Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the rank a website has in search engine’s unpaid results. That is to say, it’s everything you do in order for your website to get listed as high as possible in response to a number of searches that are relevant to it.
Basically, SEO is based on a few factors:
- how search engines work
- what people search for
- the keywords used most frequently in relevant searches
- what search engines are favored by the targeted demographic
There are three kinds of practices in SEO that you need to know about. More specifically, there are three tiers of SEO techniques: black hat, gray hat and white hat.
What do these mean?
Black hat techniques are frowned upon by search engines and, should you get caught using any of these, you may find your website is heavily penalized via its search rank.
Gray hat techniques are somewhere in between black hat and white hat. That means that these techniques are a bit controversial and that, while some may find they’re perfectly legitimate ways to increase the notoriety of your website, they’re still against search engine rules and may result in losing rankings, should you get caught using them.
That leaves white hat techniques which are, by process of elimination, the officially acceptable methods to increase one’s rank.
Black Hat SEO
Now, black hat techniques are basically trying to trick the search engine into thinking that a site is more valuable than it actually is. These techniques are generally directed at the search engine rather than at the user. It’s very important to know what black hat techniques are, because using them can get your rank to plummet and that can seriously affect your business.
These techniques include packing code with hidden text, link farming (that’s when a number of websites all link to each other in order to spam the index of a search engine), good old-fashioned spam – spamming the comment sections on blogs with links to other websites, scraping (which is basically stealing content from other websites in order to appear more valuable to search engines), cloaking (which means getting the search engine spider to see different content than a human user would) and so on.
Grey Hat SEO
Meanwhile, gray hat techniques are viewed by some as valid techniques but they can be abused and actually have been abused before, which is why they got banned by search engines. These techniques include link exchanges, which was a well used technique for building rank that has been discouraged by search engines recently.
Another such technique is article spinning, which refers to taking original content from some other websites and rewording it, often by using software. Other gray hat techniques are buying old domains with authority and using them to link to sites that they want to promote as well as creating a different page for each keyword you wish to promote and creating microsites for each aspect of your business. All these techniques are valid, but you should take care when employing them as they can result in penalization.
White Hat SEO
White hat SEO is by far the best kind of SEO. Its payoff is by no means as fast as that of black or gray hat, but it’s much more sustainable. Once you have reached a good rank based on solid white hat techniques, it’s hard to lose that position. Some of these techniques are as simple and straightforward as the creation of good, unique content, without spamming keywords or links in every article. Others are using guest blogging as a tool to raise the profile for your website and internal linking and site optimization so that the search engines can properly and efficiently index the site.
Last year, Google made a couple of major algorithm updates that really changed the SEO game, making lots of well-established sites fall in the rankings. The two updates, Penguin and Panda, added a lot of new rules to the way sites are indexed and ranked , including penalization for badly written content, too many ads or bad links and for plagiarized content as well as taking into account fresh content (which means more than just updating frequently – it also refers to discussing trending topics or recurring events), social media and the tidiness of the website’s code.
Of the two updates, Panda focused on uniqueness of content, while Penguin concentrated on the other aspects we’ve discussed in the paragraph above. In order not to be blacklisted due to copied content, your site should have at least 60% unique content site-wide. In order to pass Penguin’s examination, you shouldn’t cram as many keywords as possible into articles any more and have as few (ideally, zero) spam links.
As you can see, the updates were primarily focused on preventing black hat SEO. That’s the whole point that Matt Cutts has been trying to make throughout 2013. He declared several times that the point of these updates is to make sure quality content gets ranked higher and that developers and SEO experts alike are too concentrated on the search engine and how to exploit the algorithm, instead of focusing on the creation of quality content.
What’s next for Google?
Seeing as 67% of all US search traffic is done via Google, it’s important what Google does with its algorithms and we can definitely be sure that any Google updates, be they simple data refreshes (that focus not on changing the algorithm, but on extending the area where it’s applied) or actual algorithm updates, will change the shape of the internet. So what’s next for Google?
Last month Google announced Google Caffeine, which is a completely new way of indexing the search. The developer preview came out this month. This new algorithm promises to make Google faster, more accurate and more comprehensive. And trust us, it works. It’s twice as fast, very accurate, more user friendly and has a larger index.
What does Caffeine mean for SEO? Well, for one thing, the algorithm has changed a lot. That means that the way things are ranked is definitely different. We do know for sure that it relies a lot more on keywords and keyword strings.
More so, it’s important to note that freshness of content is going to be even more important than before. This means that you want to post as often as you can and constantly update on trending topics if you want to climb to higher ranks. That is to say, simply, that static pages will lose ground to the more dynamic ones.
Have you given Google Caffeine a whirl? What did you think about it?