Learning Search Engine Optimization

In browsing job leads, persons in the IT (Information Technology) field will often run across the term “SEO” or Search Engine Optimization.  What is this sought-after practice, and why is it so important to building a web presence for your company or client?  Of all the various professionals in IT, who should learn the basics of Search Engine Optimization, and who should delve deeper into the subject?  Can anyone afford to ignore it?  We will answer all these questions, and provide you with some links that will help you understand the basic principles of SEO.

What Is Search Engine Optimization?

Search Engine Optimization is a way of driving traffic to a website via search engines like Google, Ask, and Bing.  Without getting too involved in the details, many factors affect how a webpage is displayed.  As an example, let’s say you want to find out about the sport of ice hockey.  So you google the words “ice hockey”, and a variety of links appear.  The ones closest to the top of the list should be the most relevant to your search, and very likely, the phrase “ice hockey” appears in their text repeatedly.  Others – like the cookie recipe website where someone’s mom has posted a recipe that her family enjoys after watching a game of ice hockey – will also appear, but at the bottom of the list.  This is because the phrase “ice hockey” does show up, but only once.  It is obvious that the rest of the site has very little to do with sport.

Why Is Learning Search Engine Optimization Important?

Search engine traffic is a huge part of web traffic.  Increase your visibility to search engines, and you can bet your website will experience an uptick in visitors.  Hence, it is a good idea, if you are an online store selling ice hockey equipment, to include that phrase often in your text.  You would also want to include specific item names (“shin guards” or “goalie skates”) too. 

It might seem like stuffing your website with keywords like ice hockey and goalie skates would be a good idea, but search engines don’t like that.  In fact, sites that indulge in that sort of writing are often penalized.  In addition, the placement of your keywords, the other sites that link into yours and still more factors all have an effect on your rating – where you appear on the list of webpages about ice hockey.  So it is important to learn the good (called “white hat SEO techniques”) from the bad (“black hat SEO techniques”).

Who Should Learn Search Engine Optimization Techniques?

It is a good idea for everyone related to web pages and web design to learn at least the basics of SEO techniques.  Web developers and content writers need to be especially well versed in good Search Engine Optimization practices.  It may seem a little bit difficult at first, but a little diligent research will simplify the task.

Resources for Getting Started in Search Engine Optimization

There are several print books for sale that explain Search Engine Optimization in painless, simple language.  Before you go ahead and buy one, check out these free web resources.  They won’t teach you everything, but you’ll get a good working knowledge.  (Content writers and web developers may wish to pursue specialized in-depth research according to their field.)

  • About.com Web Search.  Learn the basics of SEO from About.com’s knowledgeable guides.  (www.websearch.about.com
  • Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.  It’s rather more technical in nature than About.com, but this free PDF from the pros at Google is packed with good information and examples.  To access it, go to www.google.com and search “search engine optimization starter guide”.