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How Search Engine Optimization Works


SEO Obstacles
Google's Webmaster Help Center gives tips on credible SEO techniques to boost your site's page rank.
Google's Webmaster Help Center gives tips on credible SEO techniques to boost your site's page rank.
screenshot by HowStuffWorks 2008

The biggest challenge in SEO approaches is finding a content balance that satisfies both the visitors to the Web page and search engine spiders. A site that's entertaining to users might not merit a blip on a search engine's radar. A site that's optimized for search engines may come across as dry and uninteresting to users. It's usually a good idea to first create an engaging experience for visitors, then tweak the page's design so that search engines can find it easily.

One potential problem with the way search engine spiders crawl through sites deals with media files. Most people browsing Web pages don't want to look at page after page of text. They want pages that include photos, video or other forms of media to enhance the browsing experience. Unfortunately, most search engines skip over image and video content when indexing a site. For sites that use a lot of media files to convey information, this is a big problem. Some interactive Web pages don't have a lot of text, which gives search engine spiders very little to go on when building an index.

Webmasters with sites that rely on media files might be tempted to use some of the black hat techniques to help even the playing field, but it's usually a bad idea to do that. For one thing, the major search engines are constantly upgrading spider programs to detect and ignore (or worse, penalize) sites that use black hat approaches. The best approach for these webmasters is to use keywords in important places like the title of the page and to get links from other pages that focus on relevant content.

Optimizing a site isn't always straightforward or easy, which is why some webmasters use an SEO consultant. When relying on an SEO consultant, it's important to check the consultant's credentials, track record and client list. It's also a good idea to stay as informed as possible about SEO issues -- if the consultant recommends a black hat approach and the webmaster takes the advice, search engines might hold both parties accountable.

Many SEO firms are completely legitimate businesses that only follow the white hat optimization philosophy. They help webmasters tweak Web page layout, choose the right words to increase traffic, and help facilitate link exchanges between sites with complementary content. If you have a Web page that needs a little help, it's a good idea to find someone who really knows how to leverage legitimate techniques to increase your page's SERP ranking.

To learn more about search engine optimization and related topics, follow the links on the following page.


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