As complicated as the search engine algorithms are, there is a basic idea behind all of them. They want the highest quality pages to show up for the keyword searched. What this means is pages that answer the users query most accurately.
They don’t want pages to rank highly for keywords just because they are overly optimized or have a lot of backlinks. This does the search engine no justice. The search engines need to make sure the pages returned are as relevant as possible so that the users using the search engine have the best experience possible.
In order to try and maintain quality Google has put out a set of guidelines for webmasters to follow.
Basically they want webmasters to put out quality content, not build backlinks and not worry much about SEO. All in all let Google figure everything out. They claim Google is very smart and as long as you are putting out a quality website your site will rank for what it’s supposed to. That’s fine and dandy for Google but they aren’t running YOUR business.
I always like to equate Google to the stock market. Slightly volatile, nobody really knows exactly what’s going to happen but they are definitely ways to do things smarter. You could just take your money, buy a few stocks without doing much research and hope for the best. Or you could do what you can to maximize your chances of seeing a good return by researching the stocks that are a good bet and putting yourself in the best position to make money.
SEO is similar. Nothing you do is guaranteed but there are definitely ways to put yourself in a better position to get high rankings for more keywords.
White Hat & Black Hat SEO
Within the SEO community you’ll hear the terms white hat and black hat thrown around alot.
White Hat SEO
White hat SEO is when you do your best to follow Google’s guidelines and play by their rules. Focusing on things like quality content and on-page optimization. By Google’s standards almost all off-page SEO is against their guidelines. So in theory, sticking to white hat SEO should result in a good, long-term relationship between your website and Google. You don’t need to worry about Google penalties or anything like that.
Black Hat SEO
Black hat SEO can refer to many things but the overall idea of black hat SEO is using techniques and tricks that try to game Google’s results or go against their guidelines. Keep in mind, these are just Google’s guidelines. By not following them you aren’t breaking any laws or committing a crime. You are just not playing fully by Google’s rules.
The most common type of black hat SEO is link building. Black hat SEO can get your site ranked higher and more quickly but with the risk of penalties and short-term gain over long-term gain. Google has had algorithm updates such as their Penguin Update that was strictly released to penalize sites using black hat techniques.
I would say most SEO’s fall into the area of “Grey hat”. Mostly following Google’s guidelines but also trying to gain an extra edge through quality backlink building. The way you approach SEO is entirely up to you. Many people have had success in both white hat and black hat SEO. It all depends on your particular business plan.
Basics of a Good Site
Google has many algorithm factors that judge what makes a good site. They’ve had specific updates aimed at finding low quality sites and demoting them, most notably the Panda Update. This should all be pretty self explanatory but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t take into account the very basics of a good website as seen through the search engine’s eyes. Things like:
- Proper spelling and grammar
- Good site loading speed
- Easy to understand navigation
- Fully functional layout
- Not stuffed with ads
These are just a few things that any good website would have. If you are missing these very basic things then all aspects of SEO are going to be much harder. You need to make sure your websites are up to snuff and professional. We will be getting more into the specifics of on-page SEO later but these basic things are an absolute must!
What we learned
In Part 2 of our SEO tutorial you should now have a slightly better understanding of how the search engines think and the basics of what they want. Let’s recap some things to remember.
- Search engines want the best possible and most relevant pages to show up in their results
- Google has a set of guidelines to follow
- White hat SEO is when you follow Google’s guidelines and play by their rules.
- Black hat SEO is when you try to game Google’s results or go against their guidelines.
- There are basic standards for a good site that are a must!
Continue on to Part 3 of the tutorial: Keyword Research.