Explained in layman’s terms, Search Engine Optimization is a combination of processes adopted to highlight a website to major search engines, in order to attract maximum traffic. Unless you have a website offering niche products, you have to continuously upkeep your SEO efforts and keep on inventing new ones, to maintain a decent placement in the search engine results. While some search engines offer a paid service in order to highlight your website, all the top search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN use automated software programs called spiders or bots to crawl the web and index all webpages in their database. Some others like AOL search engine access the Google database for their online search results, while AltaVista and Lycos use the Yahoo database.
The internal ranking factors such as website structure, keywords, keyword density, the title tag, Alt attributes in images, Meta tags, as well as external ranking factors like inbound links, link importance, anchor text, and relevance matter the most when it comes to achieving a good probability of getting a preferential position in search engine results. A good indicator of your website popularity is the Google page rank, which denotes a number between 1 to 10 to show how popular your site is among web users.
SEO professionals endeavor to analyze your website and incorporate various on-page and off-page optimization factors to make it search friendly. However, it may be kept in mind that there is no magical way to create the best site out of thin air, without consistent efforts and without patience. It is recommended that you analyze your website yourself with respect to its architecture, content, keywords, back links and URLs placed on it, so that you can gain an insight on where your website stands, and what needs to be optimized. Google always encourages the use of organic SEO techniques to bring your website at par with the best in the business in terms of visibility. Before you entrust the job of updating your web pages for good search engine rankings to a Search Engine Optimization company, you should first check up where you stand in terms of all the above factors, so that you are clear about where you need to improve. Google provides a lot of SEO tools for free, which you may use in order to analyze your website:
1) Google Webmaster tools: It provides you the Google’s view on your website and how the Google Spider views it. It lists out the specific problems the Google Spider is facing while crawling and indexing your site, which you would be required to address. You also get access to comprehensive data about how your website appears in Google search results, with helpful inputs on how to create the most descriptive page titles, and meta tag descriptions which make your website speak for itself in Google Search results. Google Webmaster tools even allow you to analyze your sitelinks to check which ones bring in the most traffic to your website, and block unnecessary sitelinks. And in case you would like your customers to locate you on Google site maps, you can also submit your URL for even better visibility and accessibility.
2) Google Analytics: It is enterprise-class software designed to turn your web pages in to profits. Basically aimed for internet marketers rather than webmasters, Google Analytics generates detailed statistics about the visitors to your website. Using this free tool, you can track visitors from all your referrers, such as search engines, pay-per-click campaigns, e-mail marketing, backward links, etc and analyze the ROI from each of these sources. Its advanced analysis tools utilize pivot tables, filtering and multiple dimensions in order to display where your website stands vis-à-vis your competitors in terms of usage metrics. This tool is best used integrated with other Google tools like AdWords, AdSense, Web Optimizers and Webmaster.
3) Google Website Optimizer: It is a free website testing and optimization tool, where you get to test which site, image and text combinations drive the maximum traffic to your website. With its multivariate testing facilities, Google Website Optimizer tracks all the incoming traffic to your site and provides you concrete feedback on which elements are working on your website. Graphical reports show which type of content interests your site visitors and leads to most conversions. By making the necessary changes in your page layout, button sizes, shopping cart placements and intra-site navigation as suggested by this tool, you can aim to drive up your on-site sales more efficiently.
By using these free Google tools, you will be able to grasp exactly what you need to do with your website in order to bring it in line with the best practices of SEO.