Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the ranking of website in search engines. Search Engine Optimization is part of Search Engine Marketing.
Internet users are confronted with an exponentially growing amount of content. This makes finding the right information quiet complicated. To reduce the problems of the search process, programs as search engines and information agents were invented to help find content in the World Wide Web. Every provider uses different criteria to rank the results of a search request. It is known that algorithms put the results into its order, but the algorithms used by search engines are a well-kept secret.
As content is an important resource of the “information society” search engine-operators have considerable power. Engines as Google and Yahoo are already used as gateways to the Internet and through their algorithms are in power to rank websites on top of the result list. This significance transforms search engines in powerful and attractive marketing tools.1)
Companies have to be creative when creating their websites, online-shops, and information about products and services so searchers will recognize them at all. The booking of advertising space on search engines is a possibility, but as they are quiet expensive it is not a reasonable way for small firms to get more traffic on their websites. To be ranked on a prominent position, businesses should already start SEO early in the process of building a website. This can save the costs for rebuilding it at a later stage.
Usually a lot of different ranking criteria take part of the page ranking. Unfortunately, the different search engines use different criteria and therefore a significant deviation in the positioning can be observed. As a result, SEO can hardly ever find a way for perfect positioning on all relevant engines but rather is the art of finding a good compromise.
Also problematic are pages that only link from one page to the next, as the robots usually only follow 4-6 steps in the hierarchy. All pages that take more than 4-5 clicks from the welcome page are usually not taken into indexation.2)
Another essentiality for a better ranking is links from other websites. This can be internal or external links, whereas external links weigh more than internal ones. It is said, that the more incoming links (link popularity) and the more different domains (domain popularity) the better is the ranking of the website.
External links (also called backlinks) can have different importance for the ranking. Measured are the quality of the content, relevance of the themes, and up-to-datedness of the information of the linked websites.3)
Besides links that are made with different websites, there is also a possibility to artificially building up the amount of links. Possible are renting links on “link farms”, forcing domain popularity by linking to articles, blogs, social networks, Wikipedia articles or simply commenting on existing content by publishing the link.4)
Keywords also play a major role in SEO. Words that are used on websites more frequently have a better position in the search output. But be careful: don’t try to optimise too many words or use the words too often, as this can have a negative outcome such as penalties of the search engines. In addition, if the text uses the same words over and over again it might just plainly be a bad text that will loose attraction for the customer.5)
The probably most important text-element on any website is its title respectively the page-headline. Almost every search engine shows the title prominently in its results and therefore it is the most significant place to seed keywords. A meaningful title also guarantees good click rates by users and therefore a lot of visitors. The main-keyword should be part of the title at least once, but not more than twice in alternative writing.6)
There are many ways to optimise websites for search engines. But as the budget of small businesses is usually not very big it is important to start optimising as early in the process as possible. The pages should be named right, the titles should include the most important keywords, and the cooperation with other quality websites always helps. There should be at least a HTML-version of the page to be found and relevant keywords need to be integrated. But the most important is the content. Of course, the website needs to be found by the customer, but if the content isn’t good enough, the user will not come back.