SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” This is the process by which websites gain traffic by making themselves more visible in the results of search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. This is crucial for a website’s success and viability because it’s a free way of garnering organic traffic and exposure that both marks a website’s relevance and reputation while feeding into those very things. And much of the time, search engines are the primary way by which users can find a particular website. If the worldwide web is a library and websites are books, SEO is the process by which websites ensure that they end up on the “popular” and “bestsellers” shelves of particular sections potential users enter.
Search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo are then the librarians of the internet. And to deliver relevant results to users who search for particular topics, they need to use a specific recipe to sort through and pick the best results. These recipes are complex algorithms that websites need to recognize and understand so that they can offer the best ingredients when they are put into this algorithm. So what exactly do search engines value when trawling through the web?
Perhaps the most obvious factor is words. When a user searches for something like “Michael Jordan”, the websites that show up have the name of the greatest basketball player ever somewhere on them. Another place words show up is in the titles of websites, which are sometimes hidden in the code of a website. Search engines pay lots of attention to these titles both visible and invisible much like how a librarian considers book titles and catalog codes. Also important are links, which search engines view as recommendations that the website linked to has engaging, relevant content. Smaller factors like how quickly a website loads or how much data it loads are also important. These factors are often combined. For example, a link that links to Website A with the words “Website A has mangoes” will help Website A show up even higher when a user searches for mangoes.
As with any competition, however, certain websites can take steps to “cheat” and get ahead of its competitors. For example, a website’s developers could buy a bunch of other bogus websites and link to the original in order to make it show up higher in the results of search engines. Eventually, however, search engines like Google and Bing will recognize this loophole and close it. For websites both informational and business related to remain relevant over time and with great consistency, those websites should focus on creating quality, relevant content and then trying to figure out how to maximize search engine results based off that content. The end result then will be truly optimal, both in the search engines and for the website.