SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of making your site more visible on search engines like Google.
When a search engine finds a web page on the Internet, it reads through the page and decides what it’s about. That way when you search for “bumblebees” it can bring up all of the bumblebee-related sites, with the most important ones on the first page.
The thing is, there are going to be a lot of sites that talk about bumblebees! Some might just mention bumblebees once or twice, while others might be 100% about bumblebees.
Search Engine Optimization is the process of convincing a search engine that your site is a great site about a given topic (like bumblebees), and should therefore show up first in search results.
Google has a few ways of figuring out about whether you have the best bumblebee site. For example, if “bumblebees” appears in big headline text a lot, it’s probably an important bee site that’s actually talking about bumblebees. On the other hand, if bee talk is in tiny type down by the bottom of the page, maybe you’re just blogging about how you got stung, and Google will put your page off to the ninth or tenth page of “bumblebee” search results.
Since everyone wants to be high up in Google results, there’s a large industry based on helping you customize your site to be more visible to Google. The search engine optimization industry can be split into two major camps – white hat and black hat SEO.
White hat SEO uses processes that search engines approve of to improve your ranking. You might need to put more relevant terms on your web site so Google knows what your page is actually about, or get linked to from similar sites to show that you’re a good, reputable site.
Black hat SEO attempts to improve your ranking by deceiving the search engines. I might show a different page to Google than I do to an actual user, or pay other less scrupulous sites around the Internet to link to me. Search engines are constantly fighting against black hat SEO, and sites that use deceptive techniques are often banned from the search results!
Cocktail Party Fact
The biggest rule of thumb for white hat SEO is “content is king” – by writing frequent, quality content about a given topic, you’ll build up a reputation with the search engines for that topic. You’ll also hopefully be linked to by other sites around the Internet, lending you credibility!