What Is SEO? – Search Engine Optimization Explained

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SEO is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization, a broad series of practices that all equate to improving the overall usability, structure and outreach of a website by adopting an ever-changing set of best practices with the aim to improve rankings on major search engines. Although ranking for a particular phrase OR set of key phrases is a great way to gauge the success of your efforts, the overall aim of a SEO campaign should be to increase the ability for your site to rank for as many terms as possible. Terms referred to as the ‘long tail’ are the hidden key to success for all successful businesses on the web today.

Ok, let’s take a step back first. The web is an organic group of literally trillions of web pages, varying in quality and content. Some of these websites are cutting edge, offering the latest advancements in web design and precise execution only a gun team of developers can achieve, why other sites are created by ‘mum and dad’ web novices. Often the content of this spectrum of site offerings are varied and can not be judged simply on the look or feel of the site it is posted on. Some of the most relevant responses to my web queries over the years have been on 1995-esk websites that have invested their time on the quality of the content over the look of their site.

So why do I see the ‘mum and dad’ sites on the web quite regularly? Relevant content!
Although the ability to achieve a strong site is also the way the site is constructed and its overall health, great content will get you most of the way. This is something I can’t stress enough. Day after day, I see many sites attempt to release sites that are beautiful, with strong imagery and little content. And although ‘A picture paints a thousand words’, on the web this simply is not the case. If people can’t understand what you are trying to sell (product or service) OR can’t adequately do the research from your site to ensure they are making an informed purchase, conversion will be low.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization allows a site to be visible in a sea of competition.

The SEO Rules

Search Engine Optimization is a complex and ever-changing environment. There is no rule book for SEO, it is a series of best practices generated by key players in the web landscape. Hands down, Google has the biggest say in these best practices, offering a series of tools, forums and blogs dedicated to the pursuit of enhancing the web. Like most search engines, Google are committed to delivering the very best results for all search queries they serve. In order to do this, they must determine which sites offer the very best response for the query generated. This is achieved by scoring a webpages relevance on a number of secret ranking factors (or signals), better known as the google algorithm.
Why is the algorithm not made public? The web is a competitive space, therefore if the formula for a first position was made public, businesses would be working the formula to the nth degree, exploiting its weaknesses and the issue of quality ranking over rubbish would continue. With no regulatory body governing the web, it is up to search engines to reward quality and effort and penalize poor and devious practices (black-hat).

Black / White Hat SEO

SEO efforts can be loosely categorize into two camps, White and Black Hat SEO. There are shades of grey, but definitions best described as; Black Hat SEO

Black Hat SEO – Any practice taken to improve the ability for a site to rank with little thought to quality or the impact it may have on users (positive OR negative). A black hat practice is often attempting to exploit a particular ranking factor in any way possible.
White Hat SEO – Put simply, it is the art of implementing best practice on the web. Although ‘best practice’ is not always easy to determine (a great starting point is https://support.google.com/webmasters/?hl=en) best practice can often be determined by putting what’s best for the visitor first.

Finally a note on Grey Hat SEO. Although rarely discussed, Grey Hat is actually the most common area for site owners and SEO to work within. The desire to improve ranking and increase traffic often clouds a persons judgement, which leads to bending of best practices to get a desired results. Here at SEO Strategy, we will attempt to highlight the Black, Grey and White Hat practices so that you can make an informed decision on the best path forward.