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How Search Engine Optimization Works

Whenever someone asks me “What do you do?” it really is a loaded question because understanding what I do requires just a little understanding of SEO and how SEO works.

More often than not I find myself answering like this, “I work for a local Internet Marketing company that specializes in Search Engine Optimization”. Then I follow it up with “Essentially, it’s like an advertising company for websites.”

I am always prepared to get a puzzled face that may recognize the term ‘SEO’ but not have any clue as to what SEO is, what it means or how it works. I must also be prepared to explain in more detail exactly what is SEO. This is usually how the conversation might play out:

Me: The whole point of SEO or Search Engine Optimization, is to improve your web pages and make sure that they meet and adhere to the search engine guidelines so that your website can be found at the top search engine results pages (SERPs).

Person: But how does SEO work? What does it mean to “optimize your site”?

Me: What search engine optimization does is …

“Improve your web pages and make them better, more useful
and more effective for everyone including the people who visit your site
and for the search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.”

In other words, search engine optimization helps both the search engines and the visitors.

Person: Oh, you mean like you get the website at the top of the page?

Me: Yes but it’s a little more complicated than just “getting” it there. Websites don’t just magically appear at the top by following a secret formula or paying a fee to Google. There’s much more to it …

Most times, they’ve heard enough but sometimes the person is intrigued and wants to hear more. The rest of the conversation might be summarized below.

Understanding How SEO Helps the Search Engines

Search engine optimization works by making sure your web pages meet the search engine guidelines and become more relevant. SEO helps the search engines to:

  • Find your web pages easier
  • Review your web pages faster
  • Better understand what your website is all about
  • So they can Index your web pages properly (add your pages to their database)
  • Rate your web pages more favorably
  • And list your web pages near the top of the search engine results so people can find you easier

In summary, search engine optimization works to help your web pages:

  1. Be Found
  2. Be Understood
  3. Be Indexed
  4. Be Rated Properly
  5. And Be Visible to people who are searching

Understanding How SEO Helps Your Visitors

Optimizing your web pages to make them as good as possible will help your website perform better in the search engines, which in turn, puts you in front of the very people who are searching for what you have to offer.

Search engine optimization works to help visitors find your website faster and easier plus your website will:

  • Be more relevant for the terms people use to find your website
  • Be easier to navigate
  • Help visitors find what they came looking for faster
  • Help visitors make better decisions (sooner) about what you have to offer
  • Help convert visitors into customers

In summary, search engine optimization will help visitors to:

  1. Find your site faster
  2. Understand your offerings
  3. Make better decisions about what they want
  4. Convert sooner

Understanding How Search Engine Optimization Works

While you may not know how to do SEO, there are many ways to optimize your web pages to make them as good as possible for searchers and for the search engines.

During search engine optimization, improvement changes can be made to any of the following (plus much more) to help improve your web pages and your page performance.

So in answer to the question, “How does SEO work?” here are some of the many places SEO helps to make improvements to your website:

  • Web Page Content
    – Body Text Content
    – Keyword Usage
    – Page Titles
    – Sub-Headings
    – Link Text
    – Images
    – Meta Data (Meta Titles, Descriptions, Alt Text)
    – Content Management Systems (CMS)
    – E-commerce Systems (shopping carts)
  • Source Code
  • In-Bound Linking
  • Page Loading Times
  • Image Sizing
  • Site Structure/Architecture
  • Site Navigation
  • Social Media/Videos
  • Server Setup
  • Hosting
  • Performance Analytics

Learn More About How Search Engine Optimization Works

By the end of the conversation I usually like to look at the big picture again; In marketing, the primary goal is to get your message out to as many potential customers as possible so they will buy your product or services.

Online marketing can be very powerful because no other marketing medium has the potential to reach as many potential customers 24/7 as do the search engines. And search engines like Google simply want to give their searchers the best, most relevant pages that they think will match what is being searched for.

The purpose of doing search engine optimization then, is to try and do just that: Provide the best, most relevant pages for the keyword term that was searched on.

Still looking for more answers? Visit our detailed explanation of “What is Search Engine Optimization” or contact our Search Engine Optimization Consultants.

SEO and Server Related Issues

SEO Technical AdviceWhen website owners refer to search engine optimization (SEO), you will often hear about keywords, content development, meta & title tags and building their link popularity.

Rarely will you hear them mention server setup or how their server could be keeping them from ranking well in the search engines.

You may ask “Why would the search engines care about the server I select or how my server is set up?”

The truth is, the search engines have a lot of advertising dollars riding on your servers’ performance … and so do you.

Should the search engines find your website to be relevant for high traffic phrases, the search engines have the potential to dramatically increase your traffic and your server load.

If the amount of traffic sent to your site overloads the server or causes you a lot of downtime, this affects the user experience. If the user begins to think that a search engine shows results that aren’t working, this can cause the user to decide to turn to another search engine for better results.

SEO Server Checklist

When reviewing your server setup with search engine optimization in mind, there are a number of key areas to look at.

Many of these areas are not something you can personally fix, and often times you will need to contact your web site hosting company for assistance.

The best resource we have found for checking server related issues is www.dnsreport.com. They offer a wealth of information that can help you in determining if there are server issues that need to be addressed.

When you run the reports from DNS Stuff & DNS Reports, you will want to concentrate on the following areas:

  1. DNS Server A Records
  2. NS Records at Nameservers
  3. All Nameservers Respond
  4. CNAMEs
  5. Open DNS Servers
  6. Reverse
  7. DNS Timing
  8. Shared IP addresses

If you run these free server tests and find that these areas are not working properly or have failed, you will want to contact your website hosting company to have these issues resolved.

Often times many of these errors do not cause issues for the average website owner; but when it comes to search engine optimization, these server issues have the potential of keeping you from being listed for your most important keyword phrases.

Server Issues & Hosting Volatility

Before doing any search engine optimization on a client’s website, a search engine optimization company should always ensure that the server is working correctly.

Most professional SEO companies have had many dealings with website hosting companies; working with the web site hosting companies to educate them on how some of the areas listed above can hinder search engine optimization efforts.

Some SEO companies go through website hosting company nightmares, where they must fight tooth and nail for each area that they feel needs to be addressed.

A search engine optimization company is generally a third party company trying to do what is best for the client, but as a website owner you are the hosting company’s client; so if you meet with resistance you can simply take your business elsewhere.

How to Fix Server Related Issues

If you are told that any of the server related issues cannot be resolved, find out why. You may be told that it is your package that doesn’t cover it, or that the server that you were put on doesn’t support it. It is your job to ask them what you would need to do to resolve the issues. If they say you will need to upgrade to a higher package you may want to consider it. If they say they need to move your site ask them to do so. But don’t stop following through until the decision is in your hands. If the cost is too high for you or if your existing website host is not willing to address the server issues properly you should look at other website hosting companies.

What’s the Bottom Line?

The bottom line is if you want top search engine rankings or if you want your search engine optimization campaign to be successful, you need a unique IP address, closed DNS servers, reverse DNS working properly, Nameservers working properly, fast server response, and a clean IP.

Read about our in depth SEO Site Audit.