What is SEO?
SEO, which stands for “search engine optimization,” and SEM, which stands for “search engine marketing,” are two terms which are being used a great deal today in the arena of online marketing. Search engine optimization, in particular, is drawing a great deal of attention from online businesses of every size. SEO is important for your business; with the World Wide Web turning 25 this year, cyberspace is becoming increasingly crowded, and simply having a snappy URL is no longer guaranteed to draw attention to your business; in fact, with countless domain names reserved, dormant, locked into indefinite use or, conversely, all but abandoned, it’s no longer guaranteed at all. This isn’t all bad for your business, as it means there is a growing emphasis on relevant content, but more than ever you’ve got to be serious about your online marketing. How do you go about getting people to come and take a look at what you’re offering? SEO is a multi-level process by which your Website’s content is made to register more highly on search engine indexes. This is done by making your Website’s content more “technically interesting.”
SEO Keywords and Semantic Phrases
SEO keywords are just that: words which are “key,” or “particularly relevant,” to the content which your business is trying to market. For instance, if you are describing a specific line of charm bracelets, you might choose keywords like “sterling silver,” “charm,” and the associated brand name. Ideally, keywords should be sprinkled several times throughout a given paragraph of text. In typical SEO fashion, three to five keywords are used for a particular block of content, and they should recur an average of three or four times per paragraph—although, in using the word “average,” you do want them to be more or less evenly distributed. There’s no telling which SEO keyword will draw a prospective client to your virtual doorstep, after all. This is the most fundamental means by which optimizing your content can be made to benefit your business, and is often the primary focus of basic SEO business services.
Semantic phrases, otherwise known as semantic keywords, are strings of keywords put together in a longer phrase. If you have five keywords, for example, why not try to make a sentence using mostly, if not entirely, your optimized keywords? Using the previous example, one might create a heading within that jewelry article—a specific section about holiday charms: “’Brand Name’s’ Sterling Silver Holiday Charms are a Must for every Charms Enthusiast on Your Shopping List!” In this example, the brand name, the SEO keyword “sterling silver,” and the SEO keyword “charms” are all located in close proximity, with “charms” appearing twice in the same header. By putting these words within basic HTML header tags, you are additionally increasing the odds that they will stand out to search engine bots and crawlers, which brings us to our next point in how to provide basic SEO for your business.
Search Engine Indexing: Bots, Robots, Spiders, and Crawlers
From the standpoint of the individual offering SEO content to better market their business online, the terms “bot,” “robot,” “spider,” and “crawler” are more or less interchangeable (this is not technically true, not entirely, but it works for the purposes of this explanation). Search engine crawlers are programs used by search engines, which read Web pages the way that browsers do, and organize them into indexes so that they may appear in the results of every internet user’s searches. As Web searching has become more involved (it’s now a specialty field in its own right) the way in which crawlers index Web pages has also become more complicated. Modern web bots look at more than just the key words displayed in readable text on a Website when determining that Site’s position in their index, and SEO has to take this into consideration if it wishes to remain competitive.
A modern online business engaged in SEO as part of its online marketing might include a semantic SEO keyword phrase in each image’s alt tag on their Website. An “alt tag,” or “alt attribute,” is a text alternative to an image. It is often used to describe the contents of an image, but there is no specific reason that it needs to do so. Normally, a visible Webpage does not display its image’s alt tags, but they are detected and read by search engine crawlers, and are treated by most such bots as being relevant to the images with which they are associated. This gives them considerable relevance in determining a Website’s indexing; we’ve all heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Similarly, when providing SEO for your business, you might include semantic keywords in your headers. A “header” can be the title for your Website, or the title of an individual paragraph or section—like “ Search Engine Indexing: Bots, Robots, Spiders, and Crawlers,” as presented above. Headers are visually emphasized to the reader, but they also stand out to Web crawlers as being highly relevant to whatever content they are associated with. As such, putting keywords into your headers is vital to ensuring a high search engine index position.
SEO for Your Business: Keeping It Real
With regards to basic SEO, one of the most important and perhaps overlooked aspects of optimizing your online business content is to remember to keep it visually appealing and to tie everything together aesthetically. It’s all well and good to have your page showing up in search engine results, but if it’s just long strings of SEO keywords, semantic phrases, and superfluous imagery (for extra alt tags) your potential client isn’t going to waste their time combing through your material to find something relevant to them. Images should be tasteful in quantity and positioning, content should be relevant, writing should flow smoothly, and so on. Many search engine crawlers now impose limits on how much “relevant” content of a given type they will take into consideration—a deliberate measure to curb what might otherwise be a flood of excess material.