What is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO)is a subset of search engine marketing, and deals with improving the number and/or quality of visitors to a web site from "natural" (aka "organic" or "algorithmic" search engine) listings. In effect, SEO is marketing by appealing to machine algorithms to increase search engine relevance and ultimately web traffic. This is analogous to foot traffic in retail advertising. The term SEO can also refer to "search engine optimizers", an industry of consultants who carry out optimization projects on behalf of clients.
SEO strategies vary widely, in accordance with the specific site. Broadly speaking, SEO may be geared towards increasing either, or both, the total number and quality of visitors from Search Engines. The quality of a visitor can be measured by how often a visitor using a specific keyword leads to a desired conversion action, such as making a purchase or requesting further information.
Search engine optimization is available as a stand-alone service or as a part of a larger marketing campaign. Because SEO often requires making changes to the source code of a site, it is often most effective when incorporated into the initial development and design of a site, leading to the use of the term "Search Engine Friendly" to describe designs, menus, Content management systems and shopping carts that can be optimized easily and effectively.
A range of strategies and techniques are employed in SEO, including changes to a site's code (referred to as "on page factors") and getting links from other sites (referred to as "off page factors")
Some SEO History
The first mentions of Search Engine Optimization do not appear on Usenet until 1997, a few years after the launch of the first Internet search engines. The operators of search engines recognized quickly that some people from the webmaster community were making efforts to rank well in their search engines, and even manipulating the page rankings in search results. In some early search engines, such as Infoseek, ranking first was as easy as grabbing the source code of the top-ranked page, placing it on your website, and submitting a URL to instantly index and rank that page.
Due to the high value and targeting of search results, there is potential for an adversarial relationship between search engines and SEOs. In 2005, an annual conference named AirWeb was created to discuss bridging the gap and minimizing the sometimes damaging effects of aggressive web content providers.
Some more aggressive site owners and SEOs generate automated sites or employ techniques that eventually get domains banned from the search engines. Many search engine optimization companies, which sell services, employ long-term, low-risk strategies, and most SEO firms that do employ high-risk strategies do so on their own affiliate, lead-generation, or content sites, instead of risking client websites.
Some SEO companies employ aggressive techniques that get their client websites banned from the search results. The Wall Street Journal profiled a company that allegedly used high-risk techniques and failed to disclose those risks to its clients. Wired reported the same company sued a blogger for mentioning that they were banned. Google's Matt Cutts later confirmed that Google did in fact ban Traffic Power and some of its clients.
Some search engines have also reached out to the SEO industry, and are frequent sponsors and guests at SEO conferences and seminars. In fact, with the advent of paid inclusion, some search engines now have a vested interest in the health of the optimization community. All of the main search engines provide information/guidelines to help with site optimization: Google's, Yahoo!'s, MSN's and Ask.com's. Google has a Sitemaps program to help webmasters learn if Google is having any problems indexing their website and also provides data on Google traffic to the website. Yahoo! has Site Explorer that provides a way to submit your URLs for free (like MSN/Google), determine how many pages are in the Yahoo! index and drill down on inlinks to deep pages. Yahoo! has an Ambassador Program and Google has a program for qualifying Google Advertising Professionals.