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Introduction to Search Engine Optimization

January 6th, 2009 by mdmcginnis

Tomorrow we’ll begin a long series of posts on search engine optimization (SEO), initially based on Google’s own guidelines, and branching out into other insights I’ve gained from the SEO industry, in which I worked as a consultant for a few years.

What is search engine optimization? It’s the art and science of getting your Web pages to appear at the top of the search engine results. When someone searches Google for your department name, you would like your department website to appear on the first page.

Search engines use complex algorithms to decide which results to put first; in Google’s case, more than 100 factors. Some of these are “on-page” elements, such as headings and titles. Others are “off-page” elements, such as inbound links from other sites.

Often SEO has had a bad reputation. With millions of e-commerce dollars at stake, with half of Web searchers clicking on the first result and 90% of searchers never getting beyond the first page, the temptation is strong to try shady techniques (“black hat SEO”) to manipulate the search engines. On the other hand, because search engines are not human, they need cues and hints (“white hat SEO”) to know how to rank Web pages. Even the New York Times has to accommodate search engines if it wants its articles to be ranked properly (see their column This Boring Headline Is Written for Google).

SEO is vital on the Web. As one marketing consultant says, you are your Google results. Companies and universities have spent millions of dollars to change them, to figure out what Google will do next.

But I know the future of Google search. You will know tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009 Search
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3 Comments to Introduction to Search Engine Optimization

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