Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making one’s website search engine friendly. While there are many ways to promote an internet business, being able to obtain traffic from any of the search engines is a bonus.
Commonly referred to as “natural traffic”, the traffic does not cost the webmaster and, in fact, can be a gold mine depending on the keyword or search phrase targeted. Likewise, being in the first couple of results lets people know that the site exists, as internet users tend to use the first results available, as opposed to those at the bottom of the page or worse on the following pages.
Search engines like bing™, YAHOO! and Google™ bring internet users and websites together. Internet surfers key in search terms and phrases, then the search engine looks for relevant documents, returning the most appropriate in order of relevancy.
Both a site’s content and its programming will have an effect on the results. It is for this reason that search engine optimization is so important. In fact, without proper tweaking of a site, the results could be detrimental to the income of the business owner. In fact, it has been shown time and again that when webmasters change the design of their websites, they wonder why their earnings have dropped.
Generally, it is because they have messed with the balance of things and have not taken proper care to maintain current relationships. For example, without analyzing one’s traffic and understanding the positions a site holds for specific keywords, one will lose the position almost instantly by modifying the recipe. Moving from text links to graphic links in the navigation bar will almost always change the formula.
Moreover, although SEO is a legitimate form of promoting one’s site, dubious webmasters will resort to any conceivable methods to manipulate and influence the search engine results. These forms of SEO are often referred to as “spam” or “blackhat” techniques and are not considered “legal” by many.
Search engines actually take a negative view of these sites when discovered and often ban them outright from their results. On the other hand, “whitehat” methods usually involve creating keyword appropriate content, adding descriptive page titles instead of the website name, obtaining backlinks from relevant sites, writing proper headings, and many other basic forms of optimization.
The interesting point about search engine optimization is that there is no stated policy on what is acceptable or what should be done to reach one’s goals. Webmasters know from reading the results of others, but search engines do not publish their criteria or algorithms.
There is no official checklist or search engine primer from which to start. To make matters even more difficult, each search engine has its own processes. Being in the first position of one search engine does not equate to the same position on another search engine. But there are forums and other webmaster areas where site owners help each other by divulging information.
And today, search engine optimization has become a large business. While many individuals and companies can help webmasters fix problems on their sites making them search engine friendly, at the same time, there are so many scams advertising that they can guarantee first position results. This is simply not true, as they do not have that kind of access to the search engines.