Wikipedea states that search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a web site or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. Other forms of search engine marketing (SEM) target paid listings. In general, the earlier (or higher on the page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, video search and industry-specific vertical search engines. This gives a web site web presence.
As an Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work and what people search for. Optimising 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 acronym “SEO” can refer to “search engine optimisers,” a term adopted by an industry of consultants who carry out optimisation projects on behalf of clients, and by employees who perform SEO services in-house. Search engine optimisers may offer SEO as a stand-alone service or as a part of a broader marketing campaign. Because effective SEO may require changes to the HTML source code of a site, SEO tactics may be incorporated into web site development and design. The term “search engine friendly” may be used to describe web site designs, menus, content management systems, images, videos, shopping carts, and other elements that have been optimised for the purpose of search engine exposure.
Another class of techniques, known as black hat SEO or spamdexing, uses methods such as link farms, keyword stuffing and article spinning that degrade both the relevance of search results and the user-experience of search engines. Search engines look for sites that employ these techniques in order to remove them from their indices.
The leading search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!, use crawlers to find pages for their algorithmic 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.[dead link] 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 aren’t discoverable by automatically following links.
Search engine crawlers may look at a number of different factors when crawling a site. 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.
To avoid undesirable content in the search indexes, webmasters can instruct spiders not to crawl certain files or directories through the standard robots.txt file in the root directory of the domain. Additionally, a page can be explicitly excluded from a search engine’s database by using a meta tag specific to robots. When a search engine visits a site, the robots.txt located in the root directory is the first file crawled. The robots.txt file is then parsed, and will instruct the robot as to which pages are not to be crawled. As a search engine crawler may keep a cached copy of this file, it may on occasion crawl pages a webmaster does not wish crawled. Pages typically prevented from being crawled include login specific pages such as shopping carts and user-specific content such as search results from internal searches. In March 2007, Google warned webmasters that they should prevent indexing of internal search results because those pages are considered search spam.
A variety of methods can increase the prominence of a webpage within the 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 frequently searched keyword phrase, so as to be relevant to a wide variety of search queries will tend to increase traffic. 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. URL normalisation of web pages accessible via multiple urls, using the “canonical” meta tag or via 301 redirects can help make sure links to different versions of the url all count towards the page’s link popularity score.
SEO techniques are classified by some into two broad categories: techniques that search engines recommend as part of good design, and those techniques that search engines do not approve of and attempt to minimize the effect of, referred to as spamdexing. Some industry commentators classify 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 will eventually be banned once the search engines discover what they are doing.
A SEO tactic, technique or method 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 game the algorithm. White hat SEO is in many ways similar to web development that promotes accessibility, although the two are not identical.
White Hat SEO is merely effective marketing, making efforts to deliver quality content to an audience that has requested the quality content. Traditional marketing means have allowed this through transparency and exposure. A search engine’s algorithm takes this into account, such as Google’s PageRank.
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 penalise 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 infamous 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.
As a marketing strategy
SEO is not necessarily an appropriate strategy for every website, and other Internet marketing strategies can be much more effective, depending on the site operator’s goals. A successful Internet marketing campaign may drive organic traffic, achieved through optimisation techniques and not paid advertising, to web pages, but it also may involve the use of paid advertising on search engines and other pages, building high quality web pages to engage and persuade, addressing technical issues that may keep search engines from crawling and indexing those sites, setting up analytics programs to enable site owners to measure their successes, and improving a site’s conversion rate.
SEO may generate a return on investment. However, search engines are not paid for organic search traffic, their algorithms change, and there are no guarantees of continued referrals. (Some trading sites such as eBay can be a special case for this, it will announce how and when the ranking algorithm will change a few months before changing the algorithm). Due to this lack of guarantees and certainty, a business that relies heavily on search engine traffic can suffer major losses if the search engines stop sending visitors. It is considered wise business practice for website operators to liberate themselves from dependence on search engine traffic. A top-ranked SEO blog Seomoz.org has suggested, “Search marketers, in a twist of irony, receive a very small share of their traffic from search engines..” Instead, their main sources of traffic are links from other websites.
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