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Within Search Engine Margeting (SEM), Organic SEOSearch Engine Optimization – Specifically referring to website listings within the organic (non-paid) segment of a search engine results page can be broken down into two words: ‘relevancy’ & ‘authority’. Large search engines, like Google, Yahoo!, & Bing, compete largely to provide web surfers quality results for search queries. SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization”, is tactic of manipulating both on- & off-site elements of a site that influence how search engines view the authority & relevancy of a given website as compared to other websites for particular search queries and keyword phrases.

In short: SEO is working to rank higher in Google and other search engines

Relevancy

For a search in Google like “cake shop Manhattan”, Google would naturally want webpages that provide content that is relevant to the words: ‘cake’, ‘shop’ and ‘Manhattan’ to appear in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). Search Engines crawl site content and algorithmically assign varying weight and relevancy between that content and keywords.

It stands to reason then that if I am a downtown bakery owner aspiring to convert sales from online searches, I’d want:

  • heavily searched keywords saturated within the content of my site
  • internal links (like in the navigation header menu or footer of my website) pointing to information-rich pages that reference baked goods
  • a link to my contact page stating clearly my shop’s location in Manhattan
  • and various images of cakes, pastries, and the like (specifically using HTML markup language that allows search engines to ‘read’ the content within images)

all plastered around my site.

Maintaining a website that is both easily crawled and easily interpreted by search engine ‘spiders’ is the first and most infant step in optimizing a site for better placement in the SERPS. Understanding how & why search engines weigh factors like

  • Keyword Location
  • Title Tag
  • Dynamic URL Extensions
  • HTML Tags
  • Semantic Markup Language
  • Keyword Density
  • Navigation/Page Hierarchy
  • Destination of Internal Links
  • Relevancy of External Links
  • etc.

measured as a function of relevancy, allows an SEO webmaster to deliver higher SERP rankings and, ultimately, more qualified traffic to a domain.

Authority

Authority, or ‘importance’ (often measured as “Page Rank”), is a vastly more complicated element of the algorithms that search engine like Google tweak on a regular basis. Regardless of how similar the relevancy of competing websites are within a niche, websites that prove (in the eyes of search engines) to be a more reputable & value-added source of information, goods and services will ultimately rank better than their competing, otherwise identical, websites.

Web spiders can’t interpret the value of content nearly as well as they can interpret the interactions of people in response to content

Authority can be accomplished in a number of ways. The first, I like to call: “gossip”. Consider the idea that the more often Widget X is ‘talked about’ as compared to Widget Y, the more important then Widget X is as compared to Widget Y. Search engines measure one element of authority basically the same way. Let’s say, theoretically, you post a link to a great recipe for cake on your friend’s Facebook wall. To a (small) degree, a search engine spider interprets this action as your endorsing this link (moreover, the content on the other side of this link).

In the eyes (algorithm) of a search engine, for a user to have posted a link elsewhere on the internet, the user must have interpreted the content to be valuable (authoritative) and worthy of endorsing.

This here is the key — web spiders can’t interpret the value of content nearly as well as they can interpret the interactions of people in response to content. If, for example, thousands of bloggers posted on their websites a link that read “pictures of funny cats” (read Anchor TextThe visible text comprising a non-image link, ie. “pictures of funny cats” constitutes the ‘achor text’ that points to the destination URL: http://www.icanhazcheezburger.com) that pointed to www.icanhazcheezburger.com, not only would www.icanhazcheezburger.com gain a significant amount of ‘authority’ by the endorsement of bloggers, but would also gain a substantial amount of keyword relevancy for the queries: “pictures” + “funny” + “cats”.

From an ‘importance’ standpoint, a powerhouse like the New York Times would, for all intensive purposes, have more authority than a mom & pop cake shop in downtown Manhattan. However, still without sufficient relevancy to the correct keywords, the New York Times will not rank well for searches like “cake shop Manhattan”.

SEO Theory

Keyword Placement

Target keywords in <title> tags, <meta> data, internal page URLs(ie. www.example.com/these-is-your-target-keyword/), anchor text within internal navigation, and hierarchy indicatorsie. tags, bold, italics, or otherwise distinguishable fonts will all display relevancy to a given niche. Overstuffing keywords within content, however, is considered a spam trigger and will ultimately hurt search results. Search engines are competing on quality search results, and content that is unnaturally stuffed with certain words provide an unfavorable browsing experience and will thus be excluded from search results.

High Quality Backlinks

Since one measured element of authority is online “endorsements”, external links from domains that have high Page Rank & similar relevancy provide greater authority. Not all backlinks, though, are created equal; the less relevant the pointing sites are, and the easier it is obtain a link (ie. from online directories, forums, and social media sites like Facebook, twitter, Squidoo), then the less search engines will value the link as an indicator of authority.

Website Content

Not only is adding and updating content a generally good practice for any website owner, but providing relevant, engaging, and even viral content does two other things. First, it incentivizes website visitors to continue endorsing the website by spreading the word through E-mail, blogs, and Facebook updates – but secondly, it also allows webpages the chance to capture low-competition keyword phrases (think: incredibly specific article topics that get few searches, but have few competing pages on the niche subject), often by shear luck. Typically, the deeper a website goes into internal pages, the more specific the content of those pages become — the more specific the content becomes (ie. “How to train your dog to DVR your favorite shows while you’re at work”). The more specific the content becomes, the less likely it is to have been written about already. The less likely it is to be written about already, the less competition there is and therefore more likely you are to rank higher for whatever little traffic it garners.

SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

In contrast to organic SEO, paid (sponsored) listings in search engines like Google & Yahoo! provide advertisers a PPC (pay per click) opportunity to increase visibility in the SERPS. With increased competition for scarce placements at the top of Google, more businesses are relying on platforms like Google AdWords for a pay-to-play option when incumbent competitors are difficult to displace from top positions.

Read more about PPC Marketing.