The single most important element of a website and yet, the most overlooked. When designing a website, many people spend all their time working on the look and feel of their pages, without considering how search engines will look at the site. Just because a site looks nice and feels right, doesn’t mean it is built to function properly for both humans AND robots or search engines! A well designed site will be easy to use, and easy for search engines to index.
What do you need to know about Search Engine Optimization? Simply put, Search Engine Optimization is a way that the Internet uses to tell people what is important and relevant according to the keywords they type in to search the millions of words on the web. Google and others spend countless hours perusing the Internet and picking apart websites to build a database of information they can pull from to show users what they want to know and where to find it.
Merriam-Webster defines Optimization as:
“an act, process, or methodology of making something (as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible; specifically : the mathematical procedures (as finding the maximum of a function) involved in this.”
So, Search Engine Optimization is taking all the thousands of words on a website and making sense of it to someone who is trying to find something. Now, consider how many websites there are available on the Internet and you can see what a massive task this is. So, the search engines have come up with a mathematical process to determine relevant content based on certain categories. I think they do a pretty good job and are continually trying to improve their results to be as relevant as possible.
The trick for your website to come up first on the search page is very simple, have the most relevant content for that topic and continue to refresh it often! This is the organic approach. In other words, it takes time to build longevity on the web. You can’t hurry perfection. The only way to improve your ranking immediately, is to buy your way there through something like Google Adwords. You can spend a lot of money in a short amount of time if you don’t have expertise in this area! And, it’s benefit is short term at best.
Google is the leader in Search Engines, most everyone would agree. But, you can’t leave the other search companies out. They all have their place and their own audience. Please know that just because you are ranked high on Google, doesn’t mean your ranking is high on every device. Different devices serve up search results using default search engines that may be built in or pre-loaded. Plus, people have their own preferences. Ipad and Iphone use Safari. Droid uses Chrome or Google. Many people rely on Firefox as a browser. Plus, there are others who use Internet Explorer or Yahoo. These are all details to consider when thinking about your website design and optimizing your build for searchability.
Now that I have you completely overwhelmed, let me tell you simply, Content is King! Text is still the most important element in considering your ranking. Put the most important words first, and often. You can add emphasis to certain words by adding bold or italics or placing them in a header, like the title of an article or area of your website. Make sure to add a caption or title to any graphic especially in the alternate text area. It helps with ADA compliance and with repeating your key items. Search engines place value on all these items.
Don’t try and trick search engines, it never pays off! Instead, try to develop solid, reputable content that will drive traffic to your site in a natural way. A picture is worth a thousand words, so use pictures! However, search engines can’t read pictures so make sure to include the thousand words, too.
Search engines are a necessary evil that we can’t control, but we can learn to invest in them and use them for our benefit! It does take time, so be diligent and patient. It will pay off!