SEO Fundamentals: Where to Begin When Optimizing for Search Engines

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This is a guest post by Michael Fleischner. Michael Fleischner is an Internet marketing expert with more than 14 years of marketing experience. He has appeared on the TODAY Show, ABC World News, and Bloomberg Radio. Michael is the author of today's top-selling SEO book on Amazon.com, "SEO Made Simple." Michael's marketing blog is one of the most visited marketing blogs on the Web at marketing-expert.blogspot.com. To follow Michael, visit The Marketing Blog or connect via twitter @mfleischner.

Search engine optimization, commonly referred to as “SEO,” is the practice of making changes to your website, and improving your website’s authority, to influence your site’s ranking on major search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. When your website appears at the top of search engine result lists for a specific query, you generate targeted traffic to your website or blog.

The concept of search engine optimization can sometimes appear to be nothing short of complex and overwhelming-but it doesn’t have to be. Fundamental best practices associated with search engine optimization (SEO) are easily understood and can be applied regardless of technical knowledge or direct experience with optimizing websites, blogs, or digital assets.

Consider the following SEO fundamentals before starting any search engine optimization program:

1. Know your audience. Before you can optimize your website, you first need to have a good understanding of your target audience. Even though the concept of audience identification or segmentation may seem more akin to general marketing practices, it’s an essential step before starting any SEO campaign. This information is essential for planning your site architecture, URLs, and keyword selection. With a fundamental understanding of your audience, what they buy, and how they research products and services online, you have a much better opportunity to develop, organize, and position your site for relevant keywords and top search engine rankings.

2. Know yourself. What is your company’s unique selling proposition? When browsers see similar results after an initial search, organic listings related to your site should be unique and stand out from your list of competitors. By understanding how to position your company and products properly, you can develop a website to reflect these unique qualities.

3. Begin with the end in mind. Before building your site or updating it to meet the demands of today’s optimization standards, consider your audience, unique value proposition, and website goals. Some websites are designed to be informational, others serve as a place for customers to gain access to information, tools, and resources, and finally, some websites are designed for eCommerce. Regardless of how you choose to develop your site, think through the navigational process of website browsers, prospects, and future customers. The most important information should be easily accessible and organized to lead prospects down the path to purchase.

After you’ve thought through the fundamental aspects of your search engine optimization program, the next step is to begin the journey of website optimization. Although SEO does have a large number of factors to consider, the plan of attack should always begin by focusing on on-page optimization followed by off-page optimization.

On-page optimization is the process of organizing a website and developing it in a manner that allows search engines to easily access the site, find rich, original content that focuses around a particular subject (silos), and create a positive user experience that includes fast load times, ease of use, and social sharing.

Once a site has been built and meets the standard of on-page best practices, it’s time to turn your attention to off-page optimization. Keep in mind, however, that on-page optimization is never truly complete. Updates should be made regularly to reflect changes to the Google algorithm, and new, unique content should also be generated on a regular basis. This includes published content and user-generated content.

Off-page optimization is the practice of developing quality inbound links to your website, blog, and other digital assets. There are dozens of techniques for building quality inbound links, and you should always research and learn which techniques have the greatest impact on organic rankings. The goal of off-page optimization should be the long-term development of links that include keyword phrases you are trying to optimize for.

Search engine optimization is an essential part of any online business or offline business seeking to attract new customers. Consider how your target market gathers information and makes purchases. Once you understand their motivations and preference, it’s time to get serious about SEO.

For more complete information about compiler optimizations, see our Optimization Notice.