What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO), in its simplest terms, means getting your website to show on the first pages of search engine results pages (SERPs). The process of getting to the first pages or to that of number one is a comprehensive process - at best, as the criteria that creates higher rankings is elusive because it changes constantly. Essentially, what needs to be understood is that the main goal of SEO is to improve the quality and volume of web traffic to a website. Even in this ever changing environment, a series of proven SEO techniques can help your website achieve top rankings on a search engine results page(s). This is accomplished when an Internet user uses the search field in a browser to find information by using keywords and phrases that match those you have placed within your website pages.

From the Internet user's standpoint, the goal of the search engine optimization is to assist them with their attempt at finding specific information in the easiest and fastest way possible – by using a search engine. Once the results (page) to their search appears, they can explore links where normally those at the top of the results page are explored more because they are the most relevant to what the user is looking for.

What that means to you and your business is that SEO can improve your rankings above that of your competitors. Good SEO levels the playing field, whether for a small or large business, by placing you on the left side of the results page, where instant credibility is gained with the target audience you wish to reach. In order to achieve that, one must continually improve their website for SEO purposes.

SEO strategies vary widely because, just as every company is unique, there is no single strategy that works best for each client. Broadly speaking, most SEO strategies revolve around getting more customers to visit a website. This helps the website's conversion rate, which means increased revenue for the company. Your site's ranking in search engine results has the potential to drive a lot of business; however, tactics and changes in the marketplace require that constant monitoring be maintained to help move your business forward.

One important strategy to obtain a higher total traffic number is to use keywords and phrases and place them in the most important places of your website pages. In order to determine which keywords are most effective, you can look at the traffic data for different search queries using any number of analytic tools, the most popular is Google Analytics.

Another important strategy includes link building as in the process of creating inbound links to your website. A basic way of doing this is to create a blog where content is created on a consistent basis. This builds links internally, but also gives you the ability to attract links to your content. The more often your site is linked to by other sites, the more important your site appears to Google because you are liked.

Ultimately, what today's SEO trend seems to be more focused on are understanding your target users, producing great content, establishing your authority and visibility (the tracking the strength of your website overtime), and providing a great experience for the users of your site. This all can be derived from proper architecting of your site so that search engines can understand it.

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.