Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Fundamentals



This article discusses the basics of SEO, short for “search engine optimization”, and is divided into the following sections:

  • Overview of Search
  • Definition of SEO
  • Types of SEO

Overview of Search

When a person searches for something at a search engine the results that are returned by the search engine are referred to as “search results” (SEO professionals refer to this as “SERPs”, which stands for Search Engine Return Placements).

The thing that is searched for is referred to as the “search phrase”.

Keywords are words that are most important to a web site (e.g. “insurance”), while key phrases are multiple keywords that people search for (e.g. “term life insurance”). Very few people search on single words, rather they search for phrases.

NOTE: when you are searching for something be as specific as possible; this will result in the most relevant search result items.

Definition of SEO

Search engine optimization is a generic term that encompasses a variety of things. As such it often has a different meaning to people, depending on what they have read or researched.

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Simply put, search engine optimization refers to the act of improving a web site’s ranking (i.e. placement) within search results.

Types of SEO

SEO can be categorized into two specific initiatives: on-site optimization and off-site optimization.

On-Site Optimization

On-site optimization refers to work done on a web site, which can be the modification of existing content as well as the addition of new content.

Examples of on-site optimization are:

  • Fixing domain issues (e.g. multiple domains or sub-domains that all resolve to the same site, resulting in duplicate content problems)
  • Page level optimization of Title tags and meta tags (although meta tags aren’t nearly as important as they used to be)
  • Using key phrases within important page sections such as anchor (link) text, header tags (titles), and the first and last paragraphs of a page
  • Using keywords in the site structure (e.g. folder names, filenames and even the domain itself)

The trick to on-site optimization is having optimized text that: reads well; offers solutions to readers (as opposed to being product-centric); and elicits a favourable emotional response from the user.

It is important to mention that a professional SEO campaign always starts with market research and keyword research (the scope of which is outside this article).

Off-Site Optimization

Off-site optimization refers to work that does not involve direct modification of a web site, yet affects the search engine ranking of the site.

There are two main categories of off-site optimization: link building and social media involvement.

Link building refers to getting hyperlinks from other sites that point to your site (either the home page or other pages within your site). These “backlinks” are critical when it comes to ranking well in the search engines, and backlinks establish relevancy and authority for target key phrases. One of Google’s ranking factors (of which there are over two hundred) is Page Rank, which measures the importance of a site for a given key phrase by looking at backlinks to a site.

Some methods by which backlinks can be procured are:

  • Guest blogging
  • Article writing
  • Directory entries
  • Blog and forum commenting
  • Social media entries (e.g. “tweets, “diggs”, “stumbles”, etc.)
  • Press releases

Social media involvement has officially been acknowledged by major search engines as factors in their ranking algorithms. In addition it also establishes relevancy and authority for target key phrases.

Note that when it comes to an SEO campaign it is the off-site optimization that is by far the most time-consuming of the work that needs to be done!

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