What is Search Engine Optimization?

san francisco seo marketingYou have a website and everyone keeps telling you that you need to take the time to optimize your website for the search engines. They’re throwing around terms like SEO and SEM and everything seems like a confusing mess. In order to have a successful website, or one that has online visibility, you do need to focus on SEO, or search engine optimization. But what exactly does that mean?

Exploring Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization, aka SEO, is the term that refers to the things you can do to improve your website’s visibility in the search engines. Search engine optimization techniques focus on increasing  the organic, or natural, traffic that you receive based on your ranking within the search engines. The goal of search engine optimization is to ensure your website appeals to search engine crawlers, or bots. The search engines will take note of your site and its content, categorizing it in a way that will allow it to show up in search results when certain keywords are typed.

Search engine optimization is achieved through a wide variety of methods. Many webmasters or SEO professionals will focus on proper keyword research, clarity in the setup of your website’s headers, tags, file names and descriptions, external backlinking, internal cross linking, and quality content creation.

While each search engine uses its own algorithm for determining the ranking of every website, it is possible to increase your rankings by making your site informative and visible via both on-page and off-page search engine marketing techniques. Sites that are designed with ease-of-use and quality information in mind tend to do better than those that built sloppily and without a solid plan.

Exploring Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing, or SEM, is similar to search engine optimization but focuses less on natural rankings and more on the actual promotion of a website. SEM techniques generally include natural SEO but almost always branches out to include contextual or paid search advertising.

Paid search advertising models became more prominent in the late 1990’s, after the search engines themselves became more popular. SEM focuses more on business-oriented websites and their overall online marketing strategies. Because many of the paid advertisements appear at the top of the search engines, the FTC in 2002 responded to complaints by clarifying that paid advertisements and website listings must be clearly denoted so that consumers do not confuse them with websites that have obtained high rankings naturally.

It really doesn’t matter what type of website you have, whether it’s personal or geared towards your business. Incorporating search engine optimization techniques into the creation and ongoing upkeep of your site will ensure you receive higher levels of traffic and, ultimately, greater success.