Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the technique used by webmasters to improve their page rankings on search indexes with search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. Better page rankings mean more visibility for a website and thus higher traffic to the website. SEO targets a search engine’s unpaid or ‘natural’ search results.
Search Engine Optimization is important because it helps drive traffic to websites; websites in turn thrive when they get visitors. To make sure that a website has the greatest possible visibility, a webmaster will make use of SEO techniques to improve page rankings in search engines.
SEO has been in existence since 1997 when webmasters realized that they could manipulate their page rankings by using certain misleading keywords on their websites and other underhanded techniques such as buying links through link farms. Search engines had to upgrade their algorithms to combat this. To minimize manipulation, the algorithms used by search engines to rank web pages are a closely guarded secret and are changed often.
There are white hat and black hat SEO methods.
White hat methods, while not outlined in an A to Z manual, are basically methods that are approved of by search engines. Cross-linking between the pages of a website is a good SEO practice that has been proven effective. Another white hat practice is using keywords and keyword phrases that are relevant to the content of the website. These keywords should also be included in the website’s meta data, title tag and the meta description. However, one should maintain the right keyword density as keyword stuffing is considered a negative practice.
Black hat SEO practices are looked down upon and can get a website penalized or banned from a search engine altogether. Black hat methods are deceptive in nature and drive traffic to a website that does not provide information it claims to provide. Some black hat practices are: using hidden text (text that has been given a similar color to the background); cloaking; and using misleading keywords to attract visitors.
There are numerous tools available to help webmasters optimize their web pages, such as the Google Adwords tool, page analysis tools and tools for analyzing internet search trends.
The golden rule, however, is to ensure that your website provides fresh, high quality content that has actual value for the intended reader, and to update this content on a regular basis so that web crawlers have a reason to return to your website as this helps improve page ranking.