Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Of all the words, phrases, and acronyms associated with computing and the internet, probably none have been more misunderstood, misappropriated, and exploited than “SEO” (Search Engine Optimization). The basic idea of search engine optimization is pretty straightforward – to optimize a web page in a way that maximizes its potential in search engine rankings – generally understood primarily as Google rankings as Google’s market share in search is significantly greater than any other search provider. (Although the merger of Bing and Yahoo search has made it worth a web marketer’s while to pay more attention to this search engine as well.)

There was a time when it was possible to simply insert lines of markup called meta tags ( < meta name=”keywords” content=”World’s Best Web Developers”> ) into the head section of a website and increase that site’s ranking for searches that utilized the words contained in the meta tags. It was also possible to “stuff” a site with certain keywords in a way that made the site look like an authority on a search phrase to a search engine algorithm but meaningless to actual users (World’s Best Web Developers, developers, best, world, prize winner champion developers…).

Thankfully Google goes out of its way to hire smart people and improve user experiences (in most respects) by constantly trying to find ways to make search results more relevant. The result of this effort is a constantly evolving combination bot or crawler (a very powerful machine/computer that reads web pages in a blink and indexes [stores] their content) and algorithm (a mathematical formula that processes, weights, and computer data derived from the indexed content of web pages to provide a measure for ranking these pages relative to one another for a given search phrase).

The fact that Google (and Bing) are constantly evolving means that the techniques used to help improve the rankings of web pages should evolve with them. Unfortunately, many of the individuals and organizations that claim to be experts in SEO don’t bother keeping up with the evolving state of search, and many clients end up paying for these consultants to essentially waste their time and money by focusing on outdated strategies involving meta tags, keyword density, and keyword stuffing. Google is also somewhat secretive about the specifics of the algorithm, so the only way to really get a handle on the intricacies of search is to study real search results – a step is taken only very rarely by so-called SEO consultants.

The most recent evolution of Google has come in a series of updates popularly referred to as the Panda updates. Google has always stressed the importance of content in its statements to the web development industry, and Panda is its biggest step yet to move content-rich web sites ahead of content-light web sites in search rankings. This means that, in many cases, there are no shortcuts to the top of the rankings. Web developers must employ writers and they must create pages with substantive, engaging content.

One of the more innovative advances introduced by Panda to the Google algorithm involves the way it reads content. As mentioned above, search engine bots scan web sites and transmit their content to an index to be processed by an algorithm. In the past, the word “read” might have been a bit of an over-statement for what the algorithm was actually doing, but as of the Panda updates, “read” has become an increasingly fitting way to describe what is happening. Google has essentially taught its algorithm to read – not just recognize text – but read the way you and I do. The algorithm now notices spelling and grammar errors, and it also tries to distinguish invaluable content from space-filling words on a page.

But even as one of the most advanced machine-readers in existence, Google’s bot/algorithm is still flawed. In attempting to address issues related to poorly written content, Google has devalued web sites that enhance user experiences through images, illustrations, and animations. Some of the web’s most well-designed sites now have no chance at showing up in Google’s rankings. And because a fair portion of the web is forced to rely on Google for traffic and business, many web pages will now end up seeming wordy and over-explained (take this one for instance).

Relative to other search marketing firms in Columbus, Sites Up And Running takes a comparatively academic view of search engine rankings, forgoing the noise posted about SEO on the internet and getting into the real nuts and bolts of the machines and mathematics behind the rankings. This allows us to propose innovatively, customized strategies that help sites move up the rankings ahead of web pages using the older optimization strategies outlined above (the vast majority of websites).

Search Engine Optimization at Sites Up And Running begins with a consultation and a research-driven strategy proposal. Because this optimization strategy must be taken into account at every level in the development of a site, the optimization project should begin before site development – a process that is explained more completely during the consultation. And because content, as mentioned above, has become the overwhelming factor in a sites ability to rank highly in Google, the bulk of our strategy proposal will focus on what kind of content will engage both site visitors and search engines.

Our optimization packages also include the incorporation of analytics into every page on a website and the registration of these pages with Google so you can watch your site traffic grow and track key indicators. We also offer our clients $100 of free advertising in Google Adwords to help jump-start the traffic generation campaign.

If you would like to talk about optimizing your site, you may contact us.

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