Definition:

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the visibility of a website within a search engine’s search results. The more frequently a site appears at the top of a search engine’s search results list, the more visitors the site will receive. Many search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) utilize “organic” or unpaid search results based on the website’s web presence.

Web presence is measured using a few different types of algorithms based on both relevance and importance. It is important to note that while most search is derived organically, most also incorporate some level of paid search returns in their results. Strictly organically, there are generally three ways to improve site search engine site visibility:

• Site Content: Search engines review the content of each website to correctly organize their results. Accordingly, website content needs to be clear, subject relevant, and accessible.

• Keywords: Most search engines employ automated web crawlers that parse sites looking for particular words. Therefore, site owners must provide the most appropriate keywords so that these crawlers can do their job

• Links: The number of times a website is referenced from an external source. Additionally, the relevance and importance of those external sites also play a factor in organic search. Social media sites such as Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter play an increasing role in search relevance.


SEO History:

When search engines first started organically cataloging the web in the mid 1990’s, content providers began optimizing sites to with maximizing site relevance in mind. Initially, content providers merely notified a search engine and they would send a “spider” to the web address to index the contents of the page and store the site contents on the engine’s server.

When this method of cataloging became no longer practical, more advanced methods with more complex algorithms were employed. Today search engines no longer store site contents and search algorithms have over 200 different components (which are a closely guarded secret at each search engine). Additionally, several engines now return results also based on user preferences and previous search history, thus complicating search optimization even further.


Types of SEO:

There are two broad classes of Search Engine Optimization: white hat and black hat methods. White hat methods tend to be long lasting and conforming to the guidelines of each search engine. It involves no deception or misrepresentation of the relevance or importance of the website.

Black hat SEO methods attempt to disguise the true importance or relevance of the site by employing techniques that are discouraged or disapproved by the search engine. Examples of these methods include the insertion of hidden text or hiding existing text to “trick” the search algorithm into believing the website should be ranked higher. If a search engine determines a website is employing black hat techniques they can de-list the site from their search directory.


Advantages:

• As a marketing method, SEO tends to be a very cost effective way to reach engaged customers.

• It builds on an existing website investment. If an organization has already built a website, it only makes sense that they would want to take full advantage of this investment by channeling as many people to the site as possible.


Disadvantages:

• Some SEO methods can end up pushing un-qualified or unwanted traffic. If the site is memory intensive this can slow, or even prevent the site from loading.

• It can lead to more spam which can disguise the true importance of the website subject.