SEO is all about getting a website more visible on the internet, however the problems for all webmasters is exactly how to do this. The SEO arms race is on! Google changes its algorithm around once per day (according to Super-Google representative Mr M Cutts), this means around 350-400 changes per year.
If the search algorithm was changed once a year, or once a month, webmasters would reverse engineer the changes. Websites that are not relevant to web searches would start to appear. The SEO arms race is about trying to find what changes are due to happen.
Google acts in the best interests of web users, non paying customers that are searching for website results. If Google can deliver what users are looking for on page 1 of its results, then they are doing their job. The reason that most people use Google over other search engines (such as Yahoo, Bing, Aol etc.) is because of them being able to find what they are looking for quickly.
Stemming was a recent update and is a Bayesian Spam Filter and was introduced to prevent keyword spamming (so the search results will consider the keywords input, but also keyword variants in the search results). However this does not mean that webmasters should swap keywords for their variants, just to incorporate the variants into the pages. Location results was another update that was made, so depending where a web user is in the world/country, results are displayed that are done locally (as Google is trying to second guess search results in order to save the web user time).
There is a way to cheat the system, to ensure that for every desired keyword, your website will appear on page 1 ever day. Google made this back door in order to fund it’s business, and it is called pay per click advertising.
In previous Google updates, it was said that ‘Content Is King’ and although there is still some truth in this, things have moved on. Google does take content into account, but this is balanced out with links to other websites. If you have relevant websites pointing at your content, then this is stronger than the content alone. This ties in with ‘keyword density’ as Google does penalize websites that oversell themselves on target keywords. An example would be ‘Starbucks’ that appears on page 1 for the keyword ‘coffee’ yet only has the keyword appearing a couple of times on the homepage, but looks at much more.
Bearing in mind webmasters do need to try to second guess the search engines, there is the race to get onto page 1. Considering that page 1 can only hold 10 websites, getting onto page 1 for target keywords (and staying there) is difficult. Link building is a big part of optimisation, search engines judge a website based on who is linking to them and how relevant/quality those links are. For many companies, getting optimisation and PPC help is an essential part of their marketing success. The alternative is paid advertising, which is what search engines are funded by! The SEO Arms Race is on!