In 1998 a couple of college students started a search engine out of a garage and the internet was never the same. Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google and changed the way websites were found in search engines. Since that time, users began trying to learn how to attain a higher ranking. Google helped to change how early SEO was done by leveling the playing field.
“In the wake of unethical optimization tactics, Google took charge on developing a more level playing field for brands and content producers to earn rankings. This period brought many updates that penalized bad linking practices and keyword stuffing to improve indexing.”
To learn more, and get a brief overview of SEO history, check out the article at SearchEngineLand.
No more keyword stuffing
The search engines began to offer guidelines for getting your site visibility and tactics that did not adhere to the guidelines became considered deceptive, and the industry began calling it black hat. Tactics that did not try to deceive search engines and followed the guidelines became known as White Hat.
Therefore, various deceptive practices such as hiding keywords on the page or using high profile keywords that have nothing to do with the page, have become penalized by search engines. In other words, follow the rules or lose search engine visibility. An approach that users still use, mistakenly, is keyword stuffing. Google defines it this way:
"Keyword stuffing" refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site's ranking in Google search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group, or out of context (not as natural prose).”
Our approach today should represent a less deceptive based process and a more holistic approach.
Three Legged Stool
I like to look at SEO as a three legged stool. The seat of the stool represents your website. The three legs represent something different. The first leg is Onsite Optimization, the second Social Reputation and the third leg Content Equity.
Onsite Optimization is the process of optimizing your website to interact seamlessly with the search engines. Often, the process involves a series of technical tweaks that we make to work with Google. In addition, their certain content arrangements that help such as heading tags, meta descriptions and keywords for various pages.
Social Reputation is how much value your website has based on how it associates with other websites. Think of this like networking. If you are connected, friends even, with someone in your industry who has an enormous credibility, it gives you tremendous credibility as well. When a website with a lot of value links to a page on your website, this gives your website credibility as well. Managing and nurturing this value is called backlinking.
In the past, backlinking was far more about quantity than quality. This has flipped and quality is far more important now. In fact, links from low quality, or even spammy, websites can decrease your value. The age of your domain matters as well. This is kind like the person who has been around a while and has gained some wisdom as a result.
Another element of Social Reputation is social media. How social media affects SEO is not as widely known, however, it is easy to see that content shared across multiple platforms can be considered as something that is valuable and, therefore, more link worthy.
Content Equity is building value for your website based on the valuable content on your website. It does just that, it gives your website equity which drives your value for search engine purposes. In some ways, Content Equity can be the fulcrum of the entire process. You can have the other two things in place but not see any real results without content.
The better the quality of content, the better the value. If you write content that is useful and valuable to your consumers, this benefits them and, in turn, benefits you.
When trying to determine what kind of help you need in regards to Search Engine Optimization, it is best to know what your goals are. Traffic for traffic sake is a mistake as it leads to extremely low conversion rates. The ultimate goal is conversion, leads and customers. Without those, you will close business sooner than later.
Thus, SEO isn’t just about getting traffic, but it is getting the right traffic to your site.