What Is SEO?

SEO is a complex topic. But what is SEO exactly? The term SEO, standing for Search Engine Optimization, is the overarching term for all things relating to content on the internet, and how to best make it rank highly in search engine results. All of the major search engines like Bing, Google and Yahoo will show results for a search that are rated. However, payment isn’t involved with these rankings, as it is with search ads that are paid for. Results are generated by what the algorithm of the search engine prioritizes.

Google in particular is known for being most responsive to user input about what users want to see for their search results. Simply put, SEO is how to generate traffic and increase traffic via organic methods on search engines. When people search for things, they do not want to sift through twenty pages of results to find something that is beneficial to them.

Types of SEO

Potentially the best place to start when answering the question what is SEO is to discuss the types of SEO available on the market today. The approaches to SEO that are considered below each have advantages and disadvantages. While many people categorize these approaches into right and wrong, it actually depends on the customer’s needs to determine the best SEO approach.

When gauging what approach is best, it’s best to look at the desired long-term results.

  • White Hat SEO: Best for websites that want to observe steady and reliable growth. White Hat SEO uses methods to improve on the website rankings on a search engine, that doesn’t run against guidelines for search engines. White Hat SEO techniques are known for being highly wholesome. (This is very important for all businesses, including CBD) They generate reliable, usable and relevant content via high-quality content development, restructuring and optimization of a website’s HTML, acquisition campaigns for links that are supported by high-quality content, in addition to manual outreach and research.
  • Black Hat SEO: Perfect for in-the-minute kind of products. This is great for generating rapid results, but the success from this may fizzle out rather quickly. High rankings for sites are achieved by tactics that exploit the weaknesses of the algorithms of search engines. Methods and techniques that fall under the Black Hat category directly conflict with the guidelines that are used for search engines.

Black Hat techniques are not useful for generating wholesome content whatsoever. Things such as keyword stuffing, links that redirect to spam, hidden text or links, and cloaking all are Black Hat techniques that generate results that are unpredictable but quick and provide a short-term growth for a site’s rankings.

  • Gray Hat SEO: An approach that toes the line to increase the speed of success for results, without employing exact Black Hat techniques. This is middle of the road SEO in a nutshell. Because a business is highly penalized when they’ve gotten on a search engine algorithms bad side, namely Google, knowing precisely what Grey Hat SEO is and how to use its techniques effectively is crucial. There is a delicate balance between evaluating reward versus risk when using these kinds of methods and making a mistake. 

Algorithms for search engines are becoming stricter all of the time, so be sure to stick to tried and trusted SEO techniques to avoid being getting burned. All it takes is one mistake to get blacklisted by the algorithm. To be honest, genuinely defining Gray Hat SEO techniques are awkward because its practices continue to be ill-defined by search engine algorithms. It means that Gray Hat SEO can easily be a catch 22 if not done correctly. Gray Hat SEO could boost a site’s result rankings without adverse impacts, or it could end up costing a lot of money in the lost traffic because the search engine algorithm has flagged you.

How to Employ SEO Successfully

After a preliminary discussion of search engine optimization, it’s essential to find out what makes SEO practices successful or not. Knowing how to apply SEO can help you better understand what is SEO.

Black Hat SEO and Gray Hat SEO practices can seem shady because frequently they are not in line with what is considered sustainable and profitable SEO. However, search engines will examine a variety of signals that SEO practices deserve before dealing out penalties. Not creating thin or shallow content is the first step for successful SEO, no matter what approach you utilize. With user input that was highly responsive to the usefulness of search results, engines such as Google have rolled out updates like Panda, which targets explicitly vapid content. Shallow content that is found to lack substance is now more accessible to flag. As there is just so much content on the internet, this is a necessary tool and something to keep in mind. You don’t want your SEO practices to land your content in the spam content because it is not valuable enough to people.  Look at how SEO can be applied to broaden your understanding of what is SEO. These applications all work together. A fantastic HTML that has been optimized won’t do any good for a site that still has lower quality content. 

  • On-page SEO: These kinds of factors are nearly all under the control of the publisher. The type of content that is published, such as a blog, long-form or short-form content, case studies, materials that can be downloaded, research-based material often known as white papers, e-books, infographics, templates or video, are all different forms of content that can be optimized via SEO, and are typically initially chosen by the publisher. Other on-page factors could be clues that are within the HTML code, which help users and search engines determine the relevancy of your site. One last on-page factor is the overall architecture of the site. Users are looking for easy to use sites that feature information that is valuable and relevant to whatever it is that they are searching for. When defining what is SEO, think of some examples that feature strong on-page factors to help you understand. 
  • Off-page SEO: Similarly, there are off-page factors that SEO can be applied to. These are the factors that the publisher can’t directly influence. The reasoning behind including off-page factors is to help search engines by providing varied results. Some publishers have previously tried to go around certain guidelines to make themselves rank more relevant than they ought to be in reality. Link building within content and promotional methods to increase social media marketing efforts or social bookmarking are labeled as off-page SEO factors. Primarily, off-page factors help search engines factor in how the site is viewed by the world, instead of the biased view that a publisher will have. 

Weighted SEO Factors

When determining what is SEO and how it applies to content, knowing what not to do is important. While SEO is a valuable tool for everyone involved, SEO practices that try to go around the guidelines for search engines can result in a page or many pages for a site receiving a ranking penalty, or, should the practices continue, being entirely banned from that search engine. When calculating this, search engines will weight ranking factors based on user feedback and information received from the SEO community as a whole. There are many factors to consider, however. An engine like Google utilizes input from over 200 signals (1), and that isn’t even to include sub-signals, of which Google uses over ten thousand of. 

  • Quality of content: Content, whatever form a client has decided to feature on their site and needed to utilize SEO for, is the most highly ranked factor. When content is done correctly, the rest of the weighted coefficients for SEO have a solid foundation to build off of. In the example of a sales-based site, does the content go farther than just being general information that could be found on numerous other sites? Does the content on the site give people a reason to stay on the site’s page for longer than a couple of seconds? Today’s readers want information that is different and unique, information that is useful and that they won’t find elsewhere. This goes to the value of your content to users, and since what is SEO can generally be boiled down to improving the value and relevancy, is vital to keep in mind.

Research for keywords and content: After creating quality content, it is time to help to search engines pinpoint your site for relevancy. Keywords are a big part of what is SEO and are featured in the published content. When search engines scan a site page, they hone in on keywords within the material that could mean the site matches to what the search engine user is looking for. Keywords help connect users and a site with a common language. An exceptionally technical site about preventing a disease, or a site that goes in-depth on a hobby that has terminology that isn’t common might be the perfect fit for a user, but might be skipped over because a user’s query isn’t specific enough. Instead of searching for ways to avoid Melanoma, for example, a user will probably search for ways to prevent skin cancer. ‘Skin cancer’ would be the keyword that the search engine would lock onto, and help navigate the user to a site that is perfect for their query.

Keywords are a big part of what is SEO, and how it is beneficial. Proper SEO techniques require in-depth research for feedback on the best keyword to use for the topic being discussed. Keep in mind that how many times the keyword is used within the text is important too. Overuse of the keyword will result in the page for the site being skipped over, but just the right balance of keywords within the content, usually no more than fifteen times per five hundred words, is best. If your content is longer than five hundred words, a general density rating for keywords is approximately 2.5% or under.

Content freshness: Search engines prioritize new content. They can’t get enough of it. This is where SEO is most useful, for either creating new content or revamping older content so that it is fresh again. Changing the publication date of a page, or even adding a new page every day is not the right way to deliver fresh content. Besides being a hassle in maintenance, it just doesn’t work.

Part of a factor used within the search algorithms is a deserved freshness factor. This relates to how popular a topic is at the time the user is searching for it. In the midst of a particularly violent hurricane, searches for hurricane information may skyrocket, and a search engine will apply the deserved freshness factor to search results. This is one way that content that has not been routinely optimized could still rank highly. However, going back to the principles of what is SEO, after the interest in that particular topic dies down, if the content is not fresh and routinely optimized, it will not be very prominently featured.

Vertical search: This is a factor that combines content freshness with search results. Most search results will scan all of the sites available for a user’s query in a more general manner, and then display the most prominent and relevant results horizontally. Think of Google’s report of this many results found in this amount of time typically listed at the bottom of the first search results page. Vertical search is more specific, zeroing in on a segment of the overall category that horizontal results utilize. Content that is like these results could be more likely to appear in vertical results. A prime combination, of performing at the top of horizontal results and in vertical results could potentially be achieved by consistently applying proper SEO techniques.

Pulling It All Together:

When defining what SEO is, there is so much information that it can be overwhelming. Focusing on the fundamentals of SEO, and relating it to real-world examples, can help a person increase their knowledge of SEO and be able to apply it for a more thorough understanding. Look at how SEO can influence factors in a search engine’s algorithm, as well as the kinds of SEO and where SEO can be applied for good starting points to understanding SEO.

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