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Search Engine Optimization: A Primer

SEO is an extremely popular topic with clients of any web design studio. And even more so with clients in the hospitality industry, as googling for hotels is a common way to find accommodations.

The following is an introduction to how Search Engine Optimization works.

For the most part, search engine optimization (SEO) tends to be something of a black box to many of you. I have some background in this practice, so I’ve fielded a lot of the same questions from many of our clients. I thought I would take this opportunity to write a little primer for you that you may find useful.

Anyone with some basic HTML skills can do some of the following work themselves. However it’s not something I recommend because it requires a significant investment in time, the right software and tools, up-to-date knowledge, and experience. Having an expert manage your SEO campaign is usually a better way of obtaining and maintaining search engine rankings – especially if you are in a competitive market. You can also do some serious damage to your hard earned rankings if you run afoul of any of the rules, which tend to change over time as search engines become smarter. If you have a very limited audience and operate in a small market (e.g. purple panda pants from Bolivia), then by all means follow these simple rules and you’ll be on your way to the top of the search engines.

The Basics

Google accounts for about ¾ of the search market, so for the most part we will focus on issues pertinent to them. However most search engines operate much in the same way, so anything good for Google will typically be good everywhere else.

Search engines rank websites according to a complex, mathematical algorithm only known to the search engine. This algorithm is updated on a periodic basis in order to deliver more accurate search results, and to combat the effect of those trying to unfairly manipulate their rakings. Those who engage in deceptive practices, and their tactics are commonly referred to as “black hat”. An example of this would be having content visible only to the search engine bots, or creating link farms to boost relevancy. Everything we do, and that of our partners would fall under the “white hat” designation, as we are very cognizant of the deleterious effect this may have on our client’s rankings.

Search engine algorithms are continuously tweaked by very smart people. And by “smart people”, I mean people much smarter than you and I. It’s much the same as investing money – there is no magic formula, and anyone who tells you otherwise is usually trying to make a quick buck. Basically it’s an elaborate cat and mouse game between the search engines and SEO practitioners.