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A Student’s Guide to Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

| April 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

Search Engine Optimisation, usually referred to simply as SEO, is the practice of individually optimising web pages to make them as visible to search engines as possible.  SEO is divided into two separate areas known as ‘on-page’ and ‘off-page’ optimisation. 

On-Page SEO

  Keywords are used throughout the HTML source code of the page as well as within in the textual content visible to users.

The <title> tag shows on search engine results pages (SERPs) as the page title.  HTML Headings <H1> to <H6> are used to indicate the level of importance of content underneath them.

ALT tags for images are used to offer a written description of images on the web page.  There are two reasons for using them, firstly because search engine crawlers are unable to ‘read’ images without them and secondly to increase accessibility for users.

‘Content is king’ is a much-used phrase where SEO is concerned, but it has to be the right sort of content.  Written content should be of good quality in terms of spelling, grammar and punctuation as well as having relevancy to the keywords contained within it.

Physical web page layout has also gained importance, especially where landing pages are concerned.   Pages which contain a lot of advertising and very little or ‘hidden’ content are penalised by search engines.  A good rule of thumb is to place relevant content ‘above the fold’, so that it is visible to the user without the need for vertical scrolling.


Off-Page SEO

This subject has a big crossover with online marketing strategies.  Tactics for off-page SEO are largely concerned with the area of link building, which is also referred to as inbound marketing and its methodologies.


White Hat and Black Hat SEO

In life there are two sides to everything and SEO is no exception.  The terms ‘white hat’ and ‘black hat’ were coined from old TV westerns where the colour of the actor’s hats determined if they were ‘goodies’ or ‘baddies’.

White Hat SEO is otherwise known as organic or ethical SEO and it focuses on using techniques and tactics that are approved by search engine regulations.  It also focuses on the human audience and ensures that web page content provides a good user experience.

Black Hat SEO is the complete opposite and is entirely focused on obtaining higher search engine rankings using unethical methods which are contrary to search engine rules and regulations.  Black Hat uses tactics such as keyword stuffing, link farming and brand jacking.

SEO is a very volatile subject and advice given today can be wrong tomorrow following even a small search engine algorithm adjustment.  Anyone involved in SEO needs to keep abreast of the news on a daily basis and one of the best ways to do this is by subscribing through RSS to some good quality blogs.


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