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6.2 How It Works

Learning Objective

  1. Learn what search engine optimization (SEO) is and how a Web site needs to be structured.

Search engines need to help users find what they’re looking for. To make sure they list the best results first, they look for signals of the following:

  • Relevance
  • Importance
  • Popularity
  • Trust
  • Authority

Search engine optimization (SEO), also called organic or natural optimization, involves optimizing Web sites to achieve high rankings on the search engines for certain selected key phrases.

This is achieved by making changes to the hypertext markup language (HTML)The “language” read by Web browsers. Certain HTML “tags” are used to structure the information and features within a Web page. As an example, HTML e-mails usually contain graphics and can be interactive. code, content, and structure of a Web site, making it more accessible for search engines, and by extension, easier to find by users. These are also known as on-page factors. SEO also involves off-page factors—these generally build linksA link is a URL (uniform resource locator) imbedded on a Web page. If you click on the link you will be taken to that page. to the Web site. Activities to increase links to a Web site, including social media and Web public relations (WebPR), are considered off-page SEO.

SEO is an extremely effective way of generating new business to a site. It is a continuous process and a way of thinking about how search engines see your Web site and how users use search engines to find your Web site. It’s search psychology.

SEO is a fairly technical practice, but it can easily be broken down into five main areas:

  1. A search engine–friendly Web site structure
  2. A well-researched list of key phrases
  3. Content optimized to target those key phrases
  4. Link popularity
  5. Emerging trends

Search Engine–Friendly Web Site Structure

Search engines encounter two kinds of obstacles:

  1. Technical challenges that prevent the search engine spider from accessing content
  2. A competitive marketing environment where everyone wants to rank highly

To ensure that search engines can access your content, you must remove technical barriers. Those who wish to achieve the best results must follow best Web development practices. These best practices are outlined in Chapter 13 "Web Site Development and Design".

Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz says, “The key to ensuring that a site’s contents are fully crawlable is to provide direct, HTML links to each page you want the search engine spiders to index. Remember that if a page cannot be accessed from the home pageThe first page of any Web site. The home page gives users a glimpse into what your site is about—very much like the index in a book or the contents of a magazine. (where most spiders are likely to start their crawl) it is likely that it will not be indexed by the search engines.”Rand Fishkin, The Beginner’s Guide to SEO, SEOmoz, February 25, 2006, (accessed April 3, 2008).

Chapter 13 "Web Site Development and Design" delves more deeply into building a search engine–friendly Web site.

Key Takeaways

  • Search engines encounter two kinds of obstacles:

    • Technical challenges that prevent the search engine spider from accessing content
    • A competitive marketing environment where everyone wants to rank highly
  • You must remove technical barriers.