SEO is an abbreviation for “search engine optimization.” It refers to the method by which sites navigate the algorithm which decides their placement on search pages. There are several factors which decide how highly a webpage is ranked and there are some abuses which websites will be penalized for.
Making good content is often forgotten by those who become concerned with the minutia of search engine optimization, but it is actually a major factor which the algorithm uses to rank websites. Frequently covered subjects, such as basic food recipes or clothing among others, are not favored. Articles, even those that do not plagiarize, which bear heavy similarities to existing articles either in their wording or content are not highly ranked either.
One would think that a computer algorithm might have a difficult time discerning between content which people like and that which they don’t, but this is another factor which decides a site’s placement. The engagement a user has with a site’s content is measured in the time a visitor stays on site. If someone takes the time to read an article, the algorithm will notice and rank the article more highly.
Those who are focused on improving their ranking will talk primarily about links. Links are the main method by which the algorithm decides a website’s validity. Content which cites links to official sources such as .gov, .edu or any media outlet sites will be ranked highly because the site is assumed to provide true or widely accepted facts. Links to smaller websites are still accepted but less valued as there is a higher chance of misinformation involved.
The best way of employing links is not linking to other sites, but being linked to. Sites which are frequently cited or referred to not only gain traffic, but also validity, as it is assumed that there is a level of trust which other sites have for your content.
Social networking is still relatively new, yet, as social networking sites are constructed to proliferate content, although usually personal, to as many people as possible, companies and websites have quickly created promotional social networking accounts. The algorithm doesn’t rank linking on social networks as highly as links or citations from other websites, but the increased exposure and opportunity for a piece of content to go viral is worth the low to non-existent cost of entry for most websites.
To prevent abuses of these techniques, Google has two penalty systems called Penguin and Panda. Essentially, these two systems work together to eliminate a myriad of malpractices. Some of the major violations are link spamming and keyword stuffing.
Link spamming refers to those who spread links to their website throughout comment sections and forums on other websites. The penalty system will quickly pick up on this behavior and your ranking will be permanently damaged. Paid links and link trading are in the same category. Paid links are when a website pays another to include links to their content, and link trading is when two websites agree to include links to each other’s content.
Keyword stuffing is when a site repeats phrases or words they expect a possible customer to search for many times over, often to the detriment of their content. This will also be penalized.
There are many other violations, but most them are more blatant attempts (such as giving the algorithm a false page to penalize). Search engine optimization is an important tool in this day and age, but there is no need to overdo it. Be sure to do your research and hire a reputable SEO firm.