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ABC?  XYZ?  What on earth is SEO?

By Tracy Wood

SUMMARY: Have you ever wondered how Web sites make it to number one on a Google search?  Do you want your Web site to climb to the top of search engines?

What is SEO? Isn’t that the head of a business? Search Engine Optimization, or SEO to impress your “techie” friends, is the process of tweaking your Web site to make it more popular in search engine queries.

The goal of most Web sites is high volume of quality traffic.  If you Google “Meade United Methodist Church” and your Web site does not rank in the top 30, the chance that a Web user will find or visit your Web site is miniscule.  (FYI: Meade United Methodist Church garners 367,000 hits!)

To increase your Web traffic by breaking into the top 30 (or top 10 if you really work at it) and avoid ranking 845th, you need to use Search Engine Optimization.  For e-commerce sites, using a business that specializes in SEO is a good idea.  For much less money (free!), this article explains the different terms used in SEO and how to index your site for spiders. 

Are you speaking in Galactic?
Backlinks and meta tags more than likely sound foreign to those of non-computer users.  So, before you get lost in the terms, let’s go over them in “lay speak”:

  • Keywords—words used by search engines to determine the topic of a given Web page.  These are also the words for which users search.
  • Meta tags—descriptors of a Web page that lets the search engine know the purpose and content of that specific Web page.
  • Backlinks—links that originate on one Web site and link to another Web site.  These can be free or paid.
  • Indexing—the process of submitting your Web site to search engines.
  • Spiders—programs that scour the Web continually for various reasons, including indexing Web pages for search engines or sending spam e-mails to your inbox.  Spiders can also be known as “crawlers” or “bots.”

Now that my arachnophobia has been uncovered, what are my next steps?
If your Web site is already built, you need to index your Web site on search engine(s).  According to PC Magazine, as of August 2007, Google was the most-used search engine on the Web with a 53.6 percent market share, outshining Yahoo! with 19.9 percent and Live Search with 12.9 percent. 

With such an overwhelming market share, it is recommended that you index your Web site with Google, before working on keywords, meta tags and backlinks.  This may sound like putting the cart before the horse, but it’s not.  I’ll explain later.

To get indexed on Google, simply visit and submit your full Web site address (including http://).  You only need to index your top-level page (the page visitors see when they type your Web address), not each individual page; that’s the job of Googlebot, their spider (or crawler for the arachnophobes).   

Next, make use of Google’s free resources at Webmaster Resources that can help with indexing, crawling and increasing traffic.  These resources can help you think like a spider.  Learn what a spider looks for on a Web page and implement those items for better search results.

Great, now that I’ve done all of this, we should expect an influx of visitors tomorrow, right?
Not exactly.  Don’t expect instant results from SEO.  Spiders have to crawl through and index millions of Web pages.  Realistically, it could take three months or longer to see full benefits of SEO.  This is why you should index your Web site before making it spider friendly.  The quicker you index your Web site and get in the proverbial “queue,” the faster a spider can crawl your site.

But, don’t give up!  Results can be seen over time if you stick with it and keep improving your site.  Don’t let your Web site become static; make ongoing improvements to content and links.  The Web can be a great tool.  Just remember the old saying “It’s worth the work!”