Search engine optimization (SEO) is
a set of methods aimed at improving the ranking of a
website in search engine listings, and could be considered a subset of
search engine marketing. The term SEO also refers to "search
engine optimizers," an industry of consultants who carry
out optimization projects on behalf of clients' sites. Some commentators,
and even some SEOs, break down methods used by practitioners into categories
such as "white hat SEO" (methods generally approved by search
engines, such as building content and improving site quality), or "black
hat SEO" (tricks such as cloaking and spamdexing). White hatters
say that black hat methods are an attempt to manipulate search rankings
unfairly. Black hatters counter that all SEO is an attempt to manipulate
rankings, and that the particular methods one uses to rank well are irrelevant.
Search engines display different kinds of listings in
the search engine results pages (SERPs), including: pay
per click advertisements, paid inclusion listings, and organic search
results. SEO is primarily concerned with advancing the goals of a website
by improving the number and position of its organic search results for
a wide variety of relevant keywords. SEO strategies may increase both
the number and quality of visitors. Search engine optimization is sometimes
offered as a stand-alone service, or as a part of a larger marketing effort,
and can often be very effective when incorporated into the initial development
and design of a site.
For competitive, high-volume search terms, the cost
of pay per click advertising can be substantial. Ranking well in the organic
search results can provide the same targeted traffic at a potentially
significant savings. Site owners may choose to optimize their sites for
organic search, if the cost of optimization is less than the cost of advertising.
Not all sites have identical goals for search optimization.
Some sites seek any and all traffic, and may be optimized to rank highly
for common search phrases. A broad search optimization strategy can work
for a site that has broad interest, such as a periodical, a directory,
or site that displays advertising with a CPM revenue model.
In contrast, many businesses try to optimize their sites for large numbers
of highly specific keywords that indicate readiness to buy. Overly broad
search optimization can hinder marketing strategy by generating a large
volume of low-quality inquiries that cost money to handle, yet result
in little business. Focusing on desirable traffic generates better quality
sales leads, resulting in more sales. Search engine optimization can be
very effective when used as part of a smart niche marketing strategy.