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What Exactly Is SEO And Why Should I Bother Learning How To Do It?

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Posted 15th March 2012 at 03:17 PM by mattlaclear

SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization, is the process of setting up a site to increase its rankings in search results from Google and other search engines. Internet users tend to trust sites in free searches more than they do advertised sites, making a high page ranking a useful tool to drive visitors and dollars to a website.

The first part of an SEO campaign is to identify the search terms, or keywords, that pertain to a given business. For example, a florist in Tuscaloosa may focus on the keywords "Tuscaloosa florist" or "flowers Tuscaloosa." There are a number of research tools, including Google AdWords' keyword tools, Microsoft AdCenter, and other similar tools. Once a business owner has selected good keywords for their business, they can go about the process of optimizing their pages for the search engines.

In the past, search engine optimization required stuffing a page with repeated repetitions of a keyword, almost to the point of gibberish. Today's search engines are much smarter, making page optimization a more complicated science. Successful SEO today still requires including keywords, but requires that they be included in a way that is natural to the site. Search engines look for high quality content which is keyword specific. In addition, they look to see if a site is respected enough to receive a healthy number of links to it from outside. While SEO starts with page optimization for keywords, a successful campaign includes the creation of multiple keyword-containing pages and includes earning as many links from outside to the page as possible.

Although the Internet is a global medium, a local business owner can benefit greatly from an SEO campaign. Google and other Internet searches have largely replaced the Yellow Pages as a tool for customers to find businesses. Having a high page ranking is the equivalent of having a large ad right at the beginning of a Yellow Pages topic. SEO also brings in prospects who are not yet ready to do business, but who are researching a purchase. These prospects can grow into loyal customers. Finally, SEO can be extremely cost-effective. While driving traffic through paid advertising can cost a few dollars per click-through, the top positions on a Google search results page are free. All that it takes to earn a high ranking is a well-optimized site.

SEO is the practice of designing a site to earn high rankings in search results. However, it is really about much more than that. Successful SEO is about creating content that educates customers and earns the respect of people in the community. This goes beyond advertising and into creating a business that adds value to all that it touches.
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