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The Mysteries of SEO

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the most important element in building a successful website. Most people online have heard the term SEO and have some idea of what is involved yet it remains a mysterious process to many. One of the reasons SEO is so mysterious is that it can be a complicated endeavor and search engines are constantly changing the way they rank sites and the way the recognize the many tools of SEO.

At the forefront of the SEO check and balance system is the leading search engine Google. They have pretty much set the standard for technology in search engine algorithms that can track the relevancy of a website to its content and SEO efforts. Their ranking system remains one of the most popular methods of determining a web site’s quality because of their diligent efforts of weeding out the bad apples that have little to offer a consumer other than skilled manipulation and the ability to ‘play the system’ to their advantage.

Of course taking advantage of the system makes perfect sense from a business standpoint but from the search engine outlook of wanting to provide the best quality sites on their results for the viewer it can become difficult to differentiate the site that is good quality wise from the site that is good because it has a very manipulative operator at the helm.

Because the rules for SEO evolve and change rapidly the mystique of search engine optimization continues to confuse website owners. Many people build their websites thinking the only SEO tool they need is key word density. While key words are an important aspect in SEO they are not the only means to an end, they are simply a part of the puzzle. There is another tried and true method of SEO that is as relevant today as it was at the start of the concept of web 2.0 marketing and that is back linking. While back linking remains one of the most successful ways to get your site to rank high on the search engines it also has undergone some changes making the types of links important so that search engines do not penalize a site for bad incoming links.

The term “back link” refers to an outside link on another site that points to yours. In the past any link from another site would have a positive impact on your site by the search engines. Because there were so many gimmicks developed in the last few years to garner massive back links to websites such as link farms, and irrelevant reciprocal linking Google began to develop a way to weed out links that were purchased, or had little meaning or relevancy.

Even though back linking is used to manipulate search engine popularity there are many very legitimate reasons for using the system of back linking. Finding web sites that have a common interest to your own who are willing to place your link on their site can get you extra exposure. When their visitors come to their site they will see your link and likely visit your site as well.

The fact that onsite links like that have such a perceived relevance to the visitor makes them a valuable marketing tool, but that perception of quality is also why Google works so hard to be sure they are real quality links. You will get higher ranking on a search engine for a number of truly appropriate back linking partnerships however if the sites linking to you do not share any common information or products Google will penalize you for the link. There are new programs in the works with Google where your site could even be devalued if the site that links to you is determined to be bad quality so it is important who you choose to link to, and also who links to you.

In the past many web site owners would open up multiple websites with the sole purpose of promoting one principle site. They would use the extra websites as a means of placing back links to the main site. Google now watches for sites that are created with the same IP address. Creating a large number of websites on the same IP address and putting back links on them to quickly develop a number of links is known as link bombing. That is not to say that you cannot ever link to your own website from a site you own. If there is a reason to show your visitors some additional information a few well placed back links are fine. It is when there are many links from each site all pointing to a single ‘main’ site that the search engines look at them suspiciously.

The system Google is working hard to put in place to discount a link from a bad site is why it is very important to know who is linking to you and if their site stacks up to your standards. It is no longer true that all inbound links to your site are good links. There are very good tools available online for free that can show you who is linking to you. If you find a site that is linking to you that you feel is questionable in terms of how they relate to your website either in information or product you should contact the webmaster of the site and demand that they remove the link to your website to avoid being penalized by the search engines.

Probably the best way to obtain a back link to your site is through anchor text. That is when you have another website with content that is relevant to your own (relevancy is ALWAYS important) including your site in the actual content of their site with a hyperlink inside the text. These back links are valued much higher than a simple sidebar link as long as they appear in the text in a way that has a fluid and meaningful association with the content of the article. There are several ways to get such back links.

Providing articles to content sites with your link built into the article is one method. If you write very compelling information on your website is another as someone else with a similar site may wish to point it out on their own. You may not even realize they are doing it unless they tell you about it. This is one of the main reasons it is important to keep an eye on who is back linking to you. While the majority of those types of links are wonderful and you should thank the site owner for their inclusion, if you feel the site that is linking to you does not meet your standards, have similar information, or the content is not relevant to your site you should definitely ask them to remove your link.

Back linking is an extremely important aspect of SEO development and it is something you need to understand well in order to implement and control it properly. There are many secrets and mysteries in the SEO world that diligent study can clear up. Keeping your website in good standing with the search engines and popular with your visitors is the best way to ensure a vital and profitable future for your business online.

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About the Author: My name is Rick Youngblood, and I am the web designer and owner and operator of Spyglass Studios, Website Design. Living and working in Redding, California, I have been designing websites for seven years.