6. The Basics of Search Engine Optimization

Introduction

There is nothing worse than creating a website but failing to reach its potential users and customers. This dilemma plagues a large chunk of website search marketing industry today; this is where SEO comes in. SEO is the essential practice of drastically improving the performance of your website by attracting increased inbound traffic from organic, non-paid search engine result pages or SERPs.

SEO, in today’s world, is a vital concept. However, it is often subjected to various misconceptions, and unrealistic ideas about what it can and cannot achieve. There are various forms of SEO that are in practice today and these include white hat, black hat and grey hat search engine optimization. These primarily differentiate based on the kind of techniques that are used. Some are used while functioning within the bounds of permissible rules and regulations while others work by being in direct conflict with the given guidelines.

It is very important to realize that real-time results of SEO and not to be confused or swayed by unrealistic ideas of gains. SEO requires a great deal of investment and time. It is a lengthy and an expensive process and it is not suitable for all websites. This is of great significance, knowing when to use SEO and when to use other mediums for rankings.

SEO industry is extremely competitive today. Search engines, owing to the past manipulations, have now resorted to using extensively complex and strict algorithms for ranking, and for effective SEO, it is important to conform to these algorithms. Significant search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing now incorporate these algorithms and work along the strict rules of non-disclosure in order to avoid breaches in the security and manipulation of loopholes by webmasters.

Essentials of search engine optimization

Search Engine Optimization or SEO refers to the most essential and the most crucial aspect of establishing your website’s visibility on significant search engines, which function along the lines of non-payment, natural search results. This is in contrast to the paid-for ads that show up under search listings. With the advent of time, search engines are becoming increasingly sensitive to content quality and relevance of the information provided. Unethical stuffing of keywords, plagiarism, and buying links is rigorously barred and penalized.

Search engine optimization is based on a few, specifically required elements, which should, under all circumstances, be taken care of in order to achieve true SEO. SEO includes the four-tier concept of, on-page SEO, SEO content writing, and code optimization, and link building. It boils down to providing a good user experience, natural and well-written content, natural inclusion of keywords in the main body of the text and the overall provision of relevant, original information.

Search engine optimization elements

Search engine optimization, or SEO, functions along four vital processes or elements:

  • On-page/On-site SEO
  • SEO Content Writing
  • Code Optimizing
  • Inbound Links

On-page SEO

This is also sometimes known as on-site SEO. This essentially consists of techniques related to the improvement of the layout of the homepage and other important pages of the website. The central concerns that are dealt with in on-page SEO or on-site SEO include headings, subheadings, page titles, content display, organization of the written content, and internal link configuration. This process also includes the usage of keywords, optimization of written content, optimization of images, etc.

The goal of on-page SEO is to improve the on-site elements that are important for ranking, as those are taken into account by search engines when they index and rank websites that are to be displayed in the search engine result pages.

SEO content writing

Content has become the central aspect of SEO, as search engines want to provide only the best results to the search engine users, and they have come to conclusion that having amazing and original content is one of the aspects to prove website’s quality. It is, quite literally, the most stressed-over factor of the SEO industry nowadays.

There are so many myths regarding this rather simple concept of writing natural and relevant content. These myths include a mythical word count, the phantom keyword density and many more. SEO content writing is so often, and so conveniently marred, by unethical practices of immoral stuffing of keywords to gain higher visibility on search engines that the entire concept of SEO crumbles. So often, the merit of an original, well-written content is tainted by these practices, it has become almost a novelty to find good, well-written content.

Content is the foundation of search engine optimization, as well as of lead generation and email marketing. Content helps you enhance your campaign and use a subtle approach to address to your potential customers. Unlike promotional campaigns, content writing is focused on the readers and the possibility of solving a problem by providing relevant information.

There are many different content formats. The choice of type of content to implement in your internet marketing strategy depends on your business needs and on your target audience, as you want to produce content that will generate best outcome among your target group. Here are some ideas on types of content that are available to you:

  • Articles
  • Case studies
  • Checklists
  • E-books
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts
  • Slideshares
  • Surveys
  • Templates
  • Videos
  • Webinars

Here are some tips to help you in creating quality website content:

  • Provide attention-grabbing headlines
  • Use consistent voice
  • Keep the writing mistakes free
  • Pay attention to the formatting
  • Add call-to-action buttons on prominent places on the page

Having great content helps you improve you search engine optimization efforts and appeal to your customers. This will help you generate quality leads and improve the reputation among the website visitors. Great content should fulfill a need, answer a question, inform and educate. Content writing is also an excellent foundation for social media marketing, which will result in increase in shares, leading to higher traffic volume. Ultimately, your efforts will result in increasing brand awareness on the online market, which is an amazing way to boost your business and dominate search results.

Code optimization

Code optimization refers to re-setting of your website HTML. The benefits of code optimization lead to a two-fold benefit system. Firstly, the website takes less long to load. This is often the biggest factor, which affects the performance and the incoming traffic on a website.

Secondly, code optimization enables search engines to easily understand and comprehend the content given on your website. The higher understandability and accessibility rate of the content leads to better visibility on search engines. The search engines can easily adapt and apply the algorithms on the given content, as there is no hindrance caused by useless code cluttering.

Inbound links

Websites thrive on link building and/or link development. This is important part of SEO, as links are considered to be a vote of trust, which means that a website that has a lot of links pointing to it must have done something to deserve those links.

Yet, there are similarities to the dilemma of SEO content writing, torn between quantity and quality. The best link development is based on good quality, informative content. In direct contrast to this is the onslaught of useless, inexpensive links, which offer little or no relevance to the website. Their only purpose is to clutter the website with several links, giving the false impression of authority and short-lived relevance.

Good, relevant content leads to establishing the true authority of your website, which ultimately leads to obtaining a good position on the search engines listings and other websites naturally want to link back to you. Earning natural, non-paid links is the goal of true search engine optimization. An effective SEO will lead to inbound links who have an editorial right to be there.

Origin and history of search engine optimization

The basic, underlying concept of SEO, or search engine optimization, began tentatively in the mid-1990s. The very first search engines, after the webmasters submitted the names and the URLs of their websites, began scanning and indexing the websites with the help of ‘spiders’, which served the purpose of ‘crawling’ a page. These essentially worked like scanning agent. The spiders skimmed through the content of the website and scanned the links given on the website. All this information was stored and submitted for indexing.

Once the spider downloaded the essentials of any given webpage, it was sorted and analyzed on the search engine’s own server. This sorting and analysis was then forwarded to the indexer, which, in turn, extracted and focused on the important details of the content, like word count, keyword density, quality of the links provided, etc.

First ever algorithms used by search engines

Today, search engines incorporate and use sophisticated, highly sensitive algorithms to identify and screen the best, high quality content and links given on the websites. The early versions of algorithms, though, functioned primarily based on the data provided by webmasters. This information included Meta tags, which often led to the inaccurate representation of the actual content of the website. This often led to misconstrued results. Therefore, in the beginning, search engines system was often breached due to these weaknesses and, therefore, irrelevant links were added to the search pages listings as a result. Back then, it was much easier to manipulate the search engines algorithms to obtain higher search engine rankings.

Present-day algorithms: Non-disclosure

The constant manipulation, as expected, hit the quality of the search engines. Search engines relied on webmasters to provide truthful representation of their content. However, it only led to a great level of link manipulation. This eventually created the need to develop stricter, more refined mathematical algorithms. The search engines strove to eliminate the need to rely on thinly veiled concepts like keyword density, which could be easily manipulated and used against the policies of search engine listings.

Search engines now function on extremely complex ranking systems and work along strict rules of keeping the algorithms under wraps. Google, Bing, and Yahoo! are known for not revealing the specifics of their current algorithms. By the year 2004, several search engines adopted a number of undisclosed complex factors to their ranking systems in order to avoid link and rank manipulation and false representation.

Three types of SEO

Based on the different approaches and results, there are three different types of SEO. These include:

  • White hat SEO
  • Black hat SEO
  • Grey hat SEO

White hat SEO

White hat SEO relates to the use of techniques and approaches, which are within the acceptable bounds of search engine rules and regulation. White hat SEO, as the name suggests, functions along purely the rightful means and do not over-step the confines of search engine algorithms, guidelines and policies.

The techniques used in white hat SEO include writing high quality, informative and original content. The content is well written, lucid, and interesting, and it avoids shortcuts like plagiarism. The keywords are used naturally and wherever required. There is no haphazard throwing-around of keywords and irregular high keyword density. Other techniques used include HTML code optimization, better structuring of the content and good, quality link building based on content and relevance.

White hat SEO leads to a gradual but steady and a permanent standing in the search engine rankings, while strictly following guidelines and recommendations provided by search engines.

Black hat SEO

Black hat SEO, as the name suggests quite clearly, refers to the use of conflicting techniques, which are quick shortcuts to gaining high search rankings and links. Black hat SEO thrives on misrepresentation and manipulation, as it mainly targets the weaknesses and the loopholes in the algorithms of search engines. These techniques and methods are in unswerving clash with the rules and regulations of free-and-fair search engine optimization.

The techniques used in black hat SEO include providing spam links, giving the false impression of a highly authoritative and highly relevant website. Black hat SEO amasses several useless links in order to build links, while no thought is given to the quality of the links. Other techniques employed in black hat SEO are high keyword density and keyword stuffing. The content quality is severely tampered with, keywords are interjected throughout the text leading to haphazard, choppy, and meaningless content.

Black hat SEO leads to quick but short-lived search engine rankings, and it can be penalized by search engines.

Grey hat SEO

Another interesting kind of SEO is the grey hat SEO. This occurs where the realms of white hat and black hat SEO overlap and merge. This type of SEO functions by incorporating techniques, which go undetected by search engine algorithms. However, they profusely focus on improving search engine listings and rankings only. The focus is not on producing well-written and original content at all.

Mistaken belief about SEO

There is often a lot of misunderstanding regarding what SEO can truly achieve. There are many unanswered questions, ambiguous hopes and, more often than not, unrealistic expectations attached to the results of SEO. There are limitations and gains in SEO and it is important to understand what they really mean and entail. It is necessary to realize that SEO can only achieve what is realistically possible. Attributing SEO and its results to unrealistic, magical proportions is often a recurrent problem.

There is a great level of subjectivity when it comes to SEO. Often webmasters and content developers complain that SEO does not deliver according to what it boasts of. SEO does not claim to be magic and it does not function in the concrete world of direct and equal action and reaction. That being said, it is vital to clear misconceptions about what SEO can truly achieve and what it cannot achieve.

What SEO can and cannot do

SEO can and will most assuredly lead to better user experience. It will increase the user-friendliness of your website. However, it will not make your website completely and undeniably irresistible to search engines, so you cannot pin unrealistic hopes of high ranks immediately.

SEO thrives on good and extensive research. If you have spent a considerable amount of time, researching and highlighting the most apt keywords, and you have used them intelligently and naturally throughout the content body of your website, SEO will improve the rankings of your website slowly and steadily over the period of a few months, even a year. However, this will not lead to the immediate soaring of your website to the highest ranks within a few weeks. SEO will not lead to a sudden and drastic improvement.

SEO functions on extensive planning and it is a costly process. Do not be under the impression that SEO will be an inexpensive process, which will incorporate the use of regular, free directory submissions. Even though SEO is not part of paid advertising, it still requires assets to be invested in the realization of SEO strategy. You might need to hire experts or assistance to help you with content writing or code optimization, which will require payment. However, even if you implement SEO strategy on your own, you will need time to spend in performing different SEO tasks, which can again be costly.

SEO Disclaimers

There is no secret ‘keyword density’ that will alleviate all your problems and suddenly make your content visible in all search engines. There is no secret ‘word count’ that the search engines love and fall for every time.

All content structuring, keyword density and word count varies from one subject to the next. The only goal is to make the content sound interesting, readable, and understandable. The goal is to make the content likable by readers while also optimizing it for search engine robots.

Off-site SEO

There is more to SEO than just keyword density, word count, and inbound links. It is almost undeniable, the kind of power that social media now has over the entire web, the marketing industry today and the global population.

Effective SEO, in today’s world, is literally impossible without the inclusion of social media channels and link building with off-site channels. These off-site channels include social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, or content sharing platforms, such as Reddit, ScoopIt or StumbleUpon.

Keywords are often only used in the main body of the content displayed on the website. It is important to realize that branding and marketing has now transcended the realm of one single page. You can still market and effectively optimize your website on search engines or platforms other than your website. Keywords can be used effectively on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to gain popularity and to establish optimization for your selected keywords.

Tips and tricks of SEO

Besides understanding the essentials of SEO, in order to be able to successful implement SEO strategy, you should follow some tips that will help you create an approach that is focused on getting the most out of your online activity.

Writer for the readers first

Some of the basic, most important tips of SEO include, first and foremost, writing excellent content. Your focus should be on writing and formulating content, which is liked by the readers. It should be relevant and understandable. Your aim should be to satisfy the readers first and then focus your attention towards satisfying the search engines.

Get your readers to re-post

Your content should be so good that the readers feel compelled to share it on their personal social profiles, such as on Facebook and Twitter. In the case of really well-written content, readers actually aid in search engine optimization by sharing and re-posting.

Earn natural links

You should strive to earn links from other, authoritative, and trusted websites. The more natural links that you can acquire the better for search engine optimization. The best way to earn links is again to have great content and to create respectful and trustworthy authority.

Images and image characteristics

It is also vital to give importance to images. It is not just about great written content. Your website should have excellent images with all the necessary features of the image attributes filled out. These include titles, descriptions, and captions. Images are also helpful when it comes to social media sharing, as visual aspect can highlight the content of the web page.

Text length

Make sure your text is long enough to have an impact. Long, rambling pieces of text are not advisable. However, the body of the text should be long enough to hold some meaning. Again, this is in no way an implication to conform to a certain word count. The text should make sense and cover all the necessary information.

No plagiarism

Under all circumstances, you must ensure that the content on your website is not plagiarized. Nothing kills the credibility of a website like duplicity in content quality.

Page formatting

Formatting your pages is also very important in SEO. Your page titles should contain your most important keywords. However, the keywords should be placed intelligently, in order for title to make sense and be related to the content of the article.

Navigation

The navigation tools on your website should be in order and work effectively. This is especially important while search engines are scanning your website for indexing and ranking. You should allow users to search your website, to use navigation buttons to go back to the home page, access different section of the website, etc.

SEO suitability

SEO is not the answer every time. Sometimes, certain websites are better suited to the medium of paid advertisements, for example, pay-per-click promotions. In this case, SEO is not the most preferred method of marketing strategy and the benefits that a business can have are gained through paid reach.

Summary

SEO is the overall practice of improving website content for readers as well as optimizing search engine rankings. SEO leads to slow and steady results and maintains excellent ranking for a longer period of time, if employed correctly. SEO aims at providing a good user experience and improves the functionality and the performance of any given website in terms of its traffic, page loading, better titles, and good quality content.

It is vital to understand the difference between what SEO can truly achieve and what it cannot accomplish. It is also essential to know when SEO is applicable and when it is not. The different forms of SEO must be understood clearly and applied wherever appropriate.

SEO is extremely important for websites today as it is a vital marketing strategy and it goes beyond the idea of just optimizing content for certain keywords usage. Modern day networking now thrives on social media platforms, which greatly aid in the process of search engine optimization. SEO is extremely effective today and the concept has become much easier with the innovation of social networks and active users, who are constantly and unknowingly aiding in the process of search engine optimization by reposting and highlighting websites and their content.

This makes up for virtually free promotion and marketing. The global networking world is built in a way that SEO has become exceptionally do-able and has far-reaching results now, more than ever before.