Principles of Organic SEO

SEO has many twists and tangles, but through it all, there are some core principles that need to be adhered to – these are the basics and are generally viable in all of the search engines. Sure there are loads and loads of advanced SEO optimization tactics, but in order to apply them you really must first adopt the basic core principles of organic SEO.

When you talk about organic SEO or even just SEO in general, you have to first and foremost keep this in mind: Content Is King! It’s a very old saying on the Internet and often overused, but when it comes to search engine optimization, it is still as applicable today as it ever was. The concept behind organic SEO is getting your site to naturally appear in the SERPs (search engine results pages). While in reality this seems natural and organic, the fact of the matter is that it is anything but. The whole purpose of SEO is to manipulate those organic rankings while doing so in a manner that still appears organic and natural to the search engine algorithms that create the SERPs and provide the rankings to your sites.

So is the very term Organic SEO an oxymoron? Today, yes, it is. As long as there is a formula to create rankings, there will be SEO experts striving to understand that formula so that they can best manipulate it to their advantage – the very core principle of SEO – optimization. Google and other search engines, will leak out just enough information about what is important to their SERPs ranking formula to influence the marketplace in the direction that they want to steer it, but they are not going to give you the specifics of their “secret sauce”.

Understanding SEO can be pretty involved when you get down to the technical details of it, but if you keep it at a higher level and think of the objectives of the search engines, you will find that it all is essentially common sense. The search engines want to provide quality results that are relevant. That’s really their simplistic goal – quality and relevance. Apply that philosophy to your site in general and keep in mind the golden SEO rule that “content is King” and you realize that you need to create good quality content that is relevant to the search terms you are targeting. Now, as always, the devil is in the details! And SEO certainly is no exception to that rule – there are tons of details of SEO that govern the very definitions of ‘quality’ and ‘relevance’ that must be mastered in order to get the much coveted page #1 search results you crave.

When it comes to content, one of the most important SEO core principles is understanding how to properly structure that content. Structured content is the very heart of the Internet, the most basic core principle of all – HTML. In reality, when you talk about structure, HTML is not the best example, but rather XML (or its parent SGML) is the epitome of structured content. For some definitions, SGML means Standard Generalized Markup Language, XML means Extensible Markup Language and HTML means Hyper Text Markup Language. So just what exactly is ‘structured content’? In essence, structured content allows for rules and definitions to be applied to text so that that text can be properly defined and interpreted universally. Okay, that is a bit of a mouthful, but go back and read it again. Take any document and analysis it. There are certain core elements that define that document – a title, and introductory paragraph, a conclusion, a table of contents, etc… The more sophisticated the document is, the more complex its structure becomes. SGML and now, more commonly, XML define that structure as a set of rules that govern how the document is created and how the document is interpreted. HTML itself is a bit of a hybrid because it combines structure tags like TITLE tags and Heading tags, but also display controlling information like font colors and sizes. True content structure languages like SGML do not have anything to do with display of the content but merely how to structure it.

This structure is what allows search engines to pull out the relevant parts of the article and give it more emphasis in their rankings – this is where the nuts and bolts of organic SEO takes place – at the document structure level. If, for example, you know that the search engines are going to give a high preference to the TITLE tag in your HTML content, wouldn’t it logically make sense that optimizing those TITLE tags via SEO principles would be a key to showing up in the SERPs? So you just extend that logic further and continue to examine the HTML structure of your documents and refine and optimize them according to SEO principles and the specific search engine that you are optimizing for. No, they are not all alike. Google looks at content differently than does Yahoo or MSN – they each have their own peculiarities and you will have to design your SEO efforts accordingly.

Outside of content, the other core principles of SEO all tend to revolve around backlinks into your site and content. Backlinks are merely pointers from other websites to your website and can be very targeted by the anchor text of those links (the text that appears underlined or bolded that contains the link that you click on). This anchor text gives context and relevancy to that link.

An understanding of core optimization principles for SEO is critical for you to take your SEO efforts to the next level. As with everything in life, you must first learn to crawl before you can walk and certainly before you can expect to become a world class sprinter. Even if you have no intention of doing your own site SEO (a wise choice for most), you should have a good deal of familiarity with the core principles of SEO so that you can properly evaluate the credentials of those you seek to hire for SEO tasks.

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