SEO, or search engine optimization, can seem quite intimidating for the “common man” or those just starting out. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Yes, some elements of SEO can get quite complex. But there are still some things you can do to help your website rank well in the search engines.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a set of best practices for getting a website or page ranked as highly as possible in one of the top search engines.
How it works?
But what exactly is a search engine, beyond this general concept of “seek and ye shall find”?
It’s a little complicated.
On the back end, a search engine is a piece of software that uses applications to collect information about web pages. The information they collect are usually keywords or phrases that are possible indicators of what is contained on the web page. As a whole, it consists of the pages’ URL, the code that makes up the page, and links into and out of the page. They then index the information and store it in a database.
On the front end, the software has a user interface where users enter a search term. It can be a word or a phrase, in an attempt to find specific information. When the user clicks a search button, an algorithm then examines the information stored in the database.
The process of collecting information about web pages is performed by an agent called a crawler, spider, or robot. The crawler literally looks at every URL on the Web and collects keywords and phrases on each page. These are then included in the database that powers a search engine.
Every search engine contains or is connected to a system of databases, where data about each URL on the Web, collected by crawlers, is stored. These databases are massive storage areas that contain multiple data points about each URL. The data might be arranged in any number of different ways and will be ranked according to a method of ranking and retrieval that is usually proprietary to the company that owns the search engine.
A search algorithm is a problem-solving procedure that takes a problem, evaluates a number of possible answers, and then returns the solution for that problem. A search algorithm for a search engine takes the problem, the word or phrase being searched for. Then it sifts through a database that contains cataloged keywords and the URLs those words are related to. In the end it returns pages that contain the word or phrase that was searched for, either in the body of the page or in a URL that points to the page.
Retrieval and ranking
For a web search engine, the retrieval of data is a combination activity of the crawler (or spider or robot), the database, and the search algorithm. Those three elements work in concert to retrieve the word or phrase that a user enters into the search engine’s user interface. Your ranking in a search engine determines how often people see your page, which affects everything from revenue to your advertising budget. The most that you can hope for is to make an educated guess as to how a search engine ranks its results, and then try to tailor your page to meet those results.
3 types of SEO techniques and practices
White hat SEO – this is one of the most popular SEO technique. It is one that uses methods and techniques to improve search engine rankings of a website which does not run afoul of search engine guideline.
Black hat SEO – a type of SEO technique which exploits the various weaknesses in the algorithms or search engines. It does so in order to get high rankings for websites. This type of SEO is not in accordance with the SEO guidelines set by search engines and especially Google.
Gray hat SEO – a kind of an SEO which is neither black nor white. This is a technique that does not fully use the black hat SEO, but rather combines both. This is a transformation from black to white and from white to black. Whether it is due to pressure from the website or company or to deliver better results, some SEO companies practice Gray hat SEO. At least to some extent.
On-Page SEO & Off-Page SEO
There are two forms of SEO: On-Page and Off-Page.
On-Page SEO is the SEO on your actual page or blog. One popular way in which search engines worldwide tend to rank websites is by looking for the prominence and frequency of certain keywords. Those keywords can also be phrases. They look for these on various facets of your site and assigning an appropriate degree of weight accordingly.
Off-Page SEO is the use of keywords of your site. Search engines use mentions of your site, business name, and keywords used in other places across the web. They do this in order to determine your ranking in their results.
Great ways to optimize your off-page SEO value on your own include setting up social media accounts on popular sites. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ are some of them. The interested parties can follow you and share your posts. As with on-page SEO tactics, always make sure that you keep your preferred keywords and phrases in mind. Better, have a list near by, for when you update your social media accounts.
SEO is a constantly moving target. Many tips and concepts that worked magic two or three years ago have diminished in effectiveness. They can even be counterproductive to implement at this point. Unfortunately, no one in the SEO world has the last word on what works and what doesn’t with 100% authority.