Everybody wants to be number one. No, I am not talking about sports teams, but Web site rankings on Search Engines. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO as it it known today, is a discipline (and lucrative job if you’re well versed) that has been around since the first Search engines hit the Web. Early on, SEO was used in a desire to get your site listed at the top of search listings. Being amongst the first listings, data showed that the greater the chance you had of being clicked on. More clicks, more traffic. More traffic, more money, And so it went for early engines such as Inktomi, AltaVista, Yahoo!, and others.
When Google came on the scene a lot of things changed:
Google brought a new concept to evaluating web pages. This concept, called PageRank, has been important to the Google algorithm from the start. PageRank is an algorithm that weights a page’s importance based upon the quantity and quality of incoming links. PageRank estimates the likelihood that a given page will be reached by a web user who randomly surfs the web, and follows links from one page to another. In effect, this means that some links are more valuable than others, as a higher PageRank page is more likely to be reached by the random surfer.
The PageRank algorithm proved very effective, and Google began to be perceived as serving the most relevant search results. On the back of strong word of mouth from programmers, Google became a popular search engine. Off-page factors such as PageRank and hyperlink analysis were considered as well as on-page factors to enable Google to avoid the kind of manipulation seen in search engines focusing primarily upon on-page factors for their rankings. (from Search Engine Optimization in Wikipedia)
And so, the rules changed slightly. The requirements and algorithms from prominent search engines began to change and you were hard-pressed to stay on top of the requisites in order to achieve high rankings. Yet, over the years Search Engine Marketers (SEM) agree that much is still the same.
Search engine optimization often involves more than just rankings. By improving the quality of a page’s search listings, more users will select that page. Factors that may improve search listing quality include good copywriting such as an attention-grabbing title, an interesting description and a domain and URL that reinforce the legitimacy of the site. Some commentators have noted that domains with lots of hyphens look spammy and may discourage click-throughs.
SEOs widely agree that the signals that influence a page’s rankings include:
- Keywords in the title tag.
- Keywords in links pointing to the page.
- Keywords appearing in visible text.
- Link popularity.
- PageRank of the page (for Google).
- Keywords in Heading Tag H1,H2 and H3 Tags in webpage.
- Linking from one page to inner pages.
- Placing punch line at the top of page.
Black Hat Methods Can Lead To Black Ball
“Black hat” SEO are methods to try to improve rankings that are disapproved of by the search engines and/or involve deception. This can range from text that is “hidden”, either as text colored similar to the background or in an invisible or left of visible div, or by redirecting users from a page that is built for search engines to one that is more human friendly. A method that sends a user to a page that was different from the page the search engined ranked is Black hat as a rule. One well known example is Cloaking, the practice of serving one version of a page to search engine spiders/bots and another version to human visitors.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 review of a site.
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. (from Search Engine Optimization in Wikipedia)
As site designers and company marketers continue to strive for consumer attention on the Web, SEO will also continue to be a big part of their thinking. If a large part of our business strategy involves Web traffic you may want to invest in an SEO firm, consultant, or create an in-house position for SEO.
Sure, SEO is elusive, but with the rights tools and personnel you increase your chances of hitting a bulls-eye more often than not.