Google is used more and more in our daily lives. Everyone is getting a supercomputer, aka smartphone, in their pocket. When you're out and about, need to know the hours of your closest coffee shop, Google it. How amazing is that!?
Nowadays, if your business isn't found with a Google search, YOU DON'T EXIST. More accurately, if you don't show in the first 30 results, and preferably the first 10, you don't exist. Google doesn't publish their secret sauce ingredients, or their ranking algorithm. This leaves everyone to speculate and conjecture the magic of Google.
This has created a new industry called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short. The objective of SEO is to get Google to place your website higher up in the search results than everyone else. The techniques can range from simple wording tweaks and adding relevant content, to shady, unscrupulous elixirs. Google acknowledges this industry and encourages webmasters to tailor their sites to human beings first and foremost. Google publishes articles and videos on how to work within their rules, including rules that should not be broken. What's the penalty for breaking Google's rules? At one extreme, they'll blacklist your website! These days, if your site is blacklisted, you might as well close up shop. Less drastically, they can make sure your website does not show in the top search results.
One of the original SEO techniques has been termed "link farms". The premise is that Google likes sites that have a lot of other websites linking to them. If you pay a bunch of link farms to link to your site, then Google should like your site. Google caught on to this technique and highly discourages it - they will downgrade a site's quality rank when they see these techniques employed.
The SEO industry is a lot like the weight loss industry. With the rising percentages of Americans in the overweight category, most of us could stand to lose a few pounds. So how do you do it? Different techniques work for different people. There are diets, diet books, fad diets; diet club memberships, diet meals in a box; exercise programs and workout routines; then there's the magic pills n potions. For every legitimate diet business or program, there are a few get thin quick schemes (think late night infomercials). Some products seem to claim they can make you thin by the end of the month by just taking a pill. The reality that many studies have shown is that weight loss is hard work involving a combination of diet change and exercise regimen - that produces the most successful long term healthy results.
By the same token, every website could use some tweaks and adjustments that could help in their Google ranking. Just like the weight loss industry, there are a plethora of businesses ready to take your money, and optimize your site to get it "to the top of Google by the end of the month". These companies engage in shady high pressure cold-call sales techniques followed by rule breaking techniques that can get you blacklisted from search.
There are also pure hearted SEO businesses using legitimate techniques that may help in improving your search ranking over the period of months or years. In the end, good SEO starts with a little hard work - adding content that people can read about your business and products, and networking with other like businesses. People and Google alike want to see websites that answer the basics: who, what, where, when, why. Who are you, what is your product/what can it do for me, where can I see/buy it, when can I have it/when are you open, why do I need it. By providing the answers to these questions, you may get better search engines results for your site.
See some of our other articles on SEO for practical tips and techniques.