What is SEO? Search engine optimization is a marketing discipline focused on increasing a website’s visibility in the organic or natural search results of search engines. SEO covers all technical and creative strategies and techniques designed to improve a website’s ranking in the search engine results page (SERP), increase the frequency of a site’s appearance in the search list, and drive targeted traffic to the website.
SEO works on the premise that the more exposure a website has, the bigger its potential to attract site visitors. SEO may be directed at one or more kinds of unpaid search, including video search, image search, academic search, local search, news search, and specialty search.
As more site owners recognize the significance of having priority placement in the natural search page results on their success, and as search engines refine their technical and search parameters to meet internet users’ needs, search engine optimization has evolved from its simple beginnings to a highly specialized field of marketing.
The initial versions of search algorithms were fully dependent on data provided by webmasters to describe a web page’s content. Search engines relied mainly on keyword density and meta keywords tags to determine site placement on the search list, and shrewd webmasters were quick in capitalizing on the weakness of the search system by clever manipulation of keywords. As a result, search engines often returned irrelevant results to users.
A search engine’s success is measured by how well it can provide its users the link to the top websites relevant to search terms used. To provide more value to their users’ web searches and internet experience, search engines rolled more complex algorithms that were designed to make manipulations more difficult and the search results more useful to internet users.
Current search engine parameters set excellent content as the primary criteria in determining page ranking. It is, however, too surreal to expect that strong content alone can drive a website to the top of the SERP. Hence, SEO strategies, tricks, and tips are still very much the order of the day for webmasters.
White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO
Search engine optimization techniques are designed to work around search engines’ rules. Some use legitimate strategies that comply with established guidelines while others use techniques that are exploitative, deceptive, and risky.
SEO techniques are classified into two broad categories, white hat SEO, and black hat SEO.
White Hat SEO Techniques
White hat SEO, also known as ethical SEO, refers to optimization strategies and tactics that comply with search engines’ guidelines and policies and focused on creating accessible content for internet users. Examples of white hat SEO techniques are using keywords, doing keyword analysis, backlinking, link building, and content writing for human viewers.
Search engines classify web pages based on keywords or terms that are relevant to the page content. Computer programs called crawlers or spiders are typically used to browse the web and to index each page based on the terms that appear more frequently and on their appearance in the vital sections of the web page. SEO experts recommend placing the keywords in the title, headers, and the top section of a page.
Keyword research is the practice of researching and finding search terms or niche keywords commonly used by people when doing a search. It is done to find the appropriate keywords to obtain better search engine ranking.
Most search engines use link analysis to determine the quality, importance, or popularity of a web page. In analyzing links from other web pages to the page being ranked, search engines consider the quality of links based on the rank of the linking pages. High ranking sites that link to a web page can boost its page rank. The task of getting relevant backlinks starts with creating a page that people will be pleased to link to. Exchanging links with websites that have related content is an effective way to place relevant links on the website.
Optimizing content for viewers refers to the preparation of useful, informative, and timely content. Search engines are progressively refining their parameters to recognize content quality and are giving higher page ranks to web pages with highly relevant content.
White hat SEO tends to produce long-lasting benefits for the website and is more often used when the site owner has long-term business goals.
Black Hat SEO
Black hat SEO, also known as unethical SEO or spamdexing, refers to the use of strategies and tactics that do not conform to search engine guidelines and is focused on creating content for search engines. Examples of blackhat techniques include invisible text, keyword stuffing, inserting irrelevant keywords, page swapping, and link farming. Sites that use black hat SEO may enjoy temporary success in terms of attracting unwitting site visitors but face the risk of being banned permanently or penalized with low search rankings by search engines.
Keyword stuffing is the practice of overloading keywords or unrelated numbers on a web page to manipulate a website’s search rankings. Keyword stuffing may include inserting list of phone numbers without value or repeating the same words or phrases unnaturally.
Some webmasters include the most popular through irrelevant keywords and insert them on the page to trick the search engines into ranking the content based on the keyword used.
Black hat practitioners may use invisible text or fonts with a color that match the webpage’s background and can’t be seen by viewers yet visible to search engine spiders.
Page swapping involves tricking visitors to visit a web page with a good page ranking only to be diverted or redirected to another website that has no relevance to the original search.
Taking advantage of the value given by search engines to links in determining a webpage’s importance, black hat SEO webmasters have taken to selling and farming links to increase a page’s SERP rank. A link farm is a pool of interlinked web pages for the purpose of boosting each page’s rank.
Black hat SEO is more often used by investors who are into quick return internet business models and have no long-term investment plans on their website.
What is SEO? Search Engine Optimization as a marketing strategy may help a business achieve its targeted return on investment, but it is a model that is fully dependent on search engines that are periodically changing their algorithms, and may at one point cease sending traffic and crash long drawn out marketing plans.
Search engine optimization must be taken in its proper perspective as a marketing tool to increase company, website, and product awareness, but a business based on search engine traffic alone might not be a good proposition.