Search Engine Optimization: Basics & Definition

Instructor: John Skoy

John has an MBA and has taught college business for over a decade, both online and in person. He is a Dean of Faculty for an online university.

Search engine optimization helps companies ensure that their websites are able to be seen at the top of the list on search engines. This lesson discusses the processes and methods involved in accomplishing search engine optimization.

Definition and Concept

When you type in a Google search what is the first thing you see after you push enter? The top results that you see everytime you search are not there by chance. Companies allocate plenty of resources to ensure that their link shows up on the first page or at the top.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of taking steps to ensure that your website shows up at the top of the list on search engines, which in turn increases their web traffic. Because of the dominance of the internet and e-commerce, search engine optimization is a requirement for being able to compete in the digital environment. That being said, the type and scope of SEO can vary greatly depending on the type and size of the company.

How Does Search Engine Optimization Work?

Search engines are not the mystical tools you may think they are, as they work on a pretty simple principle. A search engine constantly locates and stores key words and terms from millions of websites that it finds. When a person searches for something like 'bacon', the search engine will reference all of the indexed web pages that they have with the key term 'bacon' and displays them in order of perceived importance.

The order in which the results are displayed depends largely on two things: the popularity of the website and the location of the key terms in the website. If the terms are located in the title, description, or other key location the engine will rank it higher in the results. Virtually all websites also include metatags, which are a series of keywords and phrases that are hidden from visitors to the page but visible to the search engines. These tags also help the search engine rank the page higher on the results list.

Improving the popularity of the website is a little harder to accomplish, as it largely depends on how established the company's presence is on the internet. In our example on 'bacon', one of the first results will be Wikipedia. While there are many other websites that are probably a closer match, Wikipedia is by far the most popular website with a title match to the term. Even name brand bacon producers with key terms in their title, description, and meta tags will be ranked below Wikipedia due to the large traffic it receives.

In order to accomplish search engine optimization, the company must understand what terms the customer will likely enter to search for their website and then ensure that those words and phrases are located in the key places in the code for their pages. This often is the only chance a small or mid-sized company has of getting their website to show up on the first few pages of an internet search. It is also important to make sure that the terms and words that are used actually match the content on the webpage. Deceptive practices can often lead to a website being eliminated from search engine results completely.

Options for Services

While some major corporations are able to accomplish SEO internally, the vast majority of companies hire outside SEO firms. They are experts in the field of consulting on improving a company's results. Although there are several ways that these consultants operate, the main two are by charging by the project and charging a flat monthly rate.

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