|With several hundred million searches each day, everyone wants their website to be at the top of Google. Not surprisingly, search engine optimization, also known as SEO, is a popular internet marketing strategy. Google and other search engines use a complicated algorithm that evaluates a website based on traffic, keywords, content, inbound links and other known and unknown factors. Search engines must constantly evolve to ensure the results they return are the most relevant. Search engine marketing focuses on optimizing a website according to how the search engines calculate their rankings. There are two types of search engine optimization: black hat and white hat SEO.Black hat SEO is typically considered the “bad” kind of SEO, as it involves techniques that the search engines do not approve of. Basically, anything that goes against Google guidelines would be considered a black hat method. • One example is hidden text, which involves placing multiple keywords in a way that is hidden from the viewer. Placing white text on a white background is one example. • Another method is called keyword stuffing, which is just as it sounds. The content is stuffed full of keywords and usually doesn’t offer value to a website visitor; it simply exists to increase ranking. • Cloaking is another black hat method. This involves placing an apparent link on a webpage, with its respective status text, but when clicked, it actually takes the user to another website all together. Sites that employ black hat methods do so with the intent to drive a large amount of traffic to a website in a very quickly. Once discovered, however, they are banned from Google and other search engines.Organic or natural search engine optimization would fall into the white hat category. There are several methods of natural SEO—generally, anything on a website that legitimately benefits a web surfer will result in a higher ranking. For example, a website with relevant, updated content, that links to other related information provides great value. Other quality websites are likely to include links to that first site, directing even more traffic their way. These are all factors would increase a site’s ranking in the search engines. • An example of a white hat method is reciprocal linking. This is a trade of sorts; for example, a website about scuba diving may trade links with one who offers dive equipment. This has an obvious benefit for the visitor to either site.• Another method is to have frequently updated, quality content (like product reviews, news, or a blog for example). A completely static website will not do as well in the rankings.These are just two examples. Natural search engine optimization is both an art and a science, and these days, there are internet marketing companies that specialize in just this method. These companies use their specific knowledge and skills to work within the ever-changing guidelines to ensure that a website uses only white hat methods to move it up in the rankings. The additional benefit is that this type of optimization will almost always indirectly improve the visitor/customer’s experience. Organic SEO may take longer to achieve results, but is a legitimate, sustainable way to increase a website’s ranking in the search engines. Helen Walker.