Thursday, February 14, 2008

SEO - Search Engine Optimization

How do you drive people to your Web site? An entire business sector sprang up over 10 years ago to help companies do just that. It's called Search Engine Optimization, or "SEO". SEO helps your Web site get picked up by search engines and displayed on the first page of natural (or organic) search results. Google, Yahoo! and MSN all use different algorithms (logical formulas) to search out and rank pages based upon the keywords searchers type in.

A good Web site designer ought to know what to do to optimize your site, but what if you're just using a free template and building the site yourself? When I was making one of my sites, I overlooked one of the most important things you can do -- writing a good statement about the site for people to read on the search results page. The description of my site said something about my host and Web site software, www.1and1.com and Website Creator, not about my site. So if you typed Wyn Lydecker into Google or Yahoo!, my site, www.wynlydecker.com, would come up in the results, but you learned nothing relevant about my site.

I quickly went to my host and my Web site creation software, which is provided for free, and found that I had neglected to put in a meta description. I added the description, and within two weeks, Google displayed the correct description of my site.

I also checked my meta tags. Meta tags are keywords you want to have associated with your site. So if someone types in a keyword, the search engine crawlers will have made a connection between that keyword and your site. That helps the site come up in results. Of course, if you have an advertising budget, you can bid on keywords and purchase a featured position in the search results. Google and Yahoo! make money that way. Your site can get top billing. But you'll pay money to the search engines every time someone clicks through to your site.

I'll be writing more on Search Engine Optimization. In the meantime, Google and several blogs have great articles on how to optimize your site. (see my sidebar for a link to one of the articles from Ask Enquiro -- http://ask.enquiro.com/ and Google's blog on the topic -- http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/.)
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