Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Getting Started

By Curtis Dicken

Even if you are new to web development you have probably heard about search engine optimization--SEO for short. Generally speaking, SEO is more important to commercial websites than it is to personal websites but it's just plain cool to see your website appear in the top 10 results of a search regardless of what type of website you create. In this article we will explore the basic concepts of how search engine optimization works.

What is Search Engine Optimization?

Simply put, search engine optimization is the practice or organizing your website's content and HTML to improve each page's organic rank (organic rank means basically any unpaid result). To that end there are many different factors that go into organizing content and HTML to be more search engine friendly. The most common factors that you should consider when optimizing are the content of the page, the page title, the meta description and the meta keywords. Obviously there are more than just 4 factors to successful search engine optimization but these elements form the basic core.

How do Search Engines Work?

There are two different types of search engines, crawler- based and human-based. And yes, it's just like a automobile transmission--automatic and manual. The crawler-based engines use automated systems that constantly "crawl" the web and catalog everything they find. The human-based engines are exactly the opposite. They require a human to read, review and rank websites then enter that information into a database.

There is also one other "mutant" form of search engine that is usually referred to as a Hybrid engine. Hybrid engines use crawlers to automatically compile the basic data from websites but then use the human input to influence rankings. For example, two different websites that are virtually identical in content may end up with very different raking results if one website has been favorably reviewed by someone and the other has either not been reviewed or received a bad review.

Now that you know how the search engines compile their data I'm sure you would like to know exactly how they determine their ranks. Well, that is the big money question. All search engines have either developed their own unique algorithms or use a variation of a base search engine to compile ranks which means no two search engines are exactly alike. In fact, those algorithms are such closely guarded secrets that we will likely never know exactly how data is compiled and organized by any of the major search engines.

What's Important to Search Engines?

As I stated earlier there are many different factors that search engines weigh when compiling rankings. However, there is a set core of elements:

Page Title

The page title is one of the most important elements of search engine optimization as it provides the search engines with the most relevant keywords for the page. There are several good practices and bad practices when coming up with page titles. Do make your titles relevant and use as many of your most important keywords as possible. Don't be overly repetitive or long winded. Being too repetitive can be considered a "cheat" by search engines and result in a lower rank. Being too long winded in your title can also yield the same result or the search engines may simply concatenate your title and ignore everything after a certain number of characters.

A good title should look something like this:

<title>Search Engine Optimization (SEO) : Getting Started - HTML Goodies</title>

A bad title would look something like this:

  <title>Search Engine Optimization Search Engine
  Optimization Search Engine Optimization SEO SEO SEO SEO
  Getting Started Getting Started Getting Started - Even if
  you are new to web development you have probably heard about
  search engine optimization - SEO for short. Generally
  speaking, SEO is more important to commercial websites than
  it is to personal websites but it's just plain cool to see
  your website appear in the top 10 results of a search
  regardless of what type of website you create. In this
  article we will explore the basic concepts of how search
  engine optimization works.</title>




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