Search engine optimisation (SEO) is one of the things that is quite often discussed among bloggers and is often thought of as being the task of an expert. Through these series of tutorial posts, I wish to introduce you to the basics of SEO and equip you with the necessary knowledge to manage the SEO of your blog.

What is search engine optimisation?

As the name suggests, search engine optimisation is the task of optimising your site so that search engines rank you better on their result pages (SERPs – Search Engine Result Pages). You already have a lot of useful content on your blog that your readers can understand and like. However, the same is not true with search engines. To understand what that means, let us take an example.

Give a page containing an essay without any headings to a person and to a search engine. The person, after reading it, will be able to understand what the essay is all about and what are the key points that you are trying to convey. However, the search engine (which is a computer program) will not be able to do so. It doesn’t possess the necessary intelligence to decipher the meaning of sentences and find their relative importance. You need to explicitly give the essay a heading, put the paragraphs under side headings and mark the important sentences.

On the web, content is in the form of HTML pages and there are some well-defined ways to do things like saying what the page is all about, what are the important points are and what the summary of the page is. All these things fall under the scope of search engine optimisation.

Before moving onto the ways to improve the SEO of your site, let us look into some terminology.

Black Hat SEO and White Hat SEO

In simple words, black hat SEO refers to those techniques which are considered unacceptable by search engines as they try to fool them. White Hat SEO techniques are those considered acceptable.

Say that you wrote an article about wireless keyboards but then you realise that people search more for ‘wireless mouse’ rather than wireless keyboard. So, you give the heading as wireless mouse instead of wireless keyboard. Such a thing is clearly wrong and unacceptable. This and similar other things fall under black hat SEO.

On the contrary, white hat SEO techniques do not try to fool the search engines. They merely try to present the content in a way search engines can understand better. The information that they provide to search engines through headings, titles etc. is exactly the same that a human can decipher from the article.

When you are in doubt as to whether a particular technique falls under black hat or white hat SEO, think if that method provides some information about the content which is different from the information a normal human can decipher by reading your content. If the answer is yes, then you can conclude that it is a black hat technique.

There is another type of SEO, known as gray hat SEO that falls in between the two. The blogging community has a mixed opinion about the techniques under this category. Some say that they are white hat techniques while some others say that they are black hat techniques. And hence, they are considered as being in the gray area.

You are advised never to follow any use any black hat SEO techniques on your blog. Even if the search engine cannot find out today that you are trying to fool it, it may be capable after a few months or years. This can negatively affect your search rankings. Also, sometimes, penalties are manually imposed on sites by Google and if the level of black hat techniques is too high, your site may be permanently removed from Google SERPs.

On page and Off page SEO

On page SEO is SEO that is done on the webpage itself, like marking headings, making important points bold, giving descriptions for images etc. Off page SEO constitutes the remaining things. For example, the SEO value of a page increases with the number of backlinks (links from other pages). This is not something that can be improved by modifying the page itself and hence falls under the category of off page SEO.

SEO and Google

Quite often people talk about SEO in the context of improving their website’s position on the Google search engine. Though SEO applies to other search engines like Bing and Yahoo Search, people generally talk about Google as the market of Google is much higher compared to other search engines. Even though the basic techniques remain the same, there are some technqiues specific to Google SEO. For example, there are some HTML tags which can be used to provide more information to Google about your site content (these tags are not understood by all search engines). We will be covering these aspects also in this tutorial.