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Search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of methodologies aimed at improving the ranking of a web site in search engine listings. The term also refers to an industry of consultants that carry out optimization projects on behalf of client sites.

To obtain maximum search engine visibility, a website must tailor itself to be found by its target audience through internet searches. If a site is to be found, it must contain keyword phrases that match the phrases the target audience is typing into search queries. These keywords are determined by search engine spiders that analyze web page content and keyword relevancy based on an algorithm. Search engine optimization is the process of configuring a website to be more visible to its target audience.*

What are Organic/Natural Search Engine Listings?

Search engine placement (or rankings) is realized through a number of influences. Listings can be positioned in an organic manner or by way of payment. Organic listings are considered because a search engine deems them editorially important and consequently relevant for inclusion, regardless of payment. Meaning, the keyword phrases on the site match the keywords searchers are typing into query fields. Paid Inclusion simply means payment has been made for a site to be included in a search engine directory. This may also be considered “organic” even though the ads are paid for, because the pages usually appear intermixed with unpaid organic results.

The key to improving your web site’s search engine ranking is having highly relevant content on your site that searchers are looking for and will benefit searchers in some way. As an example your web pages could talk about or sell the latest hot digital music product like Apple’s iPod. You could offer insightful information about any given subject (Wikipedia.com), “how to” tutorials (Lynda.com), timely news (CNN.com) or expert advice on any given subject (About.com) – all different areas that people are searching for.

The art and science of Search Engine Optimization is taking this relevant content and placing it on your web pages in such a way that it is “spider friendly,” meaning, there are “keywords” strategically located on the pages (so search engine crawlers/spiders can index your site properly), “and” most importantly people friendly, meaning, that the pages are readable, make sense and are of value to them in some way.

What is Paid Inclusion?

Paid Inclusion is an advertising program where web pages are guaranteed to be included in a search engine's index in exchange for payment (usually annually and or per click), though no guarantee of ranking well is typically given. Your web pages will be among the organic listings in a search, but oddly enough they are not guaranteed a high ranking because of payment. Obtaining a guaranteed listing in a directory is different from ranking in a search. You still have to strive for a well optimized web site regardless of payment to be listed in a directory to get any kind of high search engine rankings.

So why would you pay for a listing in a directory if they don’t guarantee you a high search engine ranking? There are several reasons. One is a Paid Inclusion listing in a directory means that your site is crawled by the search engine’s spider much sooner (in Yahoo’s case within seven days) and much more often than a regular organic/natural listing; this is highly desirable for companies that post new or timely information (news sites for example), product up dates, or seasonable services for instance that needs to be updated often. Another reason is many people like searching in directories more than conducting searches on the web as a whole. Also, having in-bound links from your listings in directories pointing to your web site helps with your page rank so having select high quality directories that have a link in them pointing to your web site is a very good thing.

To learn about Web Search Engineer's Search Engine Optimization Service, please visit my Services page. To learn more about the differences between web pages that appear organically and paid sponsored ads in search results, please see my "What is an Organic Listing / Sponsored Ad?" Flash tutorial movie on my SEO/SEM Movies page.

Also check out our new Top SEO Tips, Tools, Resources and Mentors Lists!

Search Engine Optimization: What is it?

*From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia