Researching a paper for school, searching for online solutions or even asking answers to random questions out of curiosity: these are all examples of why search engines have become such a big deal in our lives. Whether it is Google, Bing, yahoo or some other search engine, we have to admit that search engines have made our lives much easier. With the rise of search engines, companies, businesses and other commercial entities have attempted to exploit search engines for profit using certain SEO Techniques. In order to understand these SEO techniques, we must answer three pivotal questions: How do search engines work? What is search engine optimization? And what are some of the SEO techniques that can be used to boost visibility on search engines?
What Are Search Engines and How Do They Work?
Search engines are simply codes or software designed to search for documents based on user inquiries from the internet. They deploy certain algorithms to display the most relevant results. Basic inquiries reveal an index list of documents or web pages that best match the entered user queries. Search engines index and save countless amounts of documents and keep records of almost all articles available on the world wide web. The most important aspect or job of a search engine is collecting, analyzing and properly sorting the search results to the end users. The most successful search engines display results accurately and in a timely manner.
How do search engines work exactly? Search engines make use of software called web crawler or “spiders.” These coded programs browse the internet to store information about accessed web pages. When a spider visits a webpage, it copies its URL (Uniform Resource locator) which is the term colloquially know as a website address. After copying the URL, search engines add the address to what is known as an index list, allowing faster access for future users. Web Crawlers or spiders continuously surf the internet, copying and indexing different web pages, this is how search engines come up with results in no time.
Relevance and popularity of a web page are what determine its location on the list of results. But what exactly determines the popularity of a webpage? Simply, search engines use mathematical algorithm to determine the relevance between the users’ inquiry and the revealed web pages. These pages are then sorted by popularity or relevance.
One of the algorithms most commonly known is “PageRank.” PageRank works by sorting results depending on popularity. The more links that point to a certain webpage, the more likely that same webpage will appear among the top results. Web sites that appear on the first page of the result list are what PageRank think is most relevant to user inquiries.
Not all Search engines use the same algorithm though. Searching for keywords on one search engine will display results in different order than other search engines.
An example of how most users search or browse results for certain queries in 4 steps:
- The average internet user looks up an inquiry
- The query is then transformed into a code the software can understand
- The search engine employs its own algorithm and generates results based on relevancy of keywords.
- The user then browses titles, snippets or URLs until he/she finds answers to their previous inquiry
What Is Search Engine Optimization
You log on to your favorite search engine, type the keywords associated with your inquiry, in less than a second, your screen displays results relevant to your query. But really, how many times have you clicked on the next page or tried looking beyond the first one? A recent study revealed that 62% of search engine users rely only on results found on the first result page. The study’s findings also concluded that only 10% go beyond the 3rd page. This is one of the reasons why search engine optimization is a crucial success factor for any business or commercial entity.
SEO (Short for Search engine optimization) is a method of promoting web pages in order to increase their visibility. The visibility of a web page is determined by many factors or variables. Some of these variables include Web page loading time, quality of content and the number of specific keywords mentioned. The most important factor of promoting or optimizing your webpage is the uniqueness of the web page’s content. To define search engine optimization in simple terms; it is a number of procedures, methods or tasks that help web page developers secure high positions on the results page.
The key or purpose of any of the most common SEO techniques is visibility. Search engine optimization’s main objective is increasing traffic and visibility of the developer’s article or webpage. It is believed that one is a consequence of the other; meaning that high visibility produces high traffic to the web page. So basically, the goal here is to maximize or increase web page exposure as much as possible.
Promoting the web page and landing it on the top of the results index is reliant on a number of factors or SEO techniques that help facilitate the web page’s popularity. Keywords used, external links, website mechanisms are all examples of SEO techniques that streamline the process of promoting the webpage and increasing website traffic.
Search engine optimization techniques are practices that help boost the visibility of your website. Search engines work by posting results on the SERP (search engine results page) sorted by relevance. The relevance is based on a set of algorithms that help find and deliver the most pertinent web pages for the end user. Small businesses tend to opt for these SEO techniques because they are considered to be cheap or no cost advertisement. Since the number of internet users rarely go past the first page, it is essential to have your business appear among the first few results. So what are the types SEO techniques and how can you boost your online traffic?
There are two types of SEO techniques. There are the White hat SEO techniques and there are the black hat SEO techniques. From the name, you can guess which of these is more likely to be the correct or ethical SEO practice.
White hat SEO techniques are SEO practices that improve your website traffic or performance on search engine results pages. However, these practices preserve the morals and ethical value of search engine optimization rules. While it is true that black hat SEO techniques work faster, white hat SEO techniques are for those who wish to make a long term investment, White hat SEO practices helps your web page climb the rankings ladder slowly but surely due to the fact that the techniques are for the benefit of the human end user rather than finding ways around the search engine algorithms. The keyword here is patience. Basically white hat SEO techniques are efficient, ethical and moral website performance boosters. The practices rely on tactics to ensure that your webpage appears among the very first results on the SERP without employing black hat SEO techniques (which is basically cheating) There are numerous white hat SEO techniques that can be used for marketing or promotion purposes.
White Hat SEO Techniques
After understanding and defining white hat SEO techniques; here are some commonly used ethical practices to boost performance while coloring within the lines of morality.
Always Keep up to date:
Everyday Search engines come up with new algorithms for finding and displaying relevant content for their end users. Search engine optimization is not a one time task. In order for your web page to remain relevant; you must always be aware of any changes in either search algorithms or any differences in the method search engines choose to display their results on the SERP
- Quality Content
The most important aspect of search engine optimization is the quality of your web page. Ask yourself this. Does my webpage display the most relevant information for the end user? Is the data on my web page correct and coming from trusted and reliable sources? If the answer to both questions is yes, then you are one step closer to boosting your web page visibility. Your website may be promoting the same product or service hundreds of other retailers offer. What would make your page be amongst the first results? Having quality content is important; however it is not the only step you should take to increase your website’s traffic.
- Optimize your webpage
Website optimization is basically enhancing the performance of your webpage to meet your page’s objectives. Whether the goal is to increase sales, give out more information, speed up your webpage or increase traffic; optimizing your webpage is essential to achieve any or all of the aforementioned objectives. There are several methods to optimize your webpage’s performance. Some examples include:
- The use of media (images or videos)
- Customer reviews
- Relevant information that is of great importance to your targeted consumer.
- The ease of your website’s navigation
- The visual appeal or design of your webpage
- Using a relevant title and description tag
- Using the correct keywords to enhance the process of search engine optimization
- Avoid irritating ads
- Adding a search bar for increased ease of navigation
- Appropriate Keyword Use
One of the things that can help boost your position within the search engine results page is using the relevant keywords in places that matter. Yes, the position of keyword does matter. Let’s say you’re writing an article about online marketing. Your title should contain your main keyword (e.g. Why online marketing is the new trend or “Online Marketing 101”). Another position that search engines look for is the headers of your articles. Again when writing about online marketing, some of your headers should include your main keyword; in this case your main keywords should be incorporated with some of the headers in your article. However, it is important to know the difference between using the right amount of keywords and “keyword stuffing” which is a black hat SEO technique that could lead to your website being flagged as spam by certain search engines. This black hat SEO practice will be discussed later on in the article. The last location that search engines consider is at the top of the article. In this case try using your main keyword in your introduction and again in the first paragraph.
- Mobile compatibility
Nowadays, people use their phones to search for certain topics as much as computers. Search engines like websites with phone compatibility. These search engines tend to show results that are compatible with phones in earlier pages when researching topics via cell phones. There are some websites you can use to test how compatible your website is on cell phones.
Metadata is more for the search engine rather than the end user. It works behind the scenes to help boost your visibility. It is one of the SEO techniques that can either be used ethically or as black hat SEO technique. So what exactly is metadata? Metadata is among the first aspects that search engines look into before displaying results. If the metadata used on your webpage matches the keywords used on your webpage or article, your website has a higher chance of appearing among the first results in the SERP. Irrelevant keywords used in metadata will flag your website as spam. To keep it simple, metadata is the information your webpage uses to communicate with search engines about the content of your webpage. Having irrelevant or no metadata will make your visibility suffer greatly; even if your content is top notch.
- Outbound Links
In early 2003 google designed an algorithm to determine whether certain web page contains all the necessary or relevant information sought after by the end user. How exactly does this algorithm work? The google designed algorithm (named Hilltop) reviews all external links in the article or website. If these external or outbound links are relevant and come from a trusted source, your page is considered a hub of information. Having your page as an information hub makes it more likely to appear on the first pages of the search engine result pages. Simply, the outbound links you use on your webpage determine whether or not your article or website is relevant to your title and to the end user. Feeling doubtful? Check out this study that proves the relation between using external links and boosting your website’s traffic.
- Inbound links
Inbound or internal links are references to other pages within the same domain or website address. Not only do they increase your visibility on search engines, they can also redirect the end user to more articles on your website; boosting traffic on multiple pages for your website. Here’s the thing though, the only link that matters to search engine analytics is the first one you use. When referring your online visitors to internal pages on your websites, make sure the first link you use is the most relevant one. This is what helps with the search engine optimization and brings you another step closer to the top of the SERP.
- Put more emphasis on the end user experience
Remember, ethical or white hat SEO techniques are long term investments. It’s like playing the long game. You might not see much results at first, but in the end, you will notice an exponential increase in online traffic. So, what does it mean to focus on the end user experience? Instead of thinking how to trick search engines into showing your webpage first, make sure that end users enjoy and benefit from visiting your webpage. New and smarter algorithms are being developed every day. Giving your user satisfaction and the information he/she is looking for more will help build loyalty and may lead to subsequent visits from the same user or even recommendations. Giving your visitors an overall good experience is what matters on the long run. You can achieve this by having a nice website design, an easy to navigate web page or a higher quality content with less annoying ads.
Should you use white hat SEO techniques to improve our online visibility and traffic? The short answer is yes. White hat search engine optimization practices are ethical, sustainable and guaranteed to help your web page climb the ladder if done correctly. Some companies do resort to what is known as black hat SEO techniques. These kind of practices work on the short run but are more likely to get your website flagged as spam and disappearing from search engine result pages.
Black Hat SEO Techniques
The darker side of search engine optimization, the black hat SEO techniques. From the name, you can probably guess that black hat search engine optimization practices are immoral, unethical or plain evil. Using these techniques is basically an attempt to cheat the system. Some SEO companies utilize this method for short term high search engine rankings; making illegitimate profits. The good news is that these unlawful SEO techniques are short term at best and sooner or later are discovered; making the page’s owner suffer the consequences of attempting to cheat the system or the end user. Why are black hat SEO techniques usually unsuccessful? Let’s say you’re looking for information about gym routines. You visit a webpage that is among the first to appear on the SERP. You find information that is irrelevant, ads for gym equipment and sports gear. Are you likely to visit this website again? Probably not. The ever-evolving nature of search engine algorithms is catching up to those tricksters who think they can fool the system and the consequences are not easy. When caught using black hat SEO techniques, your website is likely to receive reduced rankings, get flagged as spam and get removed from search engine result pages. Here are some of the most used black hat search engine optimization practices that people use to get around the system.
- Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing refers to a method of overusing a certain keyword in order to appear higher up on the search engine result pages. In the end, your content ends up looking unnatural and just plain ugly. Search engines have already developed counter mechanisms to counter this unethical practice; so it is no more likely to work as it once did.
- Invisible Text
Using a web page with a white background, you enter the desired keyword in white font. This gives the appearance that you are not spamming or stuffing. It is not visible to users but is easily spotted by search engines due to the fact that search engines look into the HTML code of the webpage rather than the actual content. This makes it harder for black hat SEO techniques users to implement this immoral system
- Stuffing your alt image text
Alt text or alternative text is data written when including media in your webpage. The text is not visible unless you attempt to read the webpage’s HTML code. ALT text is used by the visually impaired since they cannot see the pictures and is also seen if the media used fails to load correctly.
- Bridge pages
Bridge or doorway pages are deceptive links that when clicked on, redirect you to other irrelevant websites for advertising purposes.
- The Bait and Switch
The bait and switch trick was one of the more popular black hat SEO techniques. It works by creating a page with all the relevant information; all on the up and up. After reaching a higher ranking, the content is completely changed. This leaves the webpage with its former high ranking but gives users irrelevant information by tricking them with the URL or title.
- Webpage Cloaking
Website cloaking works by writing two types of content. One is for the search engine bots and the other is hidden ads for the end user. This method tricks search engine bots by using legit content in the beginning then switching content for monetary gains.
- Abusing Snippets
Snippets are a good way to attract visitors to your page. However, by posting irrelevant information in your snippet, you’re tricking the user into visiting a website that is unrelated to his/her needs.
Which SEO User Are You?
Are you Looking for quick online traffic or are you investing in a long term successful webpage? Answer this question and you’ll know which SEO user you are. It’s easy to abuse the system, but should you really? As simple as it is to exploit the algorithms, it is easier to get penalized or even banned from SERPs. White Hat SEO techniques are for users who can tolerate the wait and are looking to profit on the long run rather than capitalizing on today. Do the ends justify the means when it comes to search engine optimization? Should I misuse the system and trick the end users for short term rankings and profits? Black or White; whichever one you choose, your website, your business or your blog ends up paying the price.