Over the last decade or so, the Internet has truly revolutionised the way we live. Thanks to rapid developments in Information Technology, we are now able to communicate directly with billions of people the world over. We can now come into contact with people who were hitherto separated from us by location or culture to exchange views, information, or data via email, forums, chatrooms, multiplayer games, peer to peer systems and so on.
One further benefit the Internet has brought is the ability to reach out to a vast audience simply by maintaining a website. Whether we aim to impart information, sell a product, or offer services online, we now have the potential to reach an audience that is truly global.
The Search Engine
However, the rapid expansion of the Internet over the last few years has brought its own problems for the individual website. Quite simply, how does one’s website get found amongst the myriad pages on the World Wide Web? The answer to this lies in the technology offered by search engines. Current search technology allows us to quickly search the billions of websites that make up the World Wide Web and access pages that are relevant to our needs.
Thanks to the rise of the search engine as the main portal for accessing the World Wide Web, users are now able to find pages suited to their needs without knowing the address of those pages in advance or without ‘surfing’ links. A large proportion of the billions of people who use the Internet turn to search engines to locate information, products or services. Yet while the search engine enables people to actually locate your website, it does not automatically ensure that more people will visit your site.
Although your website may appear in search engine results pages, chances are that it appears amongst thousands of listings for other pages, many of which offer similar products or services to your own. There are literally billions of websites out there all competing for the attention, time or hard earned cash of Internet users, so how can you help ensure that the right kind of users visit your website, consult the information you offer, buy your product, or take up your services in the face of often stifling online competition? Furthermore, how can your website reach its potential audience when that audience experience extreme difficulty in finding your site in search engine results in the first place?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
This is where Search Engine Optimization comes in. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, refers to a set of practices and methods aimed at improving your visibility in search engine results. It does this by improving the ranking, or position, your website gains in search engine results in relation to other pages that compete with your own.
If, for example, your site currently appears in the tenth page of about one million relevant results, chances are that searchers are going to get bored before they get to that results page or are going to visit websites that appear higher in the results. If, however, you have a high ranking in search engine results for specific search terms or keywords, then searchers are more likely to visit your site. Search Engine Optimization works, then, by optimizing your web pages in such a way that they gain a higher ranking in search engine results and, from this, improved traffic and online sales.
The Search Engine Optimization process in a series of simple, easy to learn steps
Although Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a relatively new industry, it is a field that has experienced rapid growth in recent years. There are thousands of SEO companies trading online today, all of which will claim to be able to gain you top rankings for your website. In most cases, this is true. The growth of SEO as an industry is founded on its success in achieving what it sets out to do – that is to improve search engine visibility – and this success is itself based on tried and tested methods and practices that have proven to be extremely effective in improving search engine visibility.
However, the cost of hiring in a professional Search Engine Optimization firm can be costly and can prove to be prohibitively expensive for many website owners. Moreover, this expense can be avoided as many of the methods and practices employed by SEO firms can be easily learned. The following course aims to introduce you to these methods.
We do so in the belief that SEO is not some form of esoteric knowledge known only to industry professionals, but is rather a form of knowledge that you can quickly learn and apply yourself. With this in mind, this course aims to give you all you need to know in order to either enable you to optimise your own website or become proficient in SEO techniques. By completing the course, you will gain a good insight into the fundamental methods of Search Engine optimization and will be able to carry out your own SEO campaign.
We wrote this course in response to not only an emerging demand on the part of web-designers and site owners to learn how to optimise their web pages, but also in response to the kind of SEO tutorials and courses currently available to such individuals. There are numerous free articles available online that claim to explain various aspects of the SEO process. However, the world of SEO changes rapidly, meaning that such material is often out of date or erroneous, and what advice exists is often piecemeal, meaning that you do not learn effective knowledge of Search Engine Optimization in a systematic or holistic fashion.
Unfortunately, much the same can be said of some of the SEO books available for purchase online. Although these books are often updated to reflect changes in search engine technology, we find that they tend to speak to fellow SEO professionals rather than SEO beginners and they often take an ‘anecdotal’ approach to the subject rather than presenting it in a simple, systematic and progressive manner.
This course, by contrast, aims to take you through the whole Search Engine Optimization process in a series of simple, easy to learn steps, leading you from an understanding of search engines through to a practical knowledge of how to optimize web pages.
This course has been written in close consultation with both SEO professionals and educationalists to help ensure not only that it keeps abreast of current developments in SEO but also that such developments are presented in an accessible and pedagogically effective manner. The course is designed for self-study either at home or within a workplace and, as such, has been divided into sections are fairly short and easy to digest.
We understand that many people have jobs and other pressing commitments and that self-study can eat into your precious time. With this in mind, we have not imposed the kind of deadlines for study that might appear in a tutor-led course. You can read the course at your leisure, spending as much time on each unit as you can spare per evening or week.
If this course places any demands on you they are that you read slowly, taking just enough to time understand the principles and concepts outlined in each unit, and that you move through the course in a systematic fashion. While it is possible to use this course as a reference guide and to ‘dip in’ to consult whatever section interests you, we recommend that you work through the entire course from beginning to end, even if some material is already familiar to you. By this means, you will develop a fuller and more complete understanding of search engine optimisation than can be gained from a partial or piecemeal approach to the subject.
As for working through each unit, we recommend that you read each unit at least twice. When learning anything, one of the most effective practices for reading you can develop is to rapidly survey the contents of the text to gain a sense of its main points and argument and then, on the second reading, to actually read the text in depth, taking notes where appropriate, underlining key points and asking questions about the material presented. This protocol for reading (which is derived from a practice that educationalists call SQ3R) makes you active in the learning process and far more likely to memorise and – more importantly – understand what is being taught.
With this in mind, each unit includes a section that offers you the opportunity to ‘reflect’ on the principles it contains. Make sure that you are comfortable with the contents of one unit before you move on to the next. In order to assist the active learning and comprehension (as opposed to ‘passive’ memorisation) of key principles we have also included a number of practical tasks and exercises.
Resist the temptation to skip these tasks. These tasks have been specially devised not only for pedagogic reasons – i.e. they help you learn the principles of Search Engine Optimization – but also for practical reasons, in the sense that they allow you to put key methods into practice, to try things out for yourself, and to apply some of the concepts and techniques outlined in the course to real-life situations. For instance, the course will ask you to try things out on your own website at certain stages, thereby offering you not only practical experience of SEO but also helping you to optimise your own site during and throughout the learning process.
If some of this sounds daunting, we should reassure you that it shouldn’t be. In fact, we think you will find that search engine optimisation is a satisfying, rewarding and often fun experience. Although this fun often comes at the expense of your online competitors – from spotting the absurd mistakes they have made on their web pages to outstripping them in search engine rankings! – we predict that you will derive some satisfaction from watching your website rise in results pages and even from getting your hands dirty delving into and tweaking the content of your own pages.
SEO is very much a ‘hands on’ process and this course should see you as much in front of the PC as sitting studying.
Who will this SEO course suit?
Of course, any form of instruction makes demands on students in the form of required or ‘background’ knowledge. You may be an IT professional with considerable knowledge of coding, HTML, and so forth, or, alternatively, you may be a relative newcomer to web-design and HTML. This course does not require an in-depth knowledge of HTML as it will show you how to understand and use the relevant code. All we expect of you is a very basic familiarity with HTML in the sense that you know roughly what a HTML page looks like and does (numerous guides to HTML are available online). Naturally, this course also assumes that you currently maintain a website or plan to develop one in the near future! We also expect you to have access to the following:
- an Internet connection.
- an Internet Browser, e.g. Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, Firefox.
- a programme which you can use to edit HTML, e.g. Dreamweaver, Microsoft Frontpage, Windows Notepad or one of the may free editors that are available online.
In the long term, you will also require hosting for your website (the computer that acts as a server for your website) and a domain name (e.g. www.yourdomain.com) as this will allow you to test and implement your Search Engine Optimization efforts. If you already have these things or if the site you plan to optimize is already live, you will have to make sure you have necessary administrative rights and ftp access to your hosting server. If you plan to SEO an existing site that has been developed by an external web-design company, you should contact them to make sure that they do not retain the copyright to this site and that it is also okay for you to alter individual web pages.
This course, therefore, does not require a lot of background knowledge. Ultimately, this course is a Basic SEO course aimed at individuals who are entirely new to search engine optimisation. This course is designed to suit a broad range of people, including the following:
- website owners
- those who are simply taking their first steps in moving towards a career in SEO
While we cannot tailor this course to the specific needs of each of these individuals (even within this range there will be a diversity of needs, abilities and experience), we have attempted to ensure that even the novice will be able to understand the methods associated with SEO and put them into practice.
Experienced IT professionals may find some of the material familiar, but they are still encouraged to work through this material as it is presented in a context that will most likely appear unfamiliar. For example, an experienced web-designer will probably know what an HTML Title tag is and does but may not understand its crucial significance for search engine optimization. Individuals with some prior knowledge of Search Engine Optimization are encouraged to consider our more advanced tuition, although the systematic approach of this course will still be of some benefit to them. Note: Although this SEO course makes frequent reference to products, marketing, and so forth, we do not assume that you are in some way involved in e-commerce. We realise that not all website owners and webmasters will be involved in online selling. The principles outlined in this course are applicable to ALL websites even if the ‘product’ you offer is simply a service or free information.
Course Content and Layout
The Basic course is comprised of eight units. These units are divided logically into four broader sections devised to take you progressively through the fundamentals of SEO. Section one (Units 1 and 2) introduces you to search engine optimization and search engines. Section two takes a slightly more advanced look at the search process in terms of how search engines retrieve information (Unit 3) and how the average searcher searches (Unit 4). Section 3 moves us on to the crucial ‘research’ phase of the SEO process, during which you learn how to find the right keywords for your web pages (Unit 5) and how to analyse online competition (Unit 6). Finally, section 4 allows you to put your research to use and actually start optimizing your website by altering the ‘on-page’ code (Unit 7), write optimized copy (Unit 8), and start link building (Unit 9).
Each unit consists of more or less the same layout, and includes various tasks and illustrations aimed at helping you understand the material under discussion. Each unit also ends with a ‘SUMMARY’ of main points and an opportunity to ‘REFLECT’ on the key concepts or terminology used in that part of the course. These are included to help you ‘pull together’ the key SEO points of each unit and should be used in conjunction with your own notes.
A Note on Conventions
Certain formatting conventions have been adhered to throughout this SEO course. Where technical terms or common terminology is first introduced (e.g. ‘latent semantic indexing’) it appears in bold type. Paragraphs that contain important points to note also appear in bold type, prefixed with the term ‘Note:’ HTML code appears in a different font style in order to distinguish it from other prose, e.g.
References to external sources and other websites are footnoted – students are not required to refer to these sources, although some may wish to do so.
Further SEO Information and Support
Because SEO is a dynamic industry, the material in this course will necessarily be updated from time to time. Students should periodically visit these pages to check for course updates (please note that we cannot take responsibility for any use of information that has become obsolete following your reading or downloading the course).
If you have an individual question about any aspect of the Search Engine Optimization course, you can ask relevant questions via the comments at the bottom of this page.
Our staff will be only too happy to assist you. We strive to make our course as beneficial, accessible, and useful for the user as possible and also welcome any feedback you can provide on any aspect of course content or layout. Finally, we would like to thank you for downloading this course and wish you the best of success in your Search Engine Optimization efforts.