If you’ve had a website for very long, you have probably heard the term search engine optimization, or SEO for short, thrown around from time to time. But what is SEO, and what does it matter to you?
Search engines like Google and Bing are how most people find what they’re looking for on the Internet. Just go to Google’s website, enter a few words about what you want and you instantly receive a list of millions of websites that have something to do with the words you searched for.
So how on Earth can search engines know so much about so many websites? Years ago, when the Internet was still in its infancy, search engines relied on website authors to tell them what each website was about. This worked fine for most website owners until people started to figure out that they could lie to the search engines and manipulate the search results.
It didn’t take long before search engines began to use automated programs to scour the Internet and browse, download and analyze millions of websites. These automated programs are called robots, or “bots” for short, and make it more difficult to manipulate the search engines.
Over the years these bots have become quite advanced, and are now the primary method search engines use to determine what your website content is about. They read which words you use, count how many times you use them, and much more to decide what’s important on each page of every website on the Internet.
With nearly a billion websites on the Internet, and almost five billion pages indexed, it’s easy to see how your website might easily become lost in the thousands of pages of results that can be returned from a single search.
Most people will skim through the first few pages of search results before trying something else, but if you’re not on one of those pages, then you are much less likely to be found. If you can’t be found, then you probably won’t be doing much business.
So how do you stand out with so much competition? That’s where search engine optimization comes in. It’s not always easy, but you can do it. Just like anything else, it takes time, patience, practice and a little understanding about how search engine bots work.
Come back next week when we’ll talk about what you can do to get better results from search engines and get more people to your website!