If you own a business and want to generate more sales via the internet then you will most likely be in need of SEO (search engine optimization) services at some point. Whether you decide to try it yourself in house or work with an SEO agency there are some basic terms and concepts you should have a working understanding of before seeking consultation. Here we will discuss in detail the 4 most common aspects of SEO that every business website owner should be familiar with.

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1. “On-Site” SEO vs. “Off-Site” SEO

On-site and off-site optimization are both important aspects of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Here we will discuss the fundamental differences of the two and help you make sense out of all the jargon.

First let’s look at the “on-site” or “on-page” side of search engine optimization. The name really speaks volumes, it is the process of optimizing the actual website itself. On-page optimization is best described as the area of SEO that applies to the content and structure of a website. The search engine crawlers can’t see or decipher the design, colors, or images etc… on any particular site; however, the crawlers can read the URLs, content, and coding, which is how Google and the other search engines understand what a given site is about. Effective on-page optimization, properly executed can dramatically improve a sites rankings and performance in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). There are a bevy of key terms one must understand in regards to on-site SEO. I will detail the four terms that will most likely arise when talking to an SEO Professional:

  • URL Structure: Simply put, this is how the pages of your website are displayed.

A proper structured URL: www.yourwebsite.com/contact-us.
An Improper URL:  www.yourwebsite.com/index.php?id_page200?sid=22a5eb.aspx
A site’s URL structure should be as simple as possible. The best URLs are constructed logically and in a manner that is most easy to decipher with the human eye. We recommend using hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_).

  • Meta Description: This is a brief and concise summary of your page’s content. It is the text that appears under the website in search results. Try to limit your meta descriptions to 156 characters. Otherwise your description will not be fully visible in the Search Engines and look like th…
  • Header Text (H1′s, H2′s, ect): These are parts of the HTML code that represent the importance of specific parts of the text, ranging from h1 to h6 tags. This text tagging should let the search engine crawlers know what the focus of the page is.  The proper structuring of header text can get complicated fairly quickly. Be sure to check back for our future blog post on Headers.
  • Keyword Density: This is the percentage of times a keyword or phrase appears on a web page compared to the total number of words on the page. Most SEO professionals agree that the optimum keyword density lies within the range 1 to 3 percent. Don’t over focus on getting the optimal percent, if your article is naturally about that topic, then you should be using that keyword a sufficient amount of times.

Off-site or off-page optimization on the other hand refers to the tasks carried out outside of the website being optimized. Typically referring to the link building or link acquisition area of SEO. This is a crucial part of the optimization process that when done correctly will not only build up the trust of a site but also help drive targeted online traffic, which in the end is what SEO is all about. We will discuss link building in more detail below.

Link Building

Link building is defined as the act of obtaining relative, external, inbound links to a website for the purpose of achieving better rankings in the major search engines. Links are like votes, the more votes a particular site has, the better the site performs in the SERPs. It’s important to remember though that its not just the number of links pointing to a site but the type of links as well. The more authoratative and relevant the site linking out, the more value or “link juice” it will pass to the site it’s pointing to. Also it is imortant to note that just as good links can help boost your site, bad links can be detrimental and even get your site penalized or worse. For this reason always use caution and do delligence when hiring a company to build links. There are several different methods of link building being implemented today; however, here are a few that should always be considered:

  • Guest Posting
  • Directory Submissions
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Blog Commenting
  • Press Releases
  • Article Submissions

2. Know The “Numbers”, and What They Mean

When speaking to an SEO consultant you are bound to hear terminology that makes no sense to the average person. This will most certainly include HTML error codes such as 404′s, 301′s, and 302′s just to name a few. As a business or website
owner you won’t need to know the exact meaning of every code however we have listed a few that are very common in the SEO world and that you should have a basic understanding of before speaking to an SEO expert:

  • “200″ - OK - action was completed successfully.
  • “301″ - Moved Permanently - a preferred method of permanently  redirecting a site or page to a new location. Also known as a search engine friendly redirect.
  • “302″ - Moved  Temporarily - temporary redirect of a site or page to a new location. Not optimal for SEO use.
  • “404″ - Not Found - the server was unable to locate the URL. This means you have pages on your site that have been taken down, deleted, or removed.

3. Penguin vs. Panda and Algorithm Updates
What is a search engine algorithm? Basically an algorithm is mathematical instructions that tell computers how to complete assigned tasks. Google and all the other major search engines use a mathematical algorithm to rank websites for all given search queries. Instead of having to search through hundreds of sites to find the information you are looking for, the algorithm does the work for you. Type in a keyword or phrase and the algo ranks all the relevant sites in the index and gives you the most relevant results. Theoretically the most relevant sites will be listed first. However not all algorithms are perfect and constant tweaking is neccessary when new factors arise. Below we will take a look at the two most significant algorithm updates to date:

  • Panda - The Google Panda update is an algorithm update released in February 2011. This update was intended to lower the rankings of thin, low quality sites based on the content and user experience. Panda affected almost 12% of all search results.
  • Penguin - Google Penguin is another significant algorithm update released in April 2012. Penguin focused on lowering the rankings of sites that violated Google’s Webmaster guidelines by using “black hat” SEO techniques. It is estimated that Penguin affected up to 3.1% of all searches.

4. Site Metrics and Reporting Tools

If you have a website, you will most certaintly want to keep an eye on it’s performance. Espescially if you are wanting to rank well in the search engine results. Traffic, hits, impressions, bounce rates, etc… should all be very important metrics to a website owner. There are many tools out there for your disposal but we have listed a few that you should be familiar with:

  • Google Webmaster Tools - is a free web service offered by Google for all webmasters. Allowing them to check indexing status and optimize their sites visibility.
  • Google Analytics - is a service offered by Google that gives in depth and accurate statistics about a sites traffic and visitors.

In conclusion we have just scratched the surface of SEO and SEO terminolgy. Even the experts learn something new everyday when it comes to search engine optimization. Our advice is to learn as much as you can and educate yourself before speaking to an SEO consultant.