The meaning of “search engine optimization” (SEO) has changed since use of the term began. It originally meant designing Web pages in a way that could be easily indexed by search engines. As business became more competitive on the Web, competition increased for search engine rank. Eventually SEO came to mean anything that increases search engine visibility.

Search engine optimization can include a number of complex tasks, so it is often broken down into two parts work that is done on the website itself, and things that are done off the site, like link-building campaigns and social media campaigns.

One of the first tasks of SEO is research, to determine how people search for your product using Google and other search engines. These search terms are also called “keywords.” Other research includes competitors, trends and possible niche markets.

  • Keywords
    • Primary keyword
    • Best keywords
    • Search analysis
  • On-Site SEO
    • Page title and description
    • Targeted content (keywords)
    • Ease of navigation
  • Off-Site SEO
    • Link building
    • Social networks
    • Business directories


Keywords are words that people type in the search engines to find your website. To understand how keywords work, you must think like your customer. Which words best describe your business?

Your business name is not normally considered a keyword, unless you have brand recognition. (Branding is related to marketing.)

Primary Keywords

Keywords can also be phrases of two or three words (keyword phrases). Your primary keyword could be, “bike shop,” “pizza delivery,” or “divorce lawyer.” If that keyword appears in your URL (Web address) you will appear higher in searches for that phrase.

Best Keywords

The trick in working with keywords is to identify the best keywords, by creating a “taxonomy,” or classification system. The best keywords are the phrases people search for. Search engine optimizers often pick three main keywords, to help search engines index the site.

For example, in the imaginary bike shop, we found the best keywords were, “bike sales,” “bike repair” and “bike accessories,” based on the number of searches and relevance.

Search Analysis

To find your best keywords, start by going to a search engine. Type in words or phrases someone might use to find your business. Try variations to see if there is a change in the results.

Look at the websites that come up at the top of the search results for your target keyword phrase. Which keywords and phrases do those websites use? This information can give you a clue about search engine preferences.

To test your keywords, use Google Trends and Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool to help you estimate the number of monthly searches.

On-Site SEO

Page Title and Descriptions

Matt Cutts – How Search Works


Foothill Web
Steven Arnold, DBA
2354 California St. #3
Mountain View, CA 94040
(650) 965-5722