SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.
What goes into SEO?
To understand the true meaning of SEO, let’s break that definition down and look at the parts:
- Quality of traffic. You can attract all the visitors in the world, but if they’re coming to your site because Google tells them you’re a resource for Apple computers when really you’re a farmer selling apples, that is not quality traffic. Instead, you want to attract visitors who are genuinely interested in the products that you offer.
- Quantity of traffic. Once you have the right people clicking through from those search engine results pages (SERPs), more traffic is better.
- Organic results. Ads make up a significant portion of many SERPs. Organic traffic is any traffic that you don’t have to pay for.
Organic search traffic is specifically any unpaid traffic that comes from SERPs.
How SEO works
You might think of a search engine as a website you visit to type (or speak) a question into a box and Google, Yahoo!, Bing, or whatever search engine you’re using magically replies with a long list of links to webpages that could potentially answer your question.
That’s true. But have you ever stopped to consider what’s behind those magical lists of links?
Here’s how it works: Google (or any search engine you’re using) has a crawler that goes out and gathers information about all the content they can find on the Internet. The crawlers bring all those 1s and 0s back to the search engine to build an index. That index is then fed through an algorithm that tries to match all that data with your query.
There are a lot of factors that go into a search engine’s algorithm, and here’s how a group of experts ranked their importance:
That’s all the SE (search engine) of SEO.
The O part of SEO—optimization—is where the people who write all that content and put it on their sites are guessing that content and those sites up so search engines will be able to understand what they’re seeing, and the users who arrive via search will like what they see.
The Different Hats
You will sometimes hear people refer to different types of SEO as being White Hat or Black Hat.
These are two very different approaches to how SEO is done. White Hat SEO is where the specialist uses all the correct rules as stated by Google and other companies, concentrates on the end user and the long term affects of their work. Ultimately they are striving to get the best content in place, not just for their site, but to establish a long term goal of showing the importance of the site they re working with.
Black Hat SEO is about companies doing everything they can to drive a website up the rankings by violating search engine guidelines, manipulating details to make the search engines think that the site has information that it doesn’t and focusing on short term wins as opposed to a long term strategy.
Companies that use Black Hat techniques are often the companies that advertise by promising you the number one spot on search engine pages within a very short period of time. Ultimately they can cause serious harm to your company reputation.
Optimization can take many forms. It’s everything from making sure the title tags and meta descriptions are both informative and the right length to pointing internal links at pages you’re proud of and providing information to show that your site is of value.