Michael, a researcher, has been assigned to do a study on Asthma. He opened his computer, logged on a search engine, and typed the word “Asthma”. Millions of results were returned. And the first on the list among the endless asthma-related links is the luckiest since Michael is more likely to visit that website. However, that luck is not a product of chance; but by the newest internet marketing wonder, the process called Search Engine Optimization.
Being on, or near the top rank entails a technical process called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. Search Engine Optimization is the method of increasing the traffic to a specific website via search engines using natural means. In simple words, it is making sure that people will access a website by making it on the top of the result list. However the method of making this possible is not as simple as it may seem, it is a complex process of editing page contents and HTML codes, among other highly technical means.
The history of Search Engine Optimization can be traced as early as mid 1990’s, when search engine companies began cataloguing the web. However, it was only in 1997 that the exact phrase Search Engine Optimization was first used. Initially, the ranking was determined by Meta Tags, or the label submitted by web creators as a guide regarding the content of their web pages. However, this ranking process was widely abused by unscrupulous developers who intently maligned the users by inaccurately misrepresenting their Meta Tags leading to irrelevant data.
It’s like dying rotten meat red to make it look more fresh, or telling a shopper that a box of cereals contains chocolate chips when actually, it’s cornflakes! Understanding this flaw, Stanford graduate Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed the search engine, Backrub, which used the algorithm Page Rank, a system relying on the probability that a webpage can be reached by a random surfer by following links from one site to another. This made Search Engine Optimization not just a Meta Tag system, but also a dynamic search as well. Page and Brin eventually founded Google, one of the most dominant search engines on the Web.
To date, Search Engine Optimization focuses on improving both off-page and on-page factors (such as keyword appearance, Meta Tag labels, site structure, and headings and links configuration), since search engines nowadays are so meticulous in their ranking process to prevent exploitation. But no matter how complex that process is; some people still find ways to manipulate the system through massive link spamming and keyword stuffing. These people are called the Black Hat SEO’s, the villain of Search Engine Optimization.
Other unacceptable techniques Black Hat SEO’s are using are text hiding and cloaking. As a punishment, search engine companies have the prerogative to either temporarily or permanently ban these deceptive websites, which uses trickery in their Search Engine Optimization.
On the other hand, White Hat SEO’s are the good guys. They use organic, algorithmic or natural methods to increase their site’s “hits”. These are acceptable forms guided by search engine’s policies. In fact, White Hat SEO’s goal is better user experience than content deception; very different from the Black Hat SEO’s objective which is simply to increase the number of site visitors.
In truth, Search Engine Optimization is a very lucrative industry. Most of the time, web owners fuse the expertise of I.T. specialists and market strategists just to deliver the result they want. It is true that the World Wide Web is a good place to sell your business; however, SEO is not always appropriate to all websites. Other marketing strategies such as the conventional advertisement through media may prove more effective than SEO when selling beauty products, real estate, among others. In the end, it all depends on the goal of the site operator. And sadly, Search Engine Optimization is not the magic pill for ill businesses.