SEO Beginner's Guide

Learn the basics about search engine optimization. Then Contact Us if you want to know more.

What is search engine optimization?

Search engine optimization, better known as SEO, is often considered one of the more technical aspects of internet marketing. This is true because while SEO helps in the promotion of the site’s visibility on the search engines, it also requires some technical knowledge with familiarity of code, web design, and web development. Generally, SEO can be defined as the activity of optimizing websites in order to make them more search engine-friendly, thus getting higher positions in organic search results.

One of the truths of SEO is that even if you do all the things that are necessary, this does not automatically guarantee you top placements in the search engines. But if you neglect basic rules, your site will certainly go unnoticed. Although SEO helps to increase the traffic to one’s site, SEO is not advertising. Of course, you can be included in paid search results for given keywords as discussed in the beginner’s guide for SEM, but the basic idea behind search engine optimization and it’s techniques is to convince search engines that your site is the most relevant web site for a particular search term, not because you pay.

SEO can be a 30-minute job or a permanent activity. Sometimes it is enough to do some generic search engine optimization tactics in order to get high in search engines – for instance, if you are a leader for rare keywords, then you do not have to be as aggressive to obtain top placement. But in most cases, if you want to be aggressive with your SEO techniques, you need to pay special attention to SEO and devote significant amounts of time and effort to it. Even if you plan to do some basic SEO, it is essential that you understand how search engines work and which items are most important in SEO.

How do search engines work?

Another truth you need to learn about SEO is that search engines are not humans. Unlike humans, search engines are text-driven. Although technology advances rapidly, search engines are far from intelligent creatures that can feel the beauty of a cool design or enjoy the sounds and movement in movies. Instead, search engines ‘crawl’, looking at particular site items (mainly text) to get an idea what a site is about. This brief explanation is not the most precise because search engines perform several activities in order to deliver search results – crawling, indexing, processing, calculating relevancy, and retrieving.

Search engines crawl the internet to see what is there. This task is performed search engine crawlers, or spiders. Spiders follow links from one page to another and index everything they find on their way. Keeping in mind the number of sites on the internet, it is impossible for a spider to visit a site daily just to see if a new page has appeared or if an existing page has been modified. Sometimes crawlers will not visit your site for a month or two, so during this time your SEO efforts will not be rewarded.

After a page is crawled, content is indexed. The indexed page is stored in a giant database, from where it can later be retrieved. The process of indexing is identifying the words and expressions that best describe the page and assigning the page to particular keywords. For a human it will not be possible to process such amounts of information but generally search engines deal just fine with this task. Sometimes they might not get the meaning of a page right but if you help them by optimizing it, it will be easier for them to classify your pages correctly and for you – to get higher rankings.

There are various search engine ranking algorithms to calculate relevancy. Each of these algorithms has different relative weights for common factors like keyword density, links, or metatags. That is why different search engines give different search results pages for the same search string. What is more, it is a known fact that all major search engines, like Google and Bing, periodically change their algorithms and if you want to keep at the top, you also need to adapt your pages to the latest changes. This is one reason (the other is your competitors) to devote permanent efforts to SEO, if you’d like to own the top

The last step in search engines’ activity is retrieving the results. Basically, it is nothing more than simply displaying them in the browser – i.e. the endless pages of search results that are sorted from the most relevant to the least relevant sites.

Why Keywords Are Important

Keywords are the most important SEO item for every search engine. They are what search queries are matched against. It is very important that you optimize your site for the right keywords. This seems easy at first but when you get into more detail, it might be a bit confusing to correctly determine the keywords. But with a little research and thinking the problem of selecting the right keywords to optimize for can be solved.

SEM vs. SEO Keywords

Though there are some similarities in the keywords you target for your SEM and SEO keywords, the correct strategy for SEO is to target only a small handful of keywords for each page, while in a SEM campaign could target potentially thousands of keywords per page.

That said, you can learn what keywords convert best using a well-run search engine marketing strategy, which can aid in your keyword development in your SEO strategy. Finally, it’s been proven in many instances that having an SEM and SEO listing on a search engine result page have a synergistic value.

What are some on-site SEO strategies


– Metatags used to be the primary tool for SEO; there was a direct correlation between what you wrote there and your position in search results. However, algorithms have gotten better. The importance of metadata today is decreasing, especially with Google. But still some search engines show metadata, so users can read what you have written and if they think it is relevant; they might go to your site. Also, some of the specialized search engines still use the metatags when ranking your site.


– Text is one of the on-site driving forces to higher SEO rankings. Search engines and your website visitors love fresh content. Providing them with regularly updated, relevant content is a recipe for success. Generally, when a site is frequently updated, this increases the probability that the spider will revisit the site sooner. You can’t take for sure that if you update your site daily, the spider will visit it even once a week but if you do not update your contents regularly, this will certainly drop you to from the top of search results.

For company sites that are not focused on writing but on manufacturing constantly adding text can be a problem because generally company sites are not reading rooms or online magazines that update their content daily, weekly or monthly but even for company sites there are reasonable solutions. No matter what your business is, one is for sure – it is always relevant to include a news section on your site – it can be company news or RSS feeds but this will keep the ball rolling.

What are some off-site SEO strategies

Link building & directories

– Backlinks are very important because they are supposed to be a measure of the popularity of your site among the Web audience. It is necessary to say that not all backlinks are equal. There are good and bad backlinks. Good backlinks are from reputable places – preferably from sites with a similar theme. These links do boost search engine ranking. Bad backlinks come from suspicious places are something to be avoided.

If you are not heavily backlinked, don’t worry – buying links is an established practice and if you are serious about getting to the top, you may need to consider it. But before doing this, there are alternatives to consider. For instance, some of the good places where you can get quality backlinks are directories like DMOZ and Yahoo’s directory.

Anchor text

- Anchor text is the most important item in a backlink. While it does matter where a link comes from, what matters more is the actual text the link starts from. Put simply, anchor text is the word or words that you click on to open the hyperlink.

How can I get started?

Achieving success through search engine optimization isn’t easy… it can take many years of work to achieve rankings on some more competitive words. Search engine optimization can no longer be considered to be an alternative tactic for your business. Many companies who have seen success from a well structured SEO campaign would agree that search engine optimization is becoming more and more standard in their day-to-day business practices

A company may choose to direct a key person to learn about SEO and then manage their campaign. But given the steep learning curve involved, many companies choose to outsource. The outsourcing experience can be a learning exercise that can allow a company to eventually move the activity in-house when enough SEO knowledge and experience is acquired.

Many companies interested in search engine optimization would benefit greatly from seeking advice from experts rather than incurring the costs of trying to teach themselves. People recently introduced to SEO are at a disadvantage when they try to compete against other websites with already well-optimized sites. SEO experts can help you gain ground on your competition.

See how Sawtooth Media fits into your SEO gameplan.

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