Most people have heard of SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, and might even know a few of the basic principles, but SEO is actually very in-depth and constantly changing. So, do you really know what SEO is?
SEO is a long term online strategy designed to improve your website's ranking in organic search results when people search for your brand, product or service via a search engine like Google, Bing and Yahoo.
In the early days of SEO, it was very much about optimising your website's meta-data, such as title tags, meta keywords and building countless links to your website. As time went on, SEOs went overboard with 'over-optimisation' and 'keyword stuffing' the same phrases into all meta-data and then link farming spammy links to increase the link profile. This was obviously no longer the best option to deliver users with the best search engine results and things began to change.
It is fair to say that while the fundamental principles have remained the same, SEO now also extends beyond this and now includes elements such as a site's design, structure, speed, usability (UX), as well as quality link building.
While SEO is built on optimising for targeted keyphrases or keywords, it's not about 'stuffing' your website with as many of these keyphrases as possible in order to try and improve your ranking for that keyphrase. As mentioned above, this 'black hat' tactic used to work well, but as search engines grow ever more sophisticated, they now pick up on keyphrase stuffing tactics and will penalise websites that do this. The best way to go about keyphrase usage on your site, is to ensure you content flows for the reader and is less about keeping the search engines happy.
Inbound links are a great way to measure positive 'online word of mouth', as the more links that point to your site, the more favourable your site will be perceived by others (including search engines). While this is true, we now have excessive link building (even link farming), where the inbound links to your site are irrelevant, spammy and mass produced. These are of course red flags for any search engine and can do a lot of damage to your SEO. The best way to build a link profile nowadays, is to submit your business into relevant directories with unique content, along with an engaging social media strategy and a few guest posts in industry blogs. When it comes to link building, remember it's quality over quantity!
A first page search engine ranking is not the be all and end all of your SEO campaign like it once was. These days, a lot of black hat SEO firms will guarantee first page Google rankings which is crazy for a couple of reasons. Firstly, no body can guarantee a first page Google ranking (even Google says so itself!), and second of all, these keyphrases are highly likely to be irrelevant to your business and will turn people away from your website the moment they click through. Another important factor about rankings is that, if a visitor is serious about a product or service, they will click onto the next couple of search engine pages and find you. While the pool of people might be a lot small who do this, at least they will be of a higher quality and more likely to purchase with you.
SEO is not going anywhere but like anything, SEO has evolved, and will continue to do so well into the future. While the fundamentals of SEO will always remain, it is important to remember that the goal of search engines is to deliver the best UX possible to their end-user, the searchers. This means that SEO is now about finding a balance of search engine friendly content with a user friendly experience, and employing tactics to abide my search engine's constantly changing algorithm updates.
While it is possible to run a successful SEO campaign in-house, it is always a worthwhile investment in hiring an SEO Specialist to keep on top of these changes and to put forward regular recommendations so that your business can keep on reaping the benefits. SEO is not a set and forget strategy, but one that requires ongoing work each and every day with a finger on the search engine pulse.