There are many schools of thought as to how best to optimize a website for top keyword placements in search engine results.  The concept of search engine optimization is basically a science, but like most sciences, there is no definitive "right" answer, just a series of practices that tend to work in most circumstances. With shifts in algorithms and advances in technology, the rules are constantly adapting to accommodate the growth.  That being said, there are a few things to be aware of that, regardless of algorithm shifts, the search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing, have determined to be key factors in their ranking systems.  Keep in mind all of them should have the overarching concept of RELEVANCE as the prime objective.

1.  Site Architecture – Your site’s architecture can play an important role in how a person or a search engine spider views your content.  Building your website so that pages are accessible and internally linked properly is a key element to optimization.  While there is no "right" way of applying this; think of how a person or a search engine spider may find the most important bits of content on your site.  Is it easy to get to or do they have to go through 3 or 4 directories to get to the good pages?  Are the main pages part of your  main navigation?   Is the site somewhat confusing?  Think from a user AND spider standpoint; normally if a user has a hard time finding information, a search spider will as well.

2.  Code Optimization – The code on your website is going to house the keywords and content.  Having proper optimization within the code is key.  Some HTML tags are deemed less important than they once were, but certain practices still remain and clean code is always good.  For example, if you house tons of CSS code directly on your homepage, a search spider has to wade through all of that before they get to the actual meat of your site, the content.  Be cognitive of what a search engine actually "sees" as this is what you want to be prominent and easily available.  Though search spiders work within fractions of a second, those fractions add up and could mean the difference between you and your competitors. 

3.  Content Content is king!  This is often said and now given all the recent buzz about algorithm shifts with Google, this is becoming more and more applicable.  Without good content, your site is just a bunch of images and code.  Content is going to be relevant to the user experience and the spiders attempt to retrieve the most relevant content data to their search.  Content is often abused by spammers, but relevant, quality content is the basis of the search engines’ thinking.

4.  Backlinks – In my early days of learning SEO, I was taught links are "Internet gold".  Backlinks are essentially a vote for your website by other websites.  The quantity and quality of the backlinks is what the search engines will use to determine your website rankings.  Keep in mind this formula is not a static way to rank  your site. Many factors come into play: the quality of the link, the relevancy of the link, relevancy of the site that’s linking to you, etc, all factor in the "link juice" which helps your keyword rankings.  Content is king, but quality links are the mass support to that king. 

Search engine optimization is essentially mastering these four elements. Relying too heavily on one can potentially get you rankings, but your site will not be prepared for inevitable algorithm shifts by the search engines.  If you can get a strong hold on these four things, your site will obtain search engine rankings.  The degree, the execution, the research, and development, are the tricky parts and probably best left to a search engine optimization company.

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