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What’s an SERP? SEO in layman’s terms

If your business is online, chances are that you’ve heard about search engine optimization (SEO) and how it’s designed to improve your site’s rankings for major keywords. What doesn’t get talked about as much, however, is that a good SEO engagement will work on how your results appear, and not just where. So, let’s take a look at exactly what shows up in a search result on a search engine results page (SERP), and how you can improve it.

Just do a search for whatever term(s) you want — whether you write, “Texas Rangers baseball” or “platform heels,” the way you read the results will be the same. The headline of the result is taken from the page’s title tag, and the plain text below it is taken from the page’s meta description — or, if the page doesn’t have one, from text found on the page. These are both bits of information that can and should be included on every web page in your site. Listed below the meta description — and the easiest to recognize — is the URL of the page in question, along with its size.

Next to the URL are two other links that  are provided by the engine to offer more information about the site. But there’s one link in particular that can help you learn how much SEO help you might need in order to go beyond just making your results look nice, and to help them rank well — the “Cached” link. When you click on the Cached link, it provides two key pieces of data, which you will find at the top of the following page. One is the date that the search engine last crawled this page. More importantly, however, is the link list, in the lower right corner of Google’s gray cached box for a “text-only version.” Here you’ll see a better representation of how the search engine crawler saw your site. What you’ll commonly find is that the content is not laid out how you’d expect, or is simply missing — you might even be faced with a nearly blank page.

A good SEO company will help educate your coders on ways to make sure that your site’s content is seen by the engine, how to emphasize your site correctly so it carries the right weight with search engines, and they can help you rank for the right keywords. Which keywords are the right keywords? It’s not as simple as you might think, and it will  often surprise you. Is it notebook or laptop? Footwear or shoes? Clothes, clothing or  apparel? Also, are there other elements your customers might add to their search query, like a brand name or color? A good SEO engagement will look closely at this, as well.

All effective search engine marketing is built upon providing the best descriptions for the most relevant content. If you can provide that to your customers and build it in a way that engines can read, you’ll take away a lot of the mystery of rising both in the ranks of SERPS and in business.

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