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What is SEO, and Why Does it Matter?

The World Wide Web has exploded in the two decades since the first graphical interface was launched and the federal government opened the Internet to commercial business. The sheer numbers of websites staggers the mind; the ability of search engines to find whatever arcane piece of information you’re looking for in nanoseconds completely blows the mind away.What is SEO, and Why Does it Matter?

How does a search engine find relevant information for you so quickly? It does this by using a technique known as search engine optimization, or SEO for short. The rules of SEO allow website owners, content managers, and anyone who posts to a site to set up a page so the search engine can easily find it, and rank it high in the results. The rude fact is, most people don’t go beyond the first page of their search results, as long as the information they’re looking for is on it. With this in mind, whoever puts a page up on a website must set the page up to follow the search engine’s criteria, in order to guarantee a hit in the results, and to be in the first page’s worth of results.

Search engines have rules for how they look for answers to a query. Following the rules will guarantee you end up in the results, and keeping the rules in mind as you build your site will push you up further in the ranks, which is what you’re after. SEO matters to an e-commerce site because it determines the amount of traffic a site sees, and traffic determines sales.

SEO Rule #1: Keywords
Keywords are exactly what they sound like – key words to your site. Developing a list of primary and secondary keywords and utilizing them in your content allows the search engine to find your site and place it in the results pool. Your keyword usage can also place you higher in the results; the more keywords the engine finds, the higher you place. However, beware of keyword stuffing. The search engines will drop you from the results if they find too many of the keywords repeated in your content; using the keyword two to four times, depending on the length of the article, is considered best practice. You need to devote some thought to the keywords you choose as well; use keywords an average Internet user would use when looking for your product. The more common your keywords, the more likely you are to score well in the results pool.

SEO Rule #2: Know Who Your Audience is When You Build Your Site
When you create content, keep in mind the users you are trying to reach; if you sell shoes, are you trying to reach the business professional, or the soccer mom? Are you marketing to the young crowd, or are you trying for the family-oriented customer? Deciding on your target audience is critical to your success; build your content with keywords your target audience is likely to use in a search. This guarantees you hits in the search engine, and the higher quality your content, the higher up you go in the results pool. Search engines make more money when they return higher quality results, so the better your content, the higher you place in the results.

SEO Rule #3: Crawl inside the Head of an Internet User
Why should anyone visit your site? Ask yourself this question as you determine your keywords list, and it will help you form questions an Internet user might key into a search engine. Suppose you own a fabric shop – what might a user be looking for that you have for sale? They may be looking for specialty fabrics, such as college or professional sports team colors or logos; they may be looking for specific designers; they may be looking for baby-related material. Determining what a user is looking for when he or she keys in a search query will help you build a list of keywords geared towards lots of hits in the results.

SEO Rule #4: Provide a Quality Site
Search engines track traffic to sites; the higher your site content is in terms of quality, the more likely you are to be referred to the friends and relatives of your site visitors. Users share information about a site for two reasons: 1) the site was great and they want to spread the good news, or 2) the site gave really bad service and they want to warn everybody they know to not do business with you. Obviously, you want your site visitors to have reason number one in mind when they tell their world about you, so keep your content quality high.

There are more rules for SEOs, but these four will get you started as you build your site. Keeping your site’s content high in quality is a basic tenet for doing business on the Web; using keywords a user would use will get you hits in the search engine query results. Learning these concepts is key to your success.

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