SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION

Search Engine Optimization 101

Explained by the SEO Experts

United Cyber Development's organizational policies and views of

one of the internet's most controversial topics - SEO

What Is

Search Engine Optimization

These days, there’s simply no overstating the important role search engines play in any website’s success. No matter what kind of website you have, there’s a good chance that you have several (if not hundreds or even thousands) of competitors. So, what determines whether a Web user stumbles across your website or one of your competitors’? That’s right: search engine optimization (SEO). Your website’s ranking in the search engines will have a huge impact on the visibility of your site and, in turn, how many visitors it receives. Of course, SEO isn’t the only influencing factor here, but it’s becoming an increasingly popular one.

For this reason, all business owners and website owners are encouraged to understand the basic principles of SEO and how to implement SEO techniques into their own website design. By doing so, your site can have the competitive edge against the other one billion websites on the Internet.

The Undisputed Facts

Basic Principles of SEO

In a nutshell, SEO refers to a strategic process that’s intended to increase a website or web page’s rankings within search engine results. For example, if you run a painting company in New York City and have your own website, of course you want potential customers searching for a local painter to stumble across your site first. When using a search engine to find a local painter, a prospective customer is likely to type in a query along the lines of “painting company New York City.” Upon doing this, they’ll instantly get thousands of results returned to them, but the companies they’re most likely to work with will be the results that show up on the first page.

SEO refers to the strategies used by business owners and their marketing teams to ensure the highest search engine ranking possible. There are a few basic principles that come into play when it comes to a website’s search engine ranking.

Backlinks

A backlink refers to a link on another website that directs people to your website. Backlinks establish credibility because they indicate that somebody found the information you posted on your website to be valuable and helpful. In turn, they’re great for boosting your search engine results and your site traffic. However, it’s important that the backlinks you receive are legitimate and genuine, as today’s search engine algorithms will be able to determine if they’re not.

Furthermore, when you post content to your website (whether it be a blog post or even some basic web page content), you’re encouraged to backlink to other reputable sites and resources where appropriate.

Keywords

In addition to backlinks, the strategic use of keywords can also come in handy when it comes to boosting your SEO. Specifically, incorporating keywords or phrases that your prospective visitors are most likely to search for can help to increase your rankings for those terms. Going back to the painting company example cited above, naturally incorporating common search terms such as “painting company New York City” into your web content would be a wise decision from an SEO keyword standpoint.

However, it’s important to be careful with your use of keywords. They should be incorporated as naturally as possible into your content and should never appear spammy. Otherwise, this can actually hurt your SEO more than anything else. There are some helpful tools out there, such as Google AdWords, that can help you conduct research on popular search terms and find out what your prospective customers are searching for when they come to sites like yours.

Meta Descriptions

Another important component of any SEO strategy is your web page’s meta description. Ideally, each page on your site should have its own meta description, which essentially provides a short summary of the page itself. Meta descriptions are shown immediately underneath your website’s link on the search engine, so a well-written meta will encourage readers to click on the link and visit your site. For this reason, using engaging and actionable language in these descriptions is helpful.

Image Tags

Another commonly overlooked component of SEO is the image tag. For every image you have uploaded to your website, it should have its own HTML tag that identifies what it is. This way, the image can be indexed for search engine inquiries. All too often, website owners don’t think to tag their images and, as a result, they never get indexed and thus never show up in the search engine results.

These are just a few of the key components of search engine strategy, though this is by no means a comprehensive list.

The Origin and

Evolution of SEO

It wasn’t until the mid 1990s that the first search engines really began to take over the Web. When the first search engines came out, getting a website indexed and displayed in the results was as simple as submitting the website URL or page URL to the search engine itself. From there, the search engine would index these pages and display them in their relevant search results.

As website owners began to see the value in having their pages indexed and being prevalent in search engine results (and as the number of websites began to grow exponentially), things started to get competitive. This is where “black-hat SEO methods,” as we know them today, began to be used by website owners and marketers across the globe.

Black-Hat SEO

Over the years, as website administrators began to figure out how search engines were using their information to rank websites, they began to strategize and use methods to increase their rankings within the search engines in questionable ways. One of the most common examples of black-hat SEO was the use of keyword stuffing; before search engine algorithms were as advanced as they are today, website owners could essentially “stuff” their content with relevant search terms in order to increase their rankings in the results. This would lead to extremely spammy content that wasn’t useful to site visitors but was effective in terms of SEO. Keyword-stuffed content is something you’ve probably seen before (as it wasn’t until a few years ago that keyword stuffing really began to lose its effectiveness) and would typically look something like this:

“If you’re looking for a reliable painting company New York, our New York City painters can help. We’re here to assist you with all of your New York residential painting needs!”

Other black-hat SEO techniques involved copy-pasting (plagiarizing) content from other pages, spam comments (comments from “bots” with backlinks to the site pasted into the content itself), and article spinning. The latter refers to a situation where rather than plagiarizing web content, the content is run through an article-spinning program that automatically changes the wording while keeping the keywords. The result is an often poorly written and difficult-to-read article or blog post that has no value to the reader.

As the years progressed and search engine algorithms became more sophisticated, black-hat techniques were able to be easily spotted by search engines and the websites could be more easily “punished” (de-indexed). As a result, these kinds of sketchy SEO methods aren’t widely used today—at least not by website owners and search engine marketers who have kept up-to-date with the changing times. Some of the most important algorithm updates that have changed SEO as we know it have included the Google Panda update of 2011 and the introduction of Google Penguin in 2012, both of which served to penalize websites that used duplicate content or other manipulative techniques to increase search engine rankings.

The Current

State of SEO

Today, search engine rankings and SEO marketing still play an important role for any website looking to be competitive. However, there’s been a shift away from black-hat SEO strategies and towards the use of white-hat methods. There has also been a significant shift towards the importance of mobile search, as the number of mobile search engine inquiries recently surpassed the number of desktop searches in mid-2015.

White-Hat SEO Strategies

These days, website admins and marketers looking to legitimately improve their search rankings should exercise white-hat SEO strategies; these are universally accepted and approved methods to increase search rankings in a way that’s useful to the average Web visitor. While specific guidelines can vary from one search engine to the next, most search engines are in agreement that white-hat SEO involves creating websites and web content that’s:

  • easy for users to navigate
  • descriptive and keyword-rich without employing keyword stuffing
  • full of unique, useful content

In other words, rather than focusing on stuffing keywords into your web content, you’re better off focusing on writing content that’s truly useful and valuable—not to mention unique. Rather than publishing another simple blog that’s been done a million times before by your competition, try to come up with a new angle that will catch your readers’ attention and encourage them to come to your site. This is extremely effective, especially in today’s world of social media. Creating shareable content that has the potential to go viral is one of the best things you can do for your SEO. For example, rather than another blog post on “How to Choose the Right Painting Company,” how about something new and fresh, like “5 New Painting Trends for Spring 2016”?

Furthermore, now would also be a good time to assess your site’s usability and make sure that it’s easy to navigate. You might consider hiring a company to help you conduct usability testing, which will allow you to get an unbiased account of how easy your site is to navigate and how user-friendly it is overall.

Importance of Mobile-Friendliness

In addition to offering quality content, it’s also extremely important these days that your website is optimized for use on as many different mobile devices as possible. Recently, search engines like Google have made updates to their algorithms, penalizing sites that don’t have mobile-friendly responsiveness. This is due to the fact that more people are accessing the web and conducting online searches using mobile devices now than they are using their desktop computers. This is a huge shift for the world of SEO, and if your site isn’t easily viewable or navigable on the average mobile device, your SEO is going to be hurting as a result.

If you’re not sure how to optimize your site for mobile, now would be a good time to work with a website developer; he or she will be able to help you optimize each page on your site for use across a variety of mobile devices. From there, you can avoid being de-indexed or otherwise penalized in the rankings.

The Takeaway

The Future of SEO

It’s predicted that the use of mobile devices in conducting Web searches is only going to increase as the years progress, so the importance of a responsive site isn’t likely to go away any time soon. Furthermore, it’s anticipated that white-hat SEO strategies will continue to work in web marketers’ favor, with search engine algorithms creating a growing focus on quality content.

Of course, the world of SEO is known to change quickly, so nobody knows for sure for the future may hold. This is why it’s always important for website owners to stay up-to-date on algorithm changes and other developments as they’re announced. Often times, these changes are announced months in advance so that website owners and administrators have some time to update their sites before changes are rolled out, protecting them from being possibly de-indexed or otherwise penalized on the launch date.

Overall, there’s denying that SEO plays a huge role in any website’s success. Developing and implementing a sound SEO strategy is something all website owners should make the time for and possibly even set aside a marketing budget for. With enough knowledge and time, some website owners are able to handle their own SEO. However, it’s becoming increasingly common these days for website owners to hire outside marketing companies to handle their search engine strategies—especially considering how often SEO can change and the high demand for relevant, quality, and timely content.

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