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One of the most widely sold Internet products is Search Engine Optimization.  Search Engine Optimization, also known as SEO are methods designed to improve the visibility of your site. The goal is to improve the rank of the website for a variety of search terms within the Search Engine Results Page of the big search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo).

Understanding what you are buying when you pay for SEO can be confusing.  In the most real sense, the addition of one word to your website could theoretically satisfy many of the SEO contracts I’ve seen.  The next few paragraphs are by no means an in-depth explanation of SEO.  Instead, they’re a brief overview that hits highlights.

Is SEO a component of search engine marketing?

Historically, SEO was part of Search Engine Marketing (SEM).  SEM encompassed both paid and unpaid efforts.  Over time SEO became synonymous with the process of getting traffic from the free, organic, editorial or natural search results on search engines.  SEM has become a term used exclusively to refer to paid search.

What you need to know about SEO

Black Hat versus White Hat SEO

Let’s start with the good versus the bad.  The difference between black hat (bad) SEO and white hat (good) SEO involves techniques used when trying to improve a website’s search engine ranking.  The explanation here could be lengthy.  In a nutshell, black hat SEO is designed for short-term gain with an inherent risk of having your website banned from the Internet.  White hat SEO techniques may take longer to bear fruit, but the impact is lasting.

Organic SEO

A proper, organic SEO strategy involves many things, but the primary focus should be on content. Creating authoritative, consistent, fresh and relevant content that includes targeted keywords relevant to user queries is the key to organic search. A site optimized by an optimization expert will typically be rewarded with a higher search engine ranking because that site aims to deliver what the user wants.

SEO and Search Algorithms

Google uses over 200 algorithms to determine who deserves to be the highest in the search results.  No one (outside of a handful of individuals at Google) knows what those algorithms are.  Do not believe it if someone tells you they have the inside track on an algorithm or when an algorithm will change or what the change will be; they don’t know. What we can assess is the impact of different SEO techniques and their effect on search results.

How much SEO do you need?

“How much SEO do you need?” is the most critical question.  But it should only be answered after the following question is asked and answered.

“What are you trying to accomplish?”

Without a clear set of goals, an optimization expert will optimize a site for their desired outcome based on research into the industry.  It’s essential that you define the result so that you can assess whether or not what you’re paying for is working.

For example, if you own a shoe company in San Diego CA and provide the optimization expert with no precise measure of success, they’ll tend to create a plan to optimize the site to rank for “shoes, San Diego CA.”  But maybe you only sell one product, for example, Adidas lacrosse cleats.  What you would like to do is draw lacrosse players to your store from all of southern California.  In that example, the SEO plan would look nothing like the first plan since the desired outcome has changed significantly.

If you’re already ranking well based on your answer to the question above, don’t pay for a service that you don’t need.  SEO in the wrong hands can create a ranking problem where one did not exist.

Ultimately, in the hands of the right company, Search Engine Optimization can provide your business with a significant competitive advantage.  Most importantly, make sure you choose your optimization expert wisely.