SEO stands for ‘Search Engine Optimization’, which is what individuals, companies, or anyone with a website do to make their site show up in search engine results at a higher ranking.
Ranking decides whether your website is going to show up on the first 10 pages of the results or pop up way back somewhere. This means that when people type in a certain term or keyword in a search engine, as they usually do when looking for something, the sites with the highest ranking show up in the first 5 to 10 pages. Considering how many millions of sites there are and what a vast and expanding place the Internet is, it is important that your website have a high-ranking and thereby a high visibility. Most net surfers usually don’t have the patience or the time to search beyond a page, so the sites that show up in the first page are likely to get the most traffic.
Your website is usually ranked by search engines according to the keywords or content you use. If you use keywords that are searched most often, it is likely your site will stand a chance of being found more often. It also helps if your site has a user-friendly design, coding that is compatible with current programming standards, and contains high-quality, relevant content matter.
If you are not very web or computer-savvy, you can hire an SEO company to do the necessary optimization for your site. There are plenty of companies that offer SEO services, but, unfortunately, there are also many that skirt established rules and use unfair and often illegal methods to stand out in the crowd. These illegal methods are known by the term ‘Black Hat SEO’. The ethical way is known as ‘White Hat SEO’.
White Hat SEO
We’ve already seen the ethical SEO methods like correct coding, good website design, useful content, and relevant keywords. You should keep adding fresh content and keep updating your site. You should also submit your website to different search engine directories like Google, Yahoo, MSN, and others.
Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO includes:
- Sprinkling keywords repeatedly and without any logic or meaning throughout the web content.
- Adding invisible font in the same color as the background.
- Cloaking or creating doorway pages.
- Creating shadow domains which have more or less exactly the same content.
- Creating a domain name that is a close variation on the name of a successful competitor.
There are probably scores of new tricks coming up daily, but search engines are getting smarter as well and you are quite likely to get caught and penalized. You can get blacklisted from indexes for using unethical methods, which effectively means you’re not going to appear on them at all unless someone types your exact URL in the address bar. BMW once got their website kicked off by Google for bending the rules, but they are a big brand and lived; you might not. Think about it.
If you require professional assistance with optimization, it is important to hire a company that offers ethical services. Before you hire anyone, it’s a smart idea to conduct some research on them. Stay away from a company that will spam you with offers; if it’s a decent professional outfit, they don’t need to do that. Don’t fall for any promises to ‘get you No. 1 ranking on all the top search engines’. Nobody can do that but the top search engines, and usually they don’t do you any favors you don’t deserve.
Ask the company to explain exactly what they intend to do. Their SEO methods should be transparent and clear. If they have a problem with explaining all the details, you may end up with a problem at some later date. If the explanations include creating shadow domains, doorway pages, and irrelevant content, well, that’s transparent enough and you’re definitely going to wind up with a problem. Avoid these truth-speakers like the plague. Be sure to find out if they intend to get you a permanent inclusion or are merely offering temporary advertising. Get a written and signed contract at the start that details all the work to be done, contains an assurance by the company to stick strictly to ethical standards, and includes a money-back guarantee in case things don’t work out.
Keep in mind that whoever you hire for search engine optimization, it is your website in the end and it is you that will be responsible for the tactics they use.