SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is not just another fancy acronym from Silicon Valley. Used as early as the 1990s, it is an all-encompassing, umbrella phrase about the actual processes involved in making any content visible to any user who has inputted the right keywords in the many online search boxes available today.
With the multitude of search options available to the masses, including searching for images, domestic or international businesses, job listings, attractions, events, academic articles, and even public journals or government documents, each content must be studied carefully, and must include enough selling points to find the best optimization tool for that kind of media before uploading it to the web.
Once up and online, anything can come up on a search result.
Note, however, that appearance alone does not count. A website must rank high on the results to be placed on the first page, and on the number one slot, where it is most likely to be seen, clicked, visited, and linked back on.
If the media is robust, and the public interest is high enough, the rank of the content, as it appears in search results, may move higher on its own accord. Even so, it may be just low enough that internet users may have to scroll down on a search results page, thereby cutting a huge portion of the searching public who are satisfied with the topmost listed offering.
Stability of the media content in any returned result is a great factor in pushing it higher in the page ranks. If there are many ways to use this content in many possible configurations, other webpages will simply link to it, giving traffic indirectly and with no extra cost. This is called back-linking, and its most profitable examples are online encyclopedias and marketplaces.
These transparent, orthodox methods are classified as White Hat techniques, where the webmaster complies with the guidelines of the targeted search provider, for the reason that they are offering legitimate media content, products and/or services. This is completely separate from the Black Hat techniques that include submission of web pages with irrelevant keywords and undesirable content embedded in them. These web pages may or may not be host to excessive advertisement, phishing, malware, or viruses, and the wanted result is simply huge traffic at a specific point in time.
Black hat techniques are often like guerrilla attacks, and are easy to spot due to their blatant presentation and confusing content. These media are often only temporarily available to the searching public, before wariness and improved algorithms push these malicious websites down the page rankings, or the media creator has met his required quota and removed the content on his or her own.
Those are just some of the strategies used today. Methods are constantly being refined, updated and streamlined to exclude additional work from webmasters. Most heavy-lifting are being done by search providers themselves to avoid unwanted media from showing up in the search results, as a reaction to the myriad of spam or malware that unavoidably gets created by enterprising individuals searching for heavy traffic in a highly uncensored web.
Access to actual usable results is easy for the casual internet user who often takes for granted the thousands of hours poured by thousands of search specialists. All these efforts are just for the optimization of a single tool for a wanted outcome: traffic, which in itself, is just another tool designed for the purpose to sell. With the end goal of attracting enough internet users to a website, the best tool will be the most ubiquitous one, the Search function, which has now risen to prominence along with the world going mobile.