Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a cornerstone of website design no matter what your site is about.
Everybody uses search engine optimization to some extent, and if anyone doesn’t, then you probably haven’t heard of them.
So what’s so important about SEO? What makes it such a pivot point that we have an “SEO Tips” category separate from the rest of Marketing? Well, as you might have guessed, there are many answers to that question.
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1. Because Search Engines Are The Windows To The Net
When you want to find a new website, what do you do? Go on Google to type in a question, or do you prefer using old-fashioned search terms instead? Or maybe you prefer one of the company’s competitors, such as Bing or Yahoo?
Did you even realize that there are other ways to discover the site you want? You can go on a message board, enter a chat room, or otherwise ask other people whether they know about the site you’re looking for and whether they can share a link so that you can get there.
But then to do that, you’d have to know the address of the message board or the chat client in the first place. Someone might be able to give you the information in real life, but it’s much easier and faster to simply plug a few search terms into a search engine, isn’t it?
The other major alternative to using a search engine is to follow links from a site you already know about. Websites will often provide links to other related websites, not just as a service to their visitors but as a service to each other: one of the most important factors in determining search engine ranking is how many other sites link to it, so sites that aren’t owned by major corporations will often exchange links to help each other out.
However, if you want to get to a specific location on the internet and the only way to get there is to follow a long line of links from an unrelated website, the only thing you can really say is, “good luck.” Search engines make finding things online much, much easier than the alternatives, and so they effectively act as a gateway between internet users and the World Wide Web. That’s why most website owners use search engine optimization.
2. Because Search Engine Algorithms Are Constantly Growing Smarter
Although Google is obviously a dominant force among search engines, the competition between them is actually quite fierce. The goal of every search engine isn’t just to catalog and list every website with even a hint of relevancy to your search terms, but also to place the links you’re looking for front and center so that you don’t have to hunt through trash and unrelated sites to get what you want.
As such, search engine companies are always creating and refining advanced algorithms that take into account things like the number of outside links, how recently the site updated, whether the site’s pages repeat themselves or repeat the content found on other sites elsewhere online, the amount of traffic the site already receives, and of course how often the important keywords occur. Different search engines will weigh these factors differently, plus they’re always adding new factors as the months and years go by.
Incidentally, this is also why white hat SEO trumps black hat SEO as a long-term strategy for keeping your website alive. To put it simply, white hat SEO involves going along with the spirit of what search engines look for, while black hat SEO describes all the methods you can use to exploit search engine algorithms in order to get a high ranking without earning it first.
3. Because Following SEO Practices Means Creating A Great Website
When you optimize your site for search engine optimization, at least when you do it the white hat way, you’ll create a unique website that earns a high rank for one or more search terms, and which does so honestly. Not only that, it’ll deserve that rank by being exactly what the search engine users want to find.
Some search engine algorithms can even detect and weigh factors like the number of obvious spelling and grammar mistakes, and although they can’t yet determine good writing from bad outside of these basic mechanics, that’s still something they can check on some level by monitoring your site’s traffic statistics, then tweaking your search engine optimization strategies based on your data.
Search engines are constantly evolving, and it’s not just to better choose which good results deserve to sit near the top of the results page, but also to eliminate the exploits and loopholes used by black hat search engine optimizers so that none of the engine’s users will be tricked into visiting unrelated sites packed with ads, tracking cookies, scams, or all of the above.
Following black hat tactics will put you in some very shady company, even if your content actually is on the level. Between that untrustworthiness and the benefits of following white hat methods instead, it should be clear that doing right by a search engine means doing right by your visitors.
So with all these things considered, it should be fairly obvious now why it’s important to understand search engine optimization and follow the rules it lays out. SEO is a passive form of marketing, one that doesn’t add any additional costs aside from the time and effort it takes to create good content for your website consistently. SEO also acts as a useful “best practices” guideline, and while it can’t guarantee good content or a lot of traffic, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.