This is exactly the way Google is indexing billions of new webpages everyday.
On the flip side, suppose your webpage has nice description of trekking in Himalayas. You have provided good information and pictures on the subject in the page. Yet if I am to search for the term ‘trekking in Himalayas’ in Google, will I get to see your webpage in the first 20 or 30 results? Perhaps not. Because, even though your website is indexed by Google, it still does not know that your webpage on ‘trekking in Himalayas’ is important enough to be listed high for the term.
On to optimizing web content
If indeed optimizing your web content is necessary, how do you proceed? As mentioned in the beginning, search engine optimization is an exercise of dressing up your webpage based on a chosen set of keyword phrases. This is to be done in such a way that the content appeals to human visitors as much as it does to search engine robots.
In a previous article [http://www.prioriti.in/blogs/?p=48], I have dealt on how to include keyword phrases to write an optimized content. To be sure, other than optimization you will need quality incoming links as well. But that is a different story.
The basic issues
If we have understood the inevitability of search engine optimization, let us briefly touch upon some basic issues.
1 Search engines list a webpage, not a website. This means one has to optimize individual web-pages (except those that are public disclosures) while maintaining overall aim and balance of the website.
2 Optimization of a webpage, in its primitive, centers around strategically locating one or more keyword phrases in that webpage. Number of keyword phrases to be used and frequency of each will depend on total number of content-words in that page.
3 Optimization for search engines is not an one-off exercise. Rather it has to be an ongoing effort to create web-pages. Websites that are veterans of many years have thousands of web-pages in their database.
4 Search engine optimization usually does not fetch immediate result. For new websites, specially in case of Google, it can be a long wait, sometimes several months.
5 If your website generates lot of traffic by itself, it has a fair chance to rank high in SERPs’ (search engine result pages), even if you have not done much of an optimization (for example, xe.com’s real-time currency conversion service). This means that your product or service is so unique that simple word-of-mouth publicity is enough to bring in torrents of visitors, while also ensuring prominent rank in search results.
6 Search engine optimization is not merely an exercise of shuffling keyword phrases. The content has to make sense to readers. In other words, ensure that your content passes usability test.
7 Apart from keyword-enriched content, there are more factors responsible for achieving top rank, specially building quality links that point to your website. To search engines, incoming links are like ‘votes’ in favor of your website. A good quality link carries considerable weight in the eyes of search engines.
8 Finally, lest one forgets, optimizing for search engines is only one part of the game. The other equally important necessity is to retain and satisfy your visitors.
Summing up – the aging factor
In Bengali, my mother tongue, there is a saying, which when roughly translated, means ‘seasoned paddy-grains make more rice’. In SEO parlance, nothing beats if you are at it for years. Search engines love the aging factor. Create good content. Allow it to settle. Revisit it to update occasionally. Repeat the cycle.
In other words, search engine optimization is all about letting it known that your website is a treasure-hub of great relevant content that only gets better as time passes.