Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
The subsequent chapters in this will deal with the understanding of Search Engine Optimisation in great detail, including the techniques, tools and other resources that are available on the Internet for a Webmaster to use to optimise their websites/ WebPages or even Blogs. But, before we get into understanding the actual business of Search Engine Optimisation let us spend some time in understanding how it became an art, then a science and then a complete business by itself.
Initially, it was relatively very simple to get your website listed or even figure right on top of the directories list, since the early directories were only using the on-page factors to index data. Therefore, it didn't take long for people to figure out that just by using the right keywords and putting them in the right places, in the right quantities, could get their websites on the top of the page at will. This led to rampant manipulation of the search results by unscrupulous websites and individuals since the search engines, in those days, mainly utilized the input provided by the webmaster.
However, it was not long before the search engine companies realised that the results were being manipulated and that the problem had assumed such gargantuan proportions that the search results were no longer being relevant. It so happened that the unscrupulous elements continued getting their own websites on top even when the search query was totally irrelevant to the website. Quite obviously, the success of a search engine solely depends on the quality and relevance of search results provided by it and if the users realised that a particular search engine was not meeting their needs, they would have no qualms in shifting their loyalties to another search engine. As a result, couple of search engines just collapsed as they struggled to fight the problem.
Google tried to control this problem of rampant manipulation by introducing the concept of Page Rank. Google, along with a few other major search engines, used the incoming links to a particular page to measure the importance of that site or page. But, unfortunately, this step too lost its credibility as people became wise to the usage of links to their benefit and started using link exchange, paid links, and link farming to get their sites on top of the Page Rank. The search engines responded to this by beginning to evaluate the incoming links to a site or page. They now took into consideration the factors like subject or topic of the website that was being linked to. Obviously, more weightage was given to a page if it linked to a website with a similar topic and ranked it higher as compared to a link that is totally unrelated to the topic of the website it is linked to, and in such a case the incoming link would have no value at all.
Google, by virtue of its popularity, was in a position to dictate terms and hence hammered the websites that promoted manipulation of the search results. In fact, there have been instances where Google completely banned some SEO companies and their clients. Major industry giants like BMW and Ricoh also faced Google's wrath for indulging in unfair practices. As the technology developed, algorithms improved and the search engines started considering more and more on-page and off-page factors to decide the ranking of a page. The inclusion of more metrics in the algorithm not only improved the user experience but also ensured it was more difficult for people to crack the algorithm and hence manipulate the results. Some say that today Google uses more than 200 factors to rank a site. Page Rank as introduced by Google has lost most of its significance, and is now only one of the factors amongst the many.
Google recently started personalising the results based on user history, location, etc. and therefore, ranking of pages may not have any consequence on the results delivered to the user. The catch here is that the user has to be logged in for the personalised search to work and most users do not log in every time they search for something. But, again, this is not a very big problem for the search engines since they can easily insist on users to log in for using their services. Search engines have also introduced the real- time search, which gives as much importance to the freshness of content as the uniqueness.
What Search Engines Want
As it has been proven time and again, during the evolution of search engines, tricking search engines into ranking pages have only produced short term results, but the risk involved with this is enormous since in the long term the strategy may end up in one losing credibility as well as favour with the search engines.
The term Search Engine Optimisation was coined around 1997, even though the optimisation was being done before that too. In the spirit of the term, search engines want one to optimise the site to help their process of searching, indexing and delivering results. In essence, the search engines tells you the do's and don'ts of making your website search engine friendly. Therefore, spamming or tricking the search engine in order to manipulate the search results is definitely not part of the optimisation process.
SEO techniques can be broadly classified into two: White Hat and Black Hat.
White Hat techniques are based on the search engines guidelines for making a well-designed website and like the name suggests, Black Hat techniques are deceptive and manipulative and not approved of by the search engines.
It might sound contrary but search engines want you to:
· Market your website in a manner as if search engines did not exist
· Make your website friendly with a search engine design to help the search engine access and understand your website easily.
It is fairly simple to understand why the above points make sense. The sole objective of the search engine is to provide relevant results to their users. If a website is designed for the user, it would be simple, informative and easy to navigate. That is the kind of website the search engines are looking for and chances are that your website will automatically gain a few positions over the ones on the same topic, but not designed as well. In the same manner, if you get incoming links from genuine websites related to the topic of your website, it will garner a positive effect with respect to your rankings rather than an incoming link from a totally unrelated website. The advantage of an incoming link from a genuine website is that you do get traffic from such links as opposed to bought or reciprocated links, which do not send any traffic to the website. That is why one should avoid marketing the website with the sole aim of gathering incoming links.
A search engine friendly design means a design which is built keeping in mind the technical needs of the search engine. A good design will help the search engine communicate effectively with the website. This includes making a simple, easy to navigate website, eliminating duplicate pages and not using technology which search engines are not comfortable with and maybe avoided altogether.
A Search Engine Results Page contains both sponsored and normal results. The sponsored results are in fact "paid advertisements ". The normal search results that have been produced based purely on their relevance to the search term and ranking are called organic search results.