Search Engine Optimization = SEO.

If you’ve been on the internet in the past decade, you’ve probably heard the term, at least in passing. And it sounds pretty spiffy. I mean, just say it out loud – Search Engine Optimization. I feel like that’s the sort of thing that you’d find in, like, a giant robot.

“Captain! The Search Engine Optimiser is on the fritz!”

It’s nothing quite so cool or dramatic, unfortunately. When you break it down, it’s pretty straightforward. A lot of this is stuff many people will probably already know, but I’m going to assume that you are totally new to content creation and copy, perhaps just getting your head about it.

A search engine is basically how you find stuff on the internet. Google, Yahoo, AOL, Bing – these are all search engines. Google is our favourite, because it treats us well, tells us how to make it happy, and is most folks’ preference.

Search Engine Optimization is the practice of injecting a website with specific keywords, with the intention of placing it higher on search result lists. The more relevant the site, the higher it’s going to be ranked on a search list, and the more likely your site is going to be seen by those looking for you.

Back in the early days of the net, there was no such thing as Search Engine Optimization. Most websites were personal websites and the internet was used largely as a means of connecting people. Then more people started getting on the web. People started exploring the prospects of selling things online and using it for advertising. All of a sudden, you could draw a lot of attention to yourself and whatever it was that you were selling by using this nifty new internet thing.

So the searches started becoming competitive.

Enter Search Engine Optimization.

Search engines use something called ‘keywords’.

Keywords are the things that search engines look for when you search for something.

When you search, for example, ‘cat videos’ in Google, you’re going to come up with a bunch of sites that feature cat videos as opposed to, say, a website about the plight of the penguin in Antarctica. Google looks at all the sites on the internet, identifies the sites that have the most relevant keywords (in this case, ‘cat’ and ‘videos’), and provides them to you.

There are countless numbers of websites in the world. Even for specific subjects like ‘cat videos’, there are about a billion sites dedicated to the topic. Possibly a gazbillion. (Numbers, not my gig.) And the way Google is streamlined, you are usually able to find exactly what you need on the very first page of search results. This means just about everyone is going to ignore every page on the second page onward.

Webmasters figured this out. They realised that the first page was where they wanted to be, and they realised that the best way to get there was by having the most relevant keywords on their page.

Search Engine Optimization was born.

So if you’re starting a new blog or website and you’re looking for more traffic, consider bumping up the number of keywords.

For example, if you were starting a website on the African swallow, you want to have the words ‘African swallow’ appear as many times as possible. You’ll want to be careful – you can overdo it. For example, if your page says “the African swallows habits are, like other African swallows, to travel with other African swallows to find places where African swallows like to hang out with other African swallows”, then you’re not doing Search Engine Optimization – that’s just poor writing, and it’s going to have a counterproductive effect.

My personal belief is that content rules over SEO.

Always make your copy readable and engaging, exciting and eloquent first, and then help yourself along with some well-written keywords.

But once you have Search Engine Optimization down, it can be used to greatly increase the number of visitors to your site. More visitors are always a good thing. Hook them right in with excellent, well written, compelling content, and you have website success.

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