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SEO

SEO is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is a particular subset of the field known as SEM (Search Engine Marketing) which deals specifically with the way different search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing, choose to rank websites for certain key words or phrases when people search for them.

For example, if you Google ‘New York City restaurant’, what comes up? Why are the businesses on the first page there, and the ones on page 10 in their spot? This is the sort of concern SEO is designed to address.

Performing SEO on a website helps it to rank higher for keywords and phrases, which are specifically targeted during an SEO campaign. There are four major components to a successful, long-term SEO campaign. They are:

• Initial Research, Setup, and Configuration

• On Page Factors

• Off Page Factors

• Persistent Management & Analysis

Actually executing an SEO campaign is largely a technical exercise in deploying these 4 elements correctly. You come up with an initial idea or hypothesis, then perform market research. If the research indicates that you can get a decent ROI by initiating a campaign, you then proceed to design and execute it.

The first steps are closely related to web design and development, and are called on-page factors. These include things like making sure to have meta descriptions of the content accurately set, and to properly use the alt attribute with the images within your site. On-page factors also deal with the design and structure of the content itself; this is where factors such as keyword density and keyword prominence are addressed as well. The important, defining characteristic of an on-page factor is that it is something over which the site publisher has control, and can change at will.

Off-page factors, on the other hand, consist of things that the site publisher cannot control. This could mean, for example, which other websites choose to link to his content, or whether or not a local reporter decided to contact him for an interview.

The most important part of off-page SEO is link building. A large part of the credibility of a website in the eyes of search engines is who else is linking to a site. Websites which have multiple links from the U.S government, Google, or anyone else with an immensely authoritative site are automatically considered more trustworthy than others, and consequently get rated much higher in the SERPs (Search Engine Rankings Page, the actual placement of a site for a specific keyword phrase.)

Other off-page SEO factors could include using article marketing to promote the site, or creating link bait such as infographics, mini-eBooks, or other promotional content intended to drive up interest in the site using other platforms to spread the message.

Finally, there needs to be an ongoing critical analysis of the campaign. As the SERP results change, strategy and budget need to be adjusted. A/B testing should be in constant use, alongside new content development and deployment throughout the entire length of the SEO campaign.

White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO

White Hat SEO consists of techniques which are accepted as ethical to practice by the community at large, as well as the search engines themselves. White hat SEO is typically more expensive and time-consuming to achieve results with, but you will not run the risk of being penalized by the search engines as you are not breaking any rules.

Alternatively, Black Hat SEO is a set of techniques which can produce great results, but they do so through unethical or manipulative means. For example, one obsolete black hat technique called 'keyword stuffing' consisted of having websites filled with pages consisting of nothing but the keyword the site was attempting to rank for in the SERPs, over and over. While Google has evolved beyond the point where that particular technique can fool it, black hat techniques do remain in use. They are not recommended for any reputable business to employ, as they run the risk of being de-indexed by the major search engines if it is discovered that they are employing these abusive techniques.

Components of a successful SEO Campaign

Initial Research, Setup, Configuration

The initial research phase is where you assess the ROI on a campaign, and see whether or not it is worth undertaking in the first place.

Typically research begins when a website decides that it would like to rank better for a certain phrase, or set of phrases. Research is then performed using specialized software, which is able to report on things such as how many users, both globally and locally, searched for those particular worlds within a given time frame.

It is then possible to extrapolate a basic measure of how valuable a particular word is to a business, and they can then decide if the expense of a campaign in order to improve their ranking is worthwhile.

For some businesses, such as those with a brick-and-mortar presence, capturing the search engine market can been seen as a sideline to their primary business. But even these businesses can often benefit from what is called Local SEO, which focuses on improving their SERPs specifically for people in the immediate area of the business itself.

Other businesses, such as the popular affiliate product sale model which is seen on hundreds of thousands of websites across the globe, rely almost exclusively on search engine traffic for their sales, so their ROI calculation can be quite different from a business tied to a physical location.

Once the decision to undertake the campaign is made, the software used to conduct it should be selected, set up properly, and configured correctly. There are all sorts of different SEO tools and software packages available, ranging from all-in-one solutions to extremely specialized tools designed to analyze very specific things.

On-Page Factors

These factors are closely related to web design and development, and are under the complete control of the site operator.

Usually, people will again use specialized software to perform an analysis of the site, which will then generate a report on how well the site performs versus current SEO best practices. The software works by crawling the web pages of a site exactly like the search engine spiders themselves do. This makes it easy for the software to point out places where the site has errors, such as incorrectly coded HTML, or the use of outdated style code. Another important area to address for correct on-page SEO work is that you are correctly using all the supplemental data sources possible. Instead of just entering raw text into your CMS, enter the text, code the meta descriptions accurately, embed an image, and then correctly set the alt attributes and image data correctly. The difference in results you will see will be huge, in terms of SEO impact.

The last major step in correctly optimizing your on-page factors occurs on an ongoing basis, and is explicitly related to the generation of new content. Search engines like fresh content that receives fresh engagement; this means that to stay on top of SERPS an SEO campaign needs to constantly be producing new work and adding to the body of the site it is promoting.

During the production of the new content however, care must be taken to ensure that it follows current content SEO best practices. This means doing things like avoiding keyword stuffing by keeping the keyword density to an acceptable level (widely considered to be 1-2% as of May 2013,) properly implementing keyword prominence, and more.


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