Search engine optimization has long been viewed as the golden key to unlock the potential of a website by making it visible to interested readers. It’s also viewed by many as a magic bullet designed to outsmart the search engine. The truth, however, is that SEO requires a lot of planning as well as an understanding not only of the process but of the goal.
Contrary to popular belief, the goal of SEO is not to outsmart Google. Instead, it is to work with Google by providing relevant, useful content that benefits targeted viewers. Google’s stated goal is to provide accessible, useful content to viewers. So in order for your site to rank well, your content must benefit the Google audience, which, incidentally, is also your audience. And in order to make sure that benefit reaches the right people, you must implement appropriate keywords. Without keywords, Google has no way of delivering your content to the intended audience.
A search engine optimization strategy that accomplishes both parts of the goal above must consist of these four essential elements:
- Keyword Research — The goal of keyword research is to discover what your target audience is searching for. Free tools such as Google’s Keyword Tool list the most popular searches related to a given keyword phrase. Using this information, choose a highly searched keyword and narrow it down to target your niche.
- Strategic Keyword Placement — Effective keyword placement is about putting your keywords in places where the search engine will recognize them. Essential positions include your title tags, headlines, meta descriptions, and scattered naturally throughout your text.
- Compelling Content — Creating compelling content has gained new significance as Google has begun to place more weight on popularity indicators such as links, tweets, and other references. Excellent information coupled with great copywriting makes your content something that people want to read and share.
- Backlinks — Links to your website from blogs, articles, and social media sources let Google know that readers find your content useful. You can solicit links to your content using social networking, guest blogging, and social sharing sites such as Digg or Reddit.