SEO and Search Engine Rankings

SEO is a marketing tool which enables a website to effectively promote itself online to a broad target audience. To do this search engines play a pivotal role in how success can be achieved. What is SEO and how can it be utilised for optimal search engine rankings?

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
SEO & Search Engines
SEO is a process that has, over the past few years, evolved from basic internet marketing tools and media sources to promote optimal business growth. With the creation of online search engines (Google, MSN, Yahoo etc.) and directories, content rich websites and aesthetically pleasing designs are simply not enough to draw in a targeted audience. Search engines have, in essence, challenged the online industry and created a niche market for internet businesses. The challenge is quite simple: how to promote your company according to rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). In laymen’s terms, this quite literally translates as: how can a website get noticed on search engines and directories?

Internet users have, both directly and indirectly, influenced the SEO process. There is no arguing with the popularity of search engines. Search engines do not, however, rank according to a website’s popularity. SEO is all about clever promotion techniques that provide optimal visibility on SERPs, which will in turn generate traffic to a website.

Effective SEO methods involve the following factors:

  • Detailed technical programming and architectural optimisation
  • Creative design
  • Content management (keywords and phrases)
  • Search engine analysis
  • Web crawler / Bot analysis
  • Traffic and rank analytics
  • Submitting websites to search engines and directories

How Does SEO Work?
SEO makes use of a collection of techniques that improve a website’s SERP ranking position. The goal for all websites is to rank themselves on the first two pages of a SERP or amongst the top 10.

Internet users search for information online according to keywords and phrases. Through researching what keywords and phrases internet users favour, websites can be crafted to suit the needs and wants of the customer (target audience). Once the attention of an audience is captured through keywords and phrases, the ability to generate traffic to a website and convert visitors into customers or clients is a whole lot simpler. The difficult part is getting noticed in the first place. Keywords and phrases are an integral part of the SEO process as these are what search engines use to categorise web pages.

“Spiders” or “crawlers” are used to scan the web and “analyse” individual web pages. This scanning programme is literally set up to read according to specific keywords and phrases entered onto a search engine. These “spiders” or “crawlers” can only really find keywords and phrases that already exist. Keywords and phrases need to be applied to both content and media files.

Search Engine Rankings
How Do Search Engines Rank Web Pages?
Search engines scan through millions of web pages whereby keywords and phrases are requested according to relevancy. In order for the scanning to be effective, “spiders” and “crawlers” have to follow a “set of rules” known as an algorithm. How is it then that web pages are able to be ranked?

“Crawlers” or “spiders” scan the tops of web pages to match keywords and phrases in content text to what an internet user has requested through a search engine. This is to determine the location of keywords within a web page’s content. Common areas where this will occur are in the headline or within the initial few paragraphs of content. Content that is relevant to the topic being researched will provide these well researched keywords for easy finding by the “crawlers” or “spiders”. The number of times these keywords appear in content will also be scanned for. A higher frequency level determined by a “spider” or “crawler” reads as a more relevant web page.

Web pages get indexed differently from one search engine to the next. Some web pages are indexed more often on one search engine than another. Web pages may also be banned or penalised from appearing on one search engine, but appear on another. Every search engine operates according to their own specific ranking and listing rules. No two searches conducted on separate search engines will produce the same SERPs.

Another way in which “spiders” and “crawlers” scan web pages to determine ranking is through “off the page” ranking techniques. These techniques are in place to prevent webmasters from being able to re-write web pages in an attempt to achieve higher SERP rankings. “Off the page” ranking techniques involve:

  1. Link analysis – used to determine artificial links aimed at boosting rankings versus those that actually “deserve” a higher SERP position.
  2. Click through measurement – search engines monitor what internet users are searching for online. Click through measurement involves lowering a website’s ranking if it doesn’t attract any clicks from users and increasing the position of other sites which do.

How to Improve a Website’s Search Engine Rankings?
In order for search engine’s to be able to read web pages on sites, the following general SEO tips should be taken into account when trying to improve a website’s rankings:

  • Research and select your target keywords wisely
  • Place target keywords in strategic locations on a web page (i.e.: in headings or title tags and first few paragraphs)
  • Place researched keywords consistently or “evenly” throughout a web page’s content
  • Make use of HTML links
  • Create a sitemap that hyperlinks keywords for easy search engine reference to content
  • Avoid using design elements that are not easily readable by search engines.
  • Build quality inbound links
  • Avoid spamming or “black hat SEO” methods
  • Submit key web pages to major search engines
  • Seek the services of an SEO consultant or company
  • Check a website periodically and update the necessary elements that could increase SERP rankings

In Conclusion
There are many benefits to SEO which can make a considerable difference to how an online business can grow and generate revenue. Search engine rankings are something of a “full time job”. Optimising a website takes time, effort and constant attention. Modifications and updates are necessary to keep up with the growing internet market. Rankings will always change, as will the wants and needs of the online consumer. SEO and search engine rankings with, thus, always evolve as the best methods and techniques develop to improve online business growth.

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