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What is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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Search engine optimization (SEO) is the art of creating Web pages that will rank high in search engine returns. SEO is accomplished by optimizing certain sections or "elements" in the HTML coding of each page. These sections are specifically read by search engines and, depending on the level of optimization, can create a greater likelihood of free referral traffic.

There are several methods and opinions about how a web page should be optimized, and much will depend on the type of site, its content, purpose and competition, if relevant. But in general search engine optimization relies heavily on the proper use of keywords and keyphrases that describe the site's content.

Keywords should first appear is in the TITLE section of the page's source code. They should also appear in the META description section where the page is accurately described by repeating the keywords. The META keywords section will also contain keywords or keyphrases describing the site's product, services or content.

Ideally, the source code for each subsequent page in the site will also have its own unique keywords listed. Each page title should use one or more of these unique keywords for maximum search engine optimization.

Since SEO relies so heavily on keywords, the most important keywords and keyphrases should be used liberally in the first two paragraphs of the content of each page, then sprinkled throughout the body. The last paragraph of every page should also be keyword rich. A suggested rule of thumb is to reach for keyword density between 5-15%. Judgment must be used to invoke keywords liberally without getting too repetitive. It may also help to use bold or italics on a keyword or two, but avoid doing this to excess.

Another important placement for keywords is in the H1 and H2 header fields of each page. The most important keywords or keyphrases should be found here.

Other tricks for helping search engine optimization or SEO are naming image files and anchors with keywords. Anchors, also called crosslinks, are references to other pages within the site.

Finally providing links to and from external sites, called backlinks is also important, as search engine spider bots navigate by links. The text in your page that points to external links can contain keywords too.

Tutors for search engine optimization are available online for those willing to optimize their own sites. There are also many SEO companies that will provide the service at a cost. Some caution should be used in securing a contractor to make sure that what is being promised is feasible, realistic and cost-effective.

Whether performing your own search engine optimization or hiring a contractor, with the billions of web pages on the Internet and the hundreds or even thousands of "hits" that can be returned from any single online search, SEO is a necessity for anyone looking to benefit from search engine traffic.

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Discussion Comments
By anon244643 — On Feb 02, 2012

Very good point, Taylor. That’s one of the things you need to know for sure. In fact, it’s one of many off-page factors that are important that my system above doesn’t take into account.

By anon193371 — On Jul 04, 2011

This is a great primer for SEO. The way keyword density works is often misunderstood, but you nailed it here. Great job.

By anon85555 — On May 20, 2010

Yeah if you don't want to take the time to learn SEO, try a guaranteed SEO service.

By askmepc — On Apr 06, 2010

With my clients I make sure they check out any SEO gurus before they hire them. Check references, check their PR (page rank) and make sure they are not just talking a good game. There are lots of people ripping off small business people with "SEO services".

Learn about basic SEO so you won't get sold a river of digital goods!

By sufi23 — On Nov 17, 2009

Hi Ajay, To become an SEO - you should have a basic knowledge of HTML and it's not that tough as you are thinking. HTML uses quite easy and simple techniques.

By AjaySingh — On Jun 18, 2009

I want to know the requirements to be Search Engine Optimizer?

I mean can I be an SEO with the knowledge of Internet and with no knowledge of HTML?

By web1 — On Feb 11, 2008

This article provides most emphasis on on-page factors and less on in-bound links than is deserved by the present state of SEO for competitive keywords.

Josh Freedman

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