What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) helps your site rank higher in search results.

Simply put, SEO is a combination of strategies and techniques for increasing the number of visitors coming to your site by having your site rank higher in search engine results. With best practices established for major search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, the techniques are a science, but the strategy for identifying the right techniques for the right marketplace is an art. The highest-quality SEO includes a great deal of both.

Doing SEO yourself.

It’s easy to find resources both off- and online that can guide you through the basics, and you can see some improvements in how well your site ranks on your own. To get the best results, however, you need to devote time to learning the intricacies of of optimizing for the major search engines, each of which have  unique and constantly changing algorithms for ranking search results. You also need to stay current on those changes and adjust your SEO accordingly in order to consistently rank on the first page of the top search engines. Most importantly, you need to understand the subtle differences between quality content that achieves your SEO goals and what search engines consider “gaming” the system, which can end up doing more harm than good.

All in all, proper SEO that brings new customers to your site is worth including in your marketing strategy, but doing it right uses valuable time that you could be spending on your core business. For an increasing number of business owners, working with an SEO professional makes good business sense.

How to select an SEO professional.

A lot of people have set up shop in the SEO industry, but as with any field, there’s a very broad spectrum of quality. When exploring your options, ask potential SEO providers these questions:

  • Do you use the same SEO plan for all of your clients or develop customized plans for each one?
  • How do you measure success?
  • How often will I receive an analysis of data and report on your activities?
  • What metrics will you track and report on?
  • How often do you change and test your clients’ SEO plans?
  • How do you keep up with the changes to the major search engine’s algorithms?
  • Do you use content farms or other tools to generate content or do you create original content that’s informative and relevant to site visitors?
  • Do you offer specialized local search SEO?
  • Do you follow White Hat or Black Hat SEO protocols? (More on this below.)

Questions like these can help you distinguish among SEO practitioners who apply a one-size-fits-all process regardless of their clients’ needs, and those who take the time to understand their clients’ businesses, marketplaces and competitors before recommending any SEO tactics.

White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO and why it matters.

How closely an SEO professional follows the rules of a search engine is expressed in the industry by “White Hat” and “Black Hat.” Some may argue that it’s just a distinction of tactics and not inherently good or bad, but at Bitstrand Marketing, we think otherwise. Our definitions:
SEO Black Hat vs WHIte hat

  • White Hat SEO means following the guidelines for best practices as set by the search engines themselves and by respected SEO industry leaders. White hat SEO professionals stay focused on relevant, authoritative, high-quality content and links. Doing so means that when the search engines update their algorithms, White Hat SEO techniques in place on your site are less likely to be abruptly affected.
  • Black Hat SEO means using techniques that are against the search engines’ terms of service, such as paying for low quality links, using content farms to generate content and manipulating the content and links to make it appear that multiple unique articles exist. It’s about flying under the radar, and it has its risks, from sacrificing quality in order to rank higher, to having a site removed from the search engines’ indices altogether for breaking the rules.

Because the search engines go to great lengths to continually root out the latest Black Hat practices and update their algorithms to combat low-quality SEO tricks, we use the White Hat approach in our work with clients. Instead of trying to appear that our SEO follows the rules, it actually does. It’s what’s right for us and for our clients.

Local SEO — connecting with customers in your area.

Online searching for products and services from local businesses is today’s version of printed Yellow Pages books from the past, but for advertisers, the goal is the same: Make sure your business gets noticed among the list of your competitors. As Google and other search engines continue to develop ways to increase the relevance of search results for a local business, it’s important for business owners to understand and gain a foothold in this online space. Social media, Google+ Local, customer reviews and more are all part of a local SEO strategy, and we can help you optimize your presence online to take advantage of this great opportunity. Learn more about local SEO and what it can do for you.