If you have spent anytime reading about or talking about web related topics, you will have no doubt heard the acronym SEO. What is it? What does it mean? What am I supposed to do about it?

Let’s begin with defining the term. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Does that help or really clear things up for you? If someone asked you about SEO, would you be able to explain basics of SEO to them? Let’s break this down the way I like to look at things….simple.

Starting with a simple scenario may be the best option here. This scenario will focus on organic and not paid search. You live in Raleigh, NC and are looking for a Web Design Firm to build you a brand new website for a company you just started. So we will assume you sit down at your home computer or grab your smartphone, open a web browser, and enter the search term “Web Design Firm Raleigh“.

Google or another search engine will serve up a page of entries that in some way match the search term you entered. The entries that Google displayed will have ads at the top, which we are ignoring, followed by a list of companies that do web design in the Raleigh area.

So you should now wonder how google chose the entries that they showed you. Good question. At a very high level of explanation, Google has a very complicated set of algorithms that provided the resulting content you saw.

So as a business owner, you certainly want to be one of the top ten entries when an online user types in the search term that best describes your business services. How does one go about making that happen in an organic way? The short answer is that there is no special sauce to make that happen. When it comes to ranking well in search engines for specific keywords or phrases, slow and steady is the best practice.

Take a look at the visual below that in my mind sums up organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Now that you have had a chance to look at the above visual, let’s discuss it a bit. A webpage can really be broken down into two parts, the meta or header section (in gray) and the body section (in green). In terms of SEO, the meta section contains three important pieces of data: title, description, and keywords.

Page Title – The page title is what defines the main purpose of the webpage. You should be able to read the title and have no question what the page will contain. As a side note, Google prefers page titles to be 60 characters or less.

Page Description – The page description expands on the page title with a little more detail about the webpage. Google prefers the page description to be no more than 160 characters.

Page Keywords – The page keywords are not as important to search engines as they used to be, but it’s still good practice to include relevant keywords or key phrases. Just remember to not go crazy here.

The contents of the meta section are not actually seen by visitors. What visitors see is the body section. Search engines are looking for header tags (h1, h2, h3, h4, etc) to understand what is important on the page. The h1 tag has the highest importance, which goes down as you increase the number.

While opinions vary, I prefer to only have a single h1 tag on a webpage. It’s perfectly ok to have multiple h2, h3, etc, tags but I like to stick to a single h1. The h1 tag contents needs to easily mesh with the page title, page description tags from the meta section.

Outside of the h1 tag, page content is the most important part of search engine rankings for a keyword or key phrase. In the above visual, I have content listed multiple times because it’s very important. Your content needs to be relevant to not only the meta tags but also to the h1, h2, h3 tags. It all works together so that Google or any other search engine understands what your page is all about.

I have seen web design firms that provide SEO services make claims for getting you high rankings quickly. I would be very leary of such claims because the one truth I have seen about search engines is that nothing happens quick. The other truth is that search engines are continually changing their search algorithms.

You should now undertand SEO and hopefully how to improve your search engine rankings. Making sure your meta title, meta description, meta keywords, h1, h2, h3, etc tags, and relevant content all mesh together to improve your search engine raking for the keyword phrase(s) that are relevant to your business.