What is search engine optimization?
By now you should have a good understanding about how search engines work, search engine usage, how to use a search engine, and what are search operators. In this lesson you will start to learn what search engine optimization is and what terms are important to know.
Search engine optimization or more commonly referred to as SEO is the process of optimizing your website to drive free (organic) traffic from the search engines and maximize online visibility.
Search engine optimization is not a set number of rules or guidelines that are presented to webmasters to follow. It is the practice of making a technically sound and user-friendly website that contains valuable and unique content.
What WAS search engine optimization in the early days?
In previous years, search engine optimization was commonly abused by most webmasters and marketers by stuffing content with relevant keywords. This process was commonly referred to as “building a website for search engines” and webmasters were able to “game” the system. The modern search engines have evolved to detect fraudulent marketers who simply stuff content with keywords and now look for high quality content that is relevant, but truly optimized for the human user. The basics of search engine optimization in the early days involved over optimizing the following variables:
- Meta Data
- Page Titles, Meta Descriptions, Meta Keywords
- Extremely high keyword densities (Keyword Stuffing)
- Manipulative link building (automated poor quality backlinks to your website)
While these variables still remain important in today’s SEO strategies the process of optimizing them has changed to some degree. In order to rank high in search engines for the keyword “Black Dress” you would simply place that keyword in the all the different variables as many times as you could regardless how it sounded or the quality of the work.
The next step would be to generate hundreds of links to your website that contained the anchor text Black Dress. Google now looks at that page on your website and sees that black dress is an extremely important part of the page and hundreds of other websites are also linking to your website with the keyword black dress so Google assumes that it must be a very important page about black dresses.
This process worked for some time, but once black-hat or unethical SEO’s figured out that they could simply take any page on their website and stuff relevant keywords in the content and get other websites to link to that page with those same keywords and rank high in the search engines the process became less validated.
What is search engine optimization today?
Google quickly realized that they needed to make a change to their algorithm that would move these low-quality pages down in the rankings and reward those pages that are of high quality. This change was a process that started in 2011 and continues to develop as we speak. In lamest terms Google wants to find websites that are technically sound with high quality unique content that provides value to the user.
For example, if this guide is essentially the exact same as every other SEO guide and in addition filled with advertisements and unnecessary fluff would it really provide any true value to the user? Google in 2011 announced the Panda or Farmer update that essentially discounted all websites that had thin content, high advertisement to text ratios, content farms (low quality article directories), and variety of other quality control variables.
Does this mean you no longer need to optimize variables like page titles, meta descriptions, and content with relevant keywords? No, in fact it is still very important to make sure all variables are relevant to the page you are optimizing. It simply means just adding keywords to add keywords will do you know good and can in fact hurt you if Google deems it is web spam or fraudulent search engine optimization. Let’s take a look at some of the SEO variables in the graphic below and in the next lesson we will go more in depth about each variable.