Having a website is great but unless it’s getting visitors you might as well go and shout your message to an audience of one and that person is yourself! So how do we get sites listed on the search engines?
If your domain is quite unique then in most cases a website will start to get listed under searches for its own name within a few weeks if it has been submitted to Google or has been linked to from a website that Google regularly crawls.
So are there many people searching for your domain name jim bobs widgets? Probably not! What you really want is to get your site listed as high as possible on the first page for the search terms (keywords) that people might use when looking for the product or service you offer.
So if you offer widgets for sale you really want your site listed when potential customers are searching using keywords like “buy widgets”, “designer widgets”, “discount widgets” etc.
The process we go through to get listed in the natural results for any particular search term (also known as a keyword) is known as search engine optimisation or SEO. It is really a combination of both on-page and off-page factors to try to indicate to the search engines that your site is worth listing for the keyword in question.
We do this by having the most relevant content possible for the person searching for the keyword and by getting other websites to also indicate we have the best content for that keyword. In competitive markets where lots of websites are trying to get listed for the same keyword it might be a long uphill and expensive battle.
To show the search engines our content is relevant to the person searching we need to structure our content around the keyword in question, so for example if we are trying to get ranked for “used blue widgets”, then lets have a page on our site dedicated to that particular product, complete with a page title of “Used Blue Widgets” and the text, pictures, video or whatever on that page would naturally be all about used blue widgets.
Now back to the part where I mentioned we need other sites to indicate we have good material too. In practice this means getting other sites to link to ours, preferably some of them directly to our page about used blue widgets. Its even better if when they link to us they use anchor text (the text forming the clickable link) like “Bob’s Used Blue Widgets” or “Great used blue widgets” and the like.
In practice the need for specific links like that varies with how competitive the keyword is. If we are the only website with used blue widgets we may need few if any links to our site, if there are lots of competing websites we may need lots of incoming links.
Not all links are equal, some are much more powerful than others, others may look powerful but have a little invisible tag on them (called the ‘noFollow’ tag) telling the search engines to ignore the link!
Links from sites already ranking for our desired keyword and links from other ‘trusted’ sites are better than links from a comment in somebody’s blog about tools.
We are really just glossing over the main points here but its a good start towards a basic understanding of SEO.