Search engine optimization or SEO is important for businesses in nearly all industries.
SEO means making sure that company content is prominent on the web, and that it comes up higher in search result listings for major search engines such as Google. But SEO is implemented in very specific ways, with a somewhat complicated method, and in a very technical context. There are some common terms associated with SEO that business leaders should know in order to better understand how this practice works.
Here are six of the basic terms associated with SEO that help to explain how marketers push their results to the ‘top’ of the web.
The Search Engine Results Page or SERP is the page that shows up when someone enters a search term in a search engine. In Google, you’ll see a list of 10 results. Additional results are handled on successive pages, which means that users are much more likely to click into a company’s site if its results are on the first page.
Analysis of Search Engine Results Pages has led to a kind of “arms race” in SEO as companies scramble to compete for this highly visible web space.
One of the guiding principles in SEO is related to what industry experts call “white hat” and “black hat” SEO. White hat SEO means following the rules provided by Google, working intelligently and with an eye toward quality for a web readership. Black hat SEO means using unethical or dishonest practices to ‘game the system’ and push search engine results that are usually only temporary. Google and other search engines crack down on black hat SEO with more complex algorithms that sort out pages that are stuffed with metadata and keywords, and that don’t really have quality content.
Keyword stuffing is a major part of black hat SEO. Experts describe this as the practice of jamming keywords into pages where they don’t belong. Keyword stuffing in text makes the result look less readable and less logical. Keyword stuffing in tags and metadata may not affect the quality of the text, but it’s still considered ‘gaming the system’ in terms of SEO.
Link bait is a web page that is solely designed to attract incoming links, without really offering value to readers. Link bait and associated linking practices are also a major part of what’s considered black hat SEO. Google wants links to come from organic relationships between high-quality sites, not ‘pay for link’ practices, sneaky back linking or other less reputable types of hyperlinks between web sites.
Sock puppet marketing is a somewhat more complicated term in web marketing. It relates to even more sophisticated marketing practices where companies use false identities to try to boost visibility. For example, in sock puppet marketing, one employee of a company might create 10 social media profiles with different names and pictures. This makes it look like that one person is 10 different people — and they can use this to post positively about the company, put comments on web sites, create links to other sites, and do things that are not actually natural and organic marketing, but based on deception.
Rich snippets is mostly considered a form of white hat SEO. It involves the use of icons, text enhancement and other visuals to make search engine results look better. Because these are not considered deceptive in how they affect SERP results, they are largely considered kosher by Google, and creating rich snippets is a way to actually improve content without resorting to black hat SEO practices.
Learn about the impact of SEO on your small business in the video below: