Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is the process of crafting a web page so that it will be highly visible to the various search engines on the Internet such as Google, Bing, etc. Through the use of carefully chosen keywords, related search terms, and backlinking a web page can be optimized for high ranking on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). With a little common sense, a web page can be given a few minor alterations to help increase its visibility.
Keywords and Keyword Phrases
A keyword is a word or a phrase that someone would be expected to run a search query on through a search engine. The search engine then attempts to return to the searcher the web pages that are the most relevant and authoritative regarding the keyword that was entered.
- Bicycle Parts
- Where to buy a mountain bike in Longview California
All of these are keywords or phrases that a user might type into a search engine. If a web page designer is creating a web page about bicycle parts, then he will need to spend some time thinking of the keywords that potential users will search on. By understanding how people are looking for web pages about bicycles parts then it becomes easier to make the web page he is designing more attractive to the search engines.
When a search engine scans a web page, it not only extracts the keywords on that page it also looks for terms that are related to the keyword that was entered. A related term is a word or phrase that is commonly associated with or used alongside the keyword or phrase that was searched on.
For the keyword of Bicycling, some example related terms might be:
- Mountain Bike
- Replace a bicycle gear
This allows the search engine to distinguish between web pages that are about bicycling and web pages that just happen to mention bicycling. A search engine is only as good as the results it sends back to its users so it is in the best interest of these engines to work as hard as possible to make sure that someone searching for bicycle parts gets a page mainly about that subject.
The frequency of the searched keyword or phrase in conjunction with the use of related terms on the same page help determines a web page's relevance to the subject. In the Google SEO Tips, Google says to think about the words that a searcher looking for your content will use, whether they are new to the subject or a long-term user. Experience users may use more acronyms while a new user might type out the entire phrase, such as "National League Championship Series" rather than "NLCS".
In addition to carefully choosing keywords and related terms to place on a web page, designers must also consider how to obtain backlinks. A backlink is a hyperlink to the new web page that comes from another web page somewhere else on the Internet. A web page that has a high number of backlinks from related pages is considered "authoritative", a concept that is becoming more and more important in Search Engine Optimization as search engine technology evolves.
A backlink is only as valuable as the page it links from about the page it links to. If the designer creates a page on bicycle parts and then another user links to that page from a page about video games, then the search engines will not give much weight to that backlink. However, if the backlink to the new page comes from another page that is also about bicycle parts then the link is given more weight.
The weight of a backlink is often referred to as the "quality" of a backlink. A backlink that comes from a page that is related and has a high relevance and authority in and of itself is much more valuable than a backlink from an unrelated blog that has only been around a few weeks.
If a web page has several high-quality backlinks then it is considered an authority site on the subject and will appear higher in the SERP than sites with low quality or fewer backlinks. Obtaining backlinks ish a key part of SEO that many unscrupulous practices have grown up around it. The search engines are aware of these practices and actively filter out worthless backlinks and may penalize a site believed to be engaged in "black hat" SEO. The SEO Starter Guide warns against spamming other sites' comment boxes and purchasing artificial backlinks.
Most website owners are familiar with unsolicited email advertising SEO services, usually coming from unknown SEO companies promising the sky and more. Sadly enough, many website owners are also familiar with the results of falling victim to an SEO scam, with their reputation permanently damaged and their advertising budget has gone. But what are the most common SEO scams to be aware of?
Guaranteed rankings for any keyword
Anybody offering you guaranteed first page rankings for any keyword of your choice should make your scam alarm bells go off. There is no way anybody can guarantee first-page rankings in Google for any keyword. Those who do often try to scam their clients by:
- Showing pay per click advertising as if it was organic results
- Editing the screenshots shown as "proof"
- Disappearing as soon as your money has cleared in their bank account
Thousands of directory submissions
Is somebody asking you to pay hundreds of dollars for "thousands of directory submissions"? Unless you get a list of those thousand potential directories and you can check out their value, you may be spending your money for nothing. Even if every little bit helps in terms of linking, paying to have your website in some obscure directory with zero relevance is not a good investment of your SEO budget. Would you pay somebody several hundred dollars to write two lines of text and click a button on an automatic directory submission tool?
The first page of Google in less than 24 hours
The only way somebody can get you to the first page of Google in less than 24h (or any other arbitrary timeframe) is by buying paid advertisement slots. However, that is different from organic search engine positioning, and your first page in Google will vanish as soon as the PayPerClick budget is gone, along with the "SEO expert" who set it up.
Thousands of links to your website
Buying links is generally speaking frowned upon by search engines as a way to trick the system. However, buying links in bulk is even worse since the links you will get are often spammy blog comments, entries in totally unrelated directories, and forum posts with no relevance. Even if all the links you are being offered were do-follow and passed around page rank, your website may be harmed by being closely associated with spammy sites and link farms. Do you want to pay for that?
This is not strictly a scam but could lose you money in any case. You are talking with a very promising SEO expert, who seems to know what he is talking about and answers your questions about SEO … but when you ask him about previous work samples, it turns out he cannot name any client because they are all confidential. The only proof that he has done something more than reading a couple of SEO books is a sample website, optimized for such terms as "how to nurse your pet blue butterfly back to health after winter." Unless somebody is willing to show you proof of work, do not pay in advance and demand proof of results before paying, or you may as well end up paying for nothing.
Putting it All Together
When designing a web page the designer has to consider how other people are going to find it. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short, is the process of making the web page easier to find for people looking for information on that page.
By using keywords that users may be searching for and combining them with terms related to that keyword then the web page can be written to have a high relevance score. By obtaining backlinks to the page from other relevant, authority sites, the new web page can obtain a better authority. Combining these factors will help a page obtain a much higher SERP listing than a page designed without addressing these points.
SEO scams are becoming more widespread with the increased relevance of organic search traffic and the competition for those coveted first positions on the search engine result pages. Before paying anybody or letting them tinker with your website make sure their promises are not too good to be true, or you may fall victim to an SEO scam and lose money, reputation, and potential clients.