This is an introduction to SEO aimed at people who have heard the term but don't really know how it works. Maybe you own a website or are responsible for creating and editing content for a website.
A commonly held view is all that is necessary to generate website traffic is to rank within the top 5 results on Google and that this can be achieved through SEOing your website. While SEO is a crucial element in generating traffic, it is only one part of a successful strategy. SEO implemented alone will likely have little effect and fails to take advantage of recent significant sources of traffic such as social networks and social media.
A search engine's primary function is to match search queries with the most appropriate and valuable (to the searcher) web pages it can find.
To do this, a search engine must visit and catalogue as much of the web as possible. Through this process called crawling, a search engine will gather enough information to determine if any given page is an appropriate match for a search query.
Once a search engine has a list of matching pages it then applies a ranking formula to the results. No one knows the exact formula used to rank results but we do know that the number and quality of links back to your site (backlinks) plays a very important part. You can think of a link to your website as an endorsement of the quality of the content of that page.
The value of SEO is that it enables search engines to create a very clear picture of your site with which to evaluate it against search queries.
The work of SEO comprises technical and strategic elements.
Technically, the code of a website must be written so that search engine crawlers can easily visit all the site pages and extract the content.
Strategically, each page should be optimised for keywords and phrases which are matched to the website's target market.
So good website SEO should assist Google in understanding:
So how do websites get to the top of search results? In very simple terms websites achieve the top search rankings by consistently publishing valuable information to their visitors around their targeted search terms.
Over time websites that provide good quality content generate links from other websites and rise to the top of the rankings.
A good example of this is Wikipedia. Wikipedia ranks in the top few results for thousands of search terms, these rankings are the result of consistently providing information which other people find valuable and create links to from their own websites.
The best long term strategy for ranking well with search engines is: