Search engine optimization is the way in which a website is read by sites such as Google™, bing™, YAHOO! and others in order to present the site to users who search a particular term. When someone uses one of these search engines, she is generally looking for something specific. Once entering her search, a group of results are returned in order of relevance. Basically, those sites that clearly meet the searched criteria will be listed first and the others will go in descending order depending on the search engine's perception of relevancy. The better "optimized" a website is, the better the search engine results, and ideally the higher the positioning.
Needless to say, the most prominent sites who hold the first and second positions will receive the greatest amount of traffic to their websites for that specific keyword. Other sites on the first page of the results might do okay but by the second, third and succeeding pages, they is no hope that anyone will find the results, thus the site will be absent of natural or organic traffic, the terms used to describe traffic given freely by the search engines.
On the other hand, it is not only prudent, but standard procedure to make a site "search engine friendly". Writing descriptively in articles and content is one way to express the keywords chosen and attract good positioning. Another way is the code itself. Using the keywords and placing specific types of headings and tags will help the search engines understand the content of the pages. Writing relevant titles for pages helps, as well. The idea is to provide good quality content to users and find ways to let the search engines know that the content exists. So a site must have the right balance between what users demand and what search engines need to meet their criteria.
And sometimes search engine optimization is difficult because in order to be effective, the webmaster must track and analyze specific statistics. The biggest mistake a website owner can make is modifying or tweaking a site to get more traffic from a "new" keyword, but in the process lose the traffic from an "old" keyword. Knowledge about the site's traffic and content is key to good search engine optimization. Therefore, the webmaster cannot make any decisions about change without first knowing from where the traffic is coming, the exact terms associated with that traffic, and how she ranks for those terms.
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