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What is search engine optimization (SEO)?

From: SEO Fundamentals

Video: What is search engine optimization (SEO)?

Plain and simple, Search Engine Optimization is the process of making improvements on and off your website in order to gain more exposure in search engine results. And more exposure in search engine results will ultimately lead to more visitors finding you for the right reasons and going to your website. In order to understand what improvements will affect search engine results, let's take a step back and understand the goal of the search engines themselves. At the heart of it all, search engines are just trying to find and understand all the content out there on the Internet, and then quickly deliver relevant and authoritative results based on any phrase that a user might be searching for.

What is search engine optimization (SEO)?

Plain and simple, Search Engine Optimization is the process of making improvements on and off your website in order to gain more exposure in search engine results. And more exposure in search engine results will ultimately lead to more visitors finding you for the right reasons and going to your website. In order to understand what improvements will affect search engine results, let's take a step back and understand the goal of the search engines themselves. At the heart of it all, search engines are just trying to find and understand all the content out there on the Internet, and then quickly deliver relevant and authoritative results based on any phrase that a user might be searching for.

First, let's talk about relevance. When a user searches for something like California hotels, search engines want to show a list of results that are relevant to the topic of California hotels. Search engines will analyze all of the web pages that they've ever visited and pick out the pages that they believe are the most relevant to California hotels. They determine this by evaluating lots of different factors, including how your content is written and implemented in code, as well as how other websites around the Internet are linking to you.

And all of this stuffed into a very big, very complex, and very proprietary algorithm. At the end of the day, and in a fraction of a second, a search engine is then able to rank and display all of those web pages in order of relevance to that phrase that the user just typed in, California Hotels. This is very important to understand, because search engines make a very clear distinction between content that's about California Hotels versus content relevant for other phrases, like California resorts, or a phrase like beach getaway.

Search engines are able to understand quite a bit about semantic and thematic connections between words and concepts. Take another example: dog crates. A search engine knows that pages selling dog crates are extremely relevant to that search query, but it also knows that websites about pet carriers are also very relevant. It also knows that a website promoting things like pet food and dog toys might also be relevant to that search query, but perhaps less so. The other factor that influences search engine exposure is Authority.

In other words, out there on the largely lawless World Wide Web, where anyone can post anything, is your website a trusted place on the Internet that the search engines would want to show to their users? One very common way that search engines determine the authority of a web page or a domain is by evaluating what other websites think of you, and this can be measured through the links out there that are pointing to your website. You can think of a link as a vote on the Internet. A web page linking to your website is almost like saying, hey, I trust your content enough that I am wiling to reference your page and possibly even send traffic to your site.

It's a vote of trust, and the search engines pick up on this as they scour the web reading, evaluating, and storing all the data that they can find on all the pages of the Internet. But it's important to know right from the start that this not just a popularity contest where you try to accumulate the most votes on the Internet. Search engines have safeguards in place to prevent this kind of abuse, and instead place an emphasis on the quality of a link. For example, a search engine is more likely to trust a link if it comes from a well respected or industry-related site, like an industry leading blog or a nonprofit or government agency that's involved in your field of work.

A link coming from a one month-old site that has nothing to do with you or your industry, right above some text that says "I'll link to anything you want for five dollars" is not going to be valued nearly as much. From the search engines' perspective, some links are more effective than others in casting their vote to your website and determining your site's authority. So you might think of this whole system as a weighted democracy where some votes are worth more than others. Understanding how important both relevance and authority are to a search engine, will help us to both understand and improve these factors, and will ultimately lead to better search engine exposure and more visitors to the pages of our websites.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for SEO Fundamentals
SEO Fundamentals

64 video lessons · 45883 viewers

David Booth
Author

 
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  1. 1m 34s
    1. Welcome
      1m 19s
    2. Using the Facilitator's Guide
      15s
  2. 11m 46s
    1. What is search engine optimization (SEO)?
      4m 6s
    2. Reading a search engine results page
      2m 17s
    3. How SEO affects your business
      2m 38s
    4. Setting SEO expectations
      2m 45s
  3. 20m 49s
    1. Why you need a keyword research plan
      2m 47s
    2. How to research keywords
      3m 23s
    3. Tools to help you analyze keywords
      4m 43s
    4. Understanding keyword attributes
      3m 46s
    5. Understanding keyword distribution
      3m 50s
    6. Ongoing keyword evaluation
      2m 20s
  4. 26m 8s
    1. Understanding content optimization
      2m 14s
    2. Optimizing for site structure
      3m 41s
    3. Recognizing different types of content
      2m 23s
    4. Optimizing textual page elements
      8m 30s
    5. Optimizing non-text components of a web page
      4m 0s
    6. Analyzing content quality
      2m 39s
    7. Exploring the benefits of user-generated content
      2m 41s
  5. 22m 12s
    1. Interpreting the code behind web pages
      3m 9s
    2. Understanding how search engines index content
      2m 37s
    3. Working with canonical URLs and redirects
      2m 59s
    4. Leveraging microformats
      2m 39s
    5. Working with server-side factors
      3m 18s
    6. Using Google Webmaster Tools
      3m 58s
    7. Using Bing Webmaster Tools
      3m 32s
  6. 30m 53s
    1. Overview of long-term content strategizing
      2m 44s
    2. Planning a successful content strategy and avoiding common mistakes
      3m 46s
    3. Defining your audience, topics, angle, and style
      4m 17s
    4. Understanding different types of content
      4m 25s
    5. Getting ideas for content
      4m 0s
    6. Working with an editorial calendar
      3m 33s
    7. Promoting your content with social media
      3m 52s
    8. Measuring content performance
      4m 16s
  7. 18m 28s
    1. Understanding the importance of links
      4m 49s
    2. Building internal links
      2m 5s
    3. Building external links
      4m 19s
    4. Finding link-building opportunities
      4m 36s
    5. Executing a link-building strategy
      2m 39s
  8. 16m 32s
    1. Measuring SEO performance
      4m 10s
    2. Analyzing keywords
      5m 13s
    3. Analyzing links
      4m 9s
    4. Analyzing the impact of social media
      3m 0s
  9. 18m 45s
    1. Understanding SEO and ecommerce
      2m 36s
    2. Working with semantic HTML
      2m 22s
    3. The technical components of ecommerce
      3m 9s
    4. Exploring ecommerce information architecture
      2m 38s
    5. Producing ecommerce content
      2m 33s
    6. Leveraging link building and social media for ecommerce
      3m 12s
    7. Adapting ecommerce websites for international audiences
      2m 15s
  10. 25m 38s
    1. Understanding local search
      3m 14s
    2. Understanding Google+ Local
      3m 0s
    3. Setting up and optimizing Google+ Local
      4m 46s
    4. Getting more citations
      3m 52s
    5. Getting more reviews for your business
      3m 43s
    6. Optimizing your website for local search
      4m 13s
    7. The future of local search
      2m 50s
  11. 15m 48s
    1. Understanding cultural aspects of international SEO
      2m 30s
    2. Optimizing technical content for international audiences
      2m 57s
    3. Optimizing translated and localized content
      2m 9s
    4. Building links for an international audience
      2m 47s
    5. Analyzing and measuring an international SEO campaign
      2m 17s
    6. Avoiding pitfalls with international SEO
      3m 8s
  12. 1m 10s
    1. Determining your next steps
      1m 10s

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