Who isn't online nowadays? Even your grammar school children and grandparents have a social media account. Having a personal website is now not only reserved for big corporations and tech-savvy organizations, as even small businesses and young professionals have the resources to create a website and online presence.
With more and more content appearing online everyday, it is becoming harder and harder to rise above the fray. How do you make sure your profile/ website appears higher on search engines and social media profiles than someone else? How do you get noticed online? How do you rank high on search engines?
Why don't we start of with what a search engine is. The definition of a search engine is computer software used to search data (as text or a database) for specific information; also :a site on the World Wide Web that uses such software to locate key words in other sites. In other words, a search engine is software that based on an input (let's say typing in "cars") lists ranked content within its database from highest to lowest, and returns a list with the highest ranked content on top. Given its definition, search engines not only include Google, Yahoo, and Bing, but platforms for more specialized searches, such as YouTube and Amazon.
It is no surprise that entities that have content databased within such search engines look for ways to make their content appear as high as possible. This makes it most likely to pop up during a search. There are two different ways that they try to do this: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
Search Engine Marketing means paying the search engines directly to display your content higher than they would if you didn't pay. There's a complex strategy game that goes on in the internet game, though. People choose on search engines based on how easily they can find what they're looking for and how much they can rely on the search engine. While search engines may benefit from letting marketers pay to get their ranking listed on top through search engine marketing, they also benefit from being transparent, as ultimately they can only make money if people use their search engine. That is why many search engines find a middle ground of listing ads higher, but distinctively labelling them as ads. This isn't always the case, though.
Search Engine Optimization is people engineer their content to get the highest ranking possible.This is done instead of paying a search engine directly to place their content higher. Entities analyze the way that search engines work in ranking the content so that it can get their content higher. Although the precise formulas of such rankings are unknown to the general public, professionals through trial and error, common sense and research can get a sense of what will improve search results and what won't. Once again though, search engines want their rankings to be as credible as possible. That is their bread and butter. Just as they are weary of SEM tactics, they are watchful of over the top SEO tactics.