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Search Engine Optimization - Everything You Need To Know

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's "natural" or un-paid ("organic" or "algorithmic") search results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, video search, academic search, news search and industry-specific vertical search engines.

As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. Optimizing a website may involve editing its content and HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links, is another SEO tactic.

The plural of the abbreviation SEO can refer to "search engine optimizers," those, like CATWIRED, who provide SEO service.

Getting indexed

The leading search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!, use crawlers to find pages for their algorithmic (organic) search results. Pages that are linked from other search engine indexed pages do not need to be submitted because they are found automatically. Some search engines, notably Yahoo!, operate a paid submission service that guarantee crawling for either a set fee or cost per click.  Such programs usually guarantee inclusion in the database, but do not guarantee specific ranking within the search results. Two major directories, the Yahoo Directory and the Open Directory Project both require manual submission and human editorial review. Google offers Google Webmaster Tools, for which an XML Sitemap feed can be created and submitted for free to ensure that all pages are found, especially pages that are not discoverable by automatically following links.

Search engine crawlers may look at a number of different factors when crawling a site.  A crawler, or spider, is simply search engine software that automatically scours the web and web sites.  The spider reviews a web site and then adds that web site to the search engine database. Not every page is indexed by the search engines. Distance of pages from the root directory of a site may also be a factor in whether or not pages get crawled.

Increasing prominence

A variety of methods can increase the prominence of a webpage within the organic search results. Cross linking between pages of the same website to provide more links to most important pages may improve its visibility.  Writing content that includes a frequently searched keyword phrase, so as to be relevant to a wide variety of search queries will tend to increase traffic. Updating content so as to keep search engines crawling back frequently can give additional weight to a site. Adding relevant keywords to a web page's meta data, including the title tag and meta description, will tend to improve the relevancy of a site's search listings, thus increasing traffic.

We've found that use of pay-per-click programs offered by the various search engines may improve organic search result performance.

White hat versus black hat techniques

SEO techniques can be classified into two broad categories: techniques that search engines recommend as part of good design (see the SEO - Google's Best Advice item in the right sidebar) and those techniques of which search engines do not approve. The search engines attempt to minimize the effect of the latter, among them spamdexing. Industry commentators have classified these methods, and the practitioners who employ them, as either white hat SEO, or black hat SEO.  White hats tend to produce results that last a long time, whereas black hats anticipate that their sites may eventually be banned either temporarily or permanently once the search engines discover what they are doing.

An SEO technique is considered white hat if it conforms to the search engines' guidelines and involves no deception. As the search engine guidelines are not written as a series of rules or commandments, this is an important distinction to note. White hat SEO is not just about following guidelines, but is about ensuring that the content a search engine indexes and subsequently ranks is the same content a user will see. White hat advice is generally summed up as creating content for users, not for search engines, and then making that content easily accessible to the spiders, rather than attempting to trick the algorithm from its intended purpose. White hat SEO is in many ways similar to web development that promotes accessibility, although the two are not identical.

At CATWIRED, we practice only white hat SEO techniques.

Black hat SEO attempts to improve rankings in ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception. One black hat technique uses text that is hidden, either as text colored similar to the background, in an invisible div, or positioned off screen. Another method gives a different page depending on whether the page is being requested by a human visitor or a search engine, a technique known as cloaking.

Search engines may penalize sites they discover using black hat methods, either by reducing their rankings or eliminating their listings from their databases altogether. Such penalties can be applied either automatically by the search engines' algorithms, or by a manual site review. One example was the February 2006 Google removal of both BMW Germany and Ricoh Germany for use of deceptive practices. Both companies, however, quickly apologized, fixed the offending pages, and were restored to Google's list.

Ready to harness the power of search engines?

Contact us and we'll put our 15 years of white hat SEO experience to work for you! 

 

Information on this page adapted from Wikipedia.  10/12.