What You Should Know About SEO
If you are a business with a website, chances are you’re familiar with search engine optimization, or SEO.
But what is SEO exactly, and why does good SEO matter?
SEO is a process through which a website is optimized to improve its visibility among search engine results. In addition to having the right keywords on your site, there are other factors that contribute to SEO such as content and overall design quality.
There are also a lot of misunderstandings about how SEO actually works, and shady providers who don’t always engage in best practices. Here are a few common misunderstandings about SEO:
Black Hat SEO vs. White Hat SEO
There are two approaches to SEO, commonly known as Black Hat and White Hat, depending on whether they are ethical SEO practices or not. Black Hat SEO includes practices such as keyword stuffing and other practices that try to outsmart the search engine, tricking it into ranking your site higher. White Hat SEO, on the other hand, are ethical practices that allow sites to earn their ranking by providing relevant content that the search engine will want to rank higher, because search engines want to show users their most relevant content.
A lot of people think that Search Engine Optimization is about having the right keywords throughout your site. But stuffing your site full of keywords, especially keywords that might be popular but are actually irrelevant to your content, isn’t going to help with SEO.
The thing about keywords is that yes, they matter, but no, not as much as you might think. Practices like keyword stuffing, where your content is essentially “stuffed” with keywords instead of focused on providing relevant information, is no longer effective. In fact, search engines like Google can recognize practices like this and penalize websites that use them. Furthermore, long-tail keywords (meaning longer phrases instead of a word or two) are becoming more important to rankings, because search engines want to provide the most relevant information to users. Despite the risk of being penalized for Black Hat SEO, some companies still engage in such practices because it offers short term gains – but over the long term, the risk isn’t worth it.
Effective SEO takes time. Some companies offering Search Engine Optimization services might try to guarantee a page one ranking within a few months. While this may be possible, it depends on your starting point and how much work needs to be done to get there. In many cases, an organic page one ranking within a month or two is not possible when following best practices – unless you’re already on page two, then maybe.
Effective SEO is not a quick fix, but a long-term strategy. If you’re serious about going through the proper SEO process, budget 6-12 months at least. Also, watch out for companies that promise organic page one results in a short time for only a few hundred dollars. They’re probably using black hat Search Engine Optimization practices in an attempt to “trick” the search engine, such as keyword stuffing or duplicating pages, which could actually damage your online presence.
These are links elsewhere on the internet that link back to your site. The best backlinks are from trusted, quality, credible sources, offered freely instead of having been purchased. Backlinks from untrusted or spammy sources aren’t going to help your SEO.
Despite this, some Search Engine Optimization providers might still engage in such black hat practices as paying for links, participating in link exchange programs, where sites create link pages that link back to each other, or link farms which are fake sites created to inflate the popularity of a link. Despite the fact that search engines have gotten smarter and can detect such practices, there are still SEO providers out there who engage in such practices.
If you are consistently adding credible backlinks (versus suddenly adding thousands of backlinks that you paid for), Google will recognize the relevance of your site and it will contribute to a higher ranking.
When looking at Search Engine Optimization providers, it might be tempting to go with the company that offers a low price and quick results. And while your site may benefit in the short term, you risk being penalized in the long term. Once your site has been penalized it becomes even harder and a lot more expensive to rank – you’ll end up with a lot more headaches and a lot more money going out the door. Knowing what to look for and making a smart choice from the beginning will mean better results – and you’ll avoid ending up like JC Penney.