How do you find information on the web? Do you go directly to a site that offers the type of information you’re looking for, or do you do a search?
If you’re like most people, it’s probably the latter, especially when it comes to how-to content.
Search – and by search I mean Google, which dominates the market – is a key traffic driver online, and capitalizing on people’s searches is a good way to increase traffic to your site – traffic that you can hopefully turn into regular visitors. The way to do this? Search engine optimization, or SEO.
Basically, Google sends automated bots around the web to “read” pages and catalogue them for the search engine. (This process is why new content doesn’t appear immediately in Google – the bots haven’t gotten there yet.) They have a formula for ranking pages on different search terms (the words you type in when you’re searching for something) and the higher-ranked pages will show up closer to the top of the results when you search, resulting in more clicks and more traffic.
SEO is the process of making your pages more appealing to Google. Some of this is on the code side and in the site architecture, but a lot has to do with the actual words you use on the page. Computers have limited appreciation for subtlety, so you have to make things very clear for them. (Really, what we’re doing here is redesigning the Internet in the image of Google, but that’s a discussion to be had over drinks.)
The truth is, no one outside Google really knows the exact formula of how pages are ranked, but we have a pretty good general idea. Just search (!) for SEO and you’ll find pages of results on how to optimize your content. I’ll also be covering various aspects of SEO over the coming months – if you have any specific questions, please drop me a line and I’ll do my best to answer them.