Search engine optimization

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Overview

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the fancy term given to the practice of making web pages show up when someone uses a search engine to search for a given term. For example, if someone searches Google.com for "monkeys wearing fedoras" and you happen to have a web page dedicated to photos of monkeys wearing fedoras, then you would hope that your web page shows up as one of the top results on the Google.com search results page. While there's no guarantee that your site will show up in the top search results for any given term, there are some best practices you can follow to increase the odds in your favor. This is called Search Engine Optimization, or optimizing for specific search keywords.

Definitions

There are some words that appear over and over again in the oversupply of web sites and books dedicated to SEO. So let's define them:


Search engine

There is currently one search engine that most people use: google.com. There are many reasons not to use it, including these, but most people don't care and use it anyway.

Additional commercial search engines include:

  • [1] - owned by Microsoft
  • [2] - owned by Yahoo (currently a subsidiary of Verizon). This search engine is actually just a different interface to Microsoft's bing.com search engine.
  • [3] - owned by IAC, the massive conglomerate that also owns vimeo.com, dictionary.com, okcupid.com, etc.

Supposedly privacy-minded search engines include:

  • [4] - owned by a small company named DuckDuckGo Inc. who claim that their search engine allows users to protect their privacy more than others
  • [5] - owned by a Dutch company, Surfboard Holding BV, who claim that their search engine is the "world's most private search engine".


Search engine results page

Search Engine Results Page (SERP) is the term given to the page on the search engine's web site that shows the results for a given search term. The entire goal of search engine optimization is to have a page show up higher in the SERP for a given search term.


Placement

How high up on the SERP a given site appears for a given search term. The higher up in the search results, the better as far as SEO goes. Most people using search engines don't look past the first few results.


Keywords

Word or phrases that someone might search for on a search engine that are related to the content of the web page being optimized. For example, if the content of our page is about monkeys wearing fedoras, then some relevant keywords may be monkeys, fedoras, hats, primates, apes, etc. People who may be interested in this web page will not always search for "monkeys wearing fedoras", but may search for some combination of these and other related keywords. So keywords are the full list of relevant keywords that the page should be optimized for.


Keyword density

Out of all the total words on the page, how many of those words are keywords? That number is the keyword density. The higher the keyword density, the better a given page's chances of showing up in a search for related terms, or so conventional thinking goes.


Inbound links

What pages link to the page being optimized? Those are the inbound links. Having inbound links to a page from popular web sites that are related to the topic of a given web page can help it boost it's SERP for related keywords. Many companies (or their agents) will pay web site operators to post links to their own pages in an attempt to boost their SERP.


Universal Resource Locator

The Universal Resource Locator (URL) is the unique address of any web page. It's what makes a web page distinct from another web page. So long as two pieces of content that are publicly visible on the web have different URLs, they are considered different pages.