SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, as you may already know, is the process of editing your web pages’ content in order to move the page up in the rankings on search engine websites like Google. To do so, information is encoded in the website telling search engines what type of information the site contains. Keywords are included in the body, headings and title of the page to show that your content is focused on a specific topic. Images are named with titles relevant the keywords, and the length and readability of the text is measured. Linkage is also important; the more links to your website present on other high-quality sites, the higher up you will appear on search results. Basically, the idea is to show Google that your page is the best source of clear, focused information on a particular topic.
SEO can be a complex maze of keywords and codes, and the number of times that Google has changed the way it ranks search results does not make keeping up with SEO any easier. With every new change comes new SEO requirements for businesses hoping to make their way to the top of the list. However, while these updates may frequently change the ways in which we structure our SEO information, the changes so far have been very helpful in letting legitimate websites with good content climb the list.
Where SEO has been
SEO was originally very simplistic and did almost nothing to stop spam from reaching top results. Take the following picture as an example.
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This is the fourth result when you enter the search term “food” on Pinterest. This is an example of a very primitive and unintelligent SEO system. By repeating the search term many times, this photo has found its way to the top of the list. The content is not relevant to the search term, and it hasn’t been repinned many times. What is earning it the top spot is the lazy, poor-quality repetition of the search term. If this was the way in which Google organized its results today, you would never find any of the information you were looking for!
Thankfully, in recent years, Google has overhauled its algorithm (the equation it uses to determine where your website appears in search results). Two major updates which were introduced in 2011 were the Panda and the Penguin (each of which has been further updated several times since). The Panda looks for websites using the same technique as above, simply repeating a keyword many times and creating “thin content”, and penalizes them as spam. The Penguin seeks out websites which have been linked to many times by link farms – websites which have no content and exist only to attempt to boost SEO ratings – and punishes them by moving them lower in search results. Microsoft’s search engine Bing has also made similar changes to its algorithm and works to remove websites with thin content completely from their search results.
Where SEO is going
In our experience, SEO is an invaluable tool for guiding potential customers to your website from search engines – but only when used honestly. Using “black hat” SEO tactics such as filling your pages with keywords instead of content, or paying link farms to promote you, may sneak you up a bit higher in results, but it only does so by compromising your website’s quality and making your business look disingenuous. SEO is best used to help people who are looking for you find your website – not to trick them into visiting it. If your content is interesting and intelligent enough to keep visitors coming back, sneaky SEO tactics won’t be necessary, and you’ll keep getting visitors for the right reasons.