What is search engine optimization (SEO)? Search engine optimization is a process of preparing your website so that it is optimally tuned to be found and indexed by search engines. Sounds simple right? Well, it's not really. Being found and indexed by search engines is not all that hard. However, if you take a look at the popular search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and MSNLive, they have billions of web pages in their databases. Yes, billions. So the task here is not only to be found and indexed by the search engines, but to be associated with the appropriate themes - or keywords - so that end users searching in these engines find your site.
If you are a beginner at search engine optimization, that last paragraph is a little thick. If you are more advanced, you may want to skip down. For the beginner SEO, let's break that last paragraph down. Each search engine crawls the entire Internet on a regular basis to make sure they know every web site. They do this because they all want to be the complete directory, or index, of the Internet. Once they know about a web site (often referred to as "being indexed", or "in the index") the search engine next attempts to determine what the web site is about. Essentially, the search engine wants to establish the theme of your site based on the content that is observed. This process is entirely automated, so the theme has to be abstracted based on the content on your site. Put another way, the words on your site are used by the search engine spiders to develop an idea of what your site is about.
End-users going to Google, Yahoo or MSNLive, don't ask the search engine for answers based on themes. End user searchers, are looking for specific information. As such, they enter keyword terms for their searches. Keywords are simply the terms that an end user puts into a search engine when looking for specific information.
The the task of the search engine is to match the keywords entered by the end-user with the themes for each web site and bring the user to the most helpful information on the Internet. This is where search engine optimization comes in. If you organize your web site around the keywords that you anticipate end users are likely to be looking for, you've made the job of the search engine much easier. If you do this, the search engines are more quickly and efficiently able to tell what your web site is about and how to match it to keywords that end users are searching on.
Put in it's simplest terms, this process of helping the search engines match your site to keywords is what search engine optimization is all about. If you make the job of the search engine easier, you will facilitate a match between the keywords searched by the end-user and your site. This means that more people find your site - often called "getting more traffic."