According to Wikipedia, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a website from search engines. (Wikipedia’s full explanation)
So what does that mean to you?
It used to be that you could pop a few keywords in the top part of your website’s code and voila, your company would automatically appear when someone searched for your product or service.
Times have changed and the competition has become fierce for the top spots in the search engine results. In some cases there are thousands of listings for the same topic, so how can you get yourself noticed?
Search engines have improved their ranking systems to ensure that only the best matches to your search request are displayed prominently. It’s in their best interest to provide only the most relevant and knowledgeable websites based on your search criteria.
Competition is huge among the big search engines. Microsoft has just released Bing to compete with Google and they’ve also merged with Yahoo, to really amp up the race for market share. Providing pure, unmanipulated search results is key to their business.
They are constantly updating their algorithms to keep out the spam and illegal SEO techniques. If your web designer promises to get you listed high on search rankings, be wary. Search Engines are very clear about what methods are acceptable and what will get your website banned from search results.
Check out Google’s Webmasters Guidelines. They have some very useful information written in an easy to understand format. There are several recommendations for content and navigation. I recommend reading these guidelines when first planning out your website as they are good advice even if you aren’t concerned about search engine optimization.