Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine's unpaid results—often referred to as "natural", "organic", or "earned" results. In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users; these visitors can then be converted into customers. SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, video search, academic search, news search, and industry-specific vertical search engines.
SEO is not an appropriate strategy for every website, and other Internet marketing strategies can be more effective like paid advertising through pay per click (PPC) campaigns, depending on the site operator's goals. Search engine marketing (SEM), is practice of designing, running, and optimizing search engine ad campaigns. Its difference from SEO is most simply depicted as the difference between paid and unpaid priority ranking in search results. Its purpose regards prominence more so than relevance; website developers should regard SEM with the utmost importance with consideration to PageRank visibility as most navigate to the primary listings of their search. A successful Internet marketing campaign may also depend upon building high quality web pages to engage and persuade, setting up analytics programs to enable site owners to measure results, and improving a site's conversion rate.
White hat SEO utilizes techniques and methods to improve the search engine rankings of a website which don't run afoul of search engine (mainly Google) guidelines.
Black Hat SEO exploits weaknesses in the search engine algorithms to obtain high rankings for a website. Such techniques and methods are in direct conflict with search engine guidelines.
Website SEO Audit
An SEO audit can come in varying levels of detail and complexity. A simple website audit can be as short as a few pages long, and would address glaring on-page issues such as missing titles, and lack of content. On the other end of the spectrum, a comprehensive website SEO audit will be comprised of dozens of pages (for most larger sites it will be over one hundred pages) and address even the tiniest of website elements which may potentially be detrimental to the ranking-ability of a website.
At the most basic level, an SEO audit should address the basics covered in our Basic SEO Tutorial. With a basic audit, a website owner should expect to receive a well thought out guide for not only fixing elements of the website which are not search engine friendly, but also guidance for going beyond addressing issues, and making marked improvements in areas of content, link development, and overall organic search strategy.
It is important to realize that even though having a search engine friendly website is the first crucial step towards attaining improved rankings, there is no guarantee that the implementation of recommendations from an SEO audit will catapult a website's rankings to the top of search engine result pages (SERPs). Search engine optimization results take time, and require diligent maintenance in order to produce reliable, and stable rankings.
On-page (sometimes called on-site) search engine optimization is the process of implementing the necessary changes as recommended by an SEO audit. These changes can be implemented by the website owner (if they have the capability) or an SEO company. On-page SEO should be part of all SEO packages, as it is the foundation up on which a successful SEO campaign must be built. On-page SEO addresses a variety of fundamental elements (as they relate to SEO) such as page titles, headings, content and content organization, and internal link structure. As mentioned in the previous section, to find a basic list of the areas that on-page optimization should cover, please refer to the WiSEO SEO Tutorial.
As with a website SEO audit, there are basic, as well as comprehensive services when it comes to on-page search engine optimization. At the most basic level, an on-page optimization campaign can be a one-time project which includes recommendations developed through an audit, and the implementation thereof. This type of on-page optimization would generally target the home page and a few other important pages on the website. More comprehensive on-page search engine optimization campaigns will use the findings of a highly-detailed website SEO audit, and monitor results to guide ongoing changes to the on-page optimization.
Even though on-page work does not need to be updated in many cases (e.g. when the site has evergreen content), it is recommended that the website and the content being published therein be audited on a regular basis to uncover potential problems which may creep up through website updates and changes.
SEO Content Development
SEO content development is the process of creating website content which can come in a variety of forms, including text (e.g. articles, whitepapers, essays, research documents, tutorials, and glossaries), infographics (information graphics), PDFs, searchable databases, web tools, and the like.
As you will note, the traditional definition of content (i.e. articles) is no longer appropriate, since content comes in many forms. It is also important to realize that depending on your niche, not every type of content would be suitable for your website.
'SEO content' is also a misnomer (it was not before); content which can impact search engine friendliness positively should be more accurately described as "high quality content", which will in turn make earning and acquiring links much easier.
When looking for content that is going to help your SEO efforts, it is crucial to look for high quality content; or more accurately, find people who are able to develop such content. Seeking out 'SEO content' can lead to content that is jammed full of keywords without much consideration for quality.
SEO content writing as a service can be useful, if shortcuts are not taken, and the content is not expected to perform magic. Well written, interesting and useful content will inevitably be found, and get attention on its own merits; however, it also helps lay the foundation for a successful link development campaign.
Link development is one of the most controversial and often talked (written) about topics of the search engine optimization industry. Since backlinks are the most vital component of any search engine optimization campaign, and at the same time the most time consuming and consequently most expensive (assuming they are good quality links and not just random directory submissions and blog comment spam) part, inevitably, there are many service providers who offer inexpensive link building services in order to attract and impress potential clients. Such schemes include large volumes of directory submissions (e.g., 200 directory submissions per month), worthless blog and forum comment spam (e.g., 100 blog links per month), or article writing and submissions which result in extremely poor quality content published on equally low-quality article directories which contribute in no positive way to ranking improvements. So if someone is quoting you a $500 per month search engine optimization services which includes large volumes of directory submissions, blog posts, articles, blog/forum comments and so on, all you will be doing is throwing your money away. This is not to say that you can't get link-work for $500 per month; however, it won't be for a large volume of links.
Good quality link development work focuses on quality rather than quantity. A well-researched and relevant, good quality link is worth many times more than hundreds of free directory submissions.
The fundamentals of link building are, have always been and always will be, based on good quality (i.e., useful, interesting, entertaining, educational) content. Because if there is no good content on your site that people can link to, it will be very difficult to convince them to do so.
Code optimization is a service you can expect at the highest levels of search engine optimization services, as it involves an overhaul of your website HTML. The optimization of your HTML can impact search engine rankings in two ways. First, it can help alleviate code-clutter, and present your content in an easy-to-understand (for machines, that is, search engine algorithms) format. Second, it can help reduce the load-time of your website pages, so that search engine spiders don't have to wait around while your page loads (because it's too long, or has too many images, etc).
A comprehensive search engine optimization campaign will have all the above elements, but it will also incorporate other important services such as keyword research, ranking reports, traffic reports, and conversion tracking.