SEO

Search Engine Optimization

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. The process of optimizing your website code, content, and design to increase its search result visibility resulting in an increase of targeted un-paid organic traffic.

Why SEO is Important

A site should be optimized to let search engines and users aware of the content that their site provides. In the past companies would optimize their company names to show first or rank #1 in their local phone books. AAA Towing, AAA Plumbers, etc. These names outranked “Big Al’s Towing” and even regionally targeted “NYC Towing.”

Being first and easy to find in the phone book was a big source of revenue. Today having the top spot on Google can lead to a lot of revenue for you. The top result on Google on average receives 30% of all the clicks. The second result receives less than half of that, just under 15% of the clicks. With each result diminishing in returns from there down (source).

Beyond simply clicks alone, there are many psychological factors involved with owning a top ranking site. A top ranking site is going to convert traffic at a much higher rate overall as there is an established credibility and trust involved with receiving top ranking. In a way it has been vetted by Google and other searchers.

Emailing your links, Tweeting them, other social media, and having your customers type your URL in direct is important (and adds to your SEO ranking), but the majority of web traffic comes from web searches. Search is king when it comes to web traffic. How much can an increase in web traffic be worth to your brand?

How Does SEO Work?

SEO is a science; an evolving science. It is also a creative marketing discipline.
There are many factors search engines look at to understand what is on your site and determine if it matches what people are searching for. Ultimately, SEO comes down to having a site that is relative, authoritative, and useful.

Relative

If you search for “apple pie” what are you looking for? Recipes? Nutritional information? Shops nearby that sell it? Or do you want the history behind it? Through analyzing millions of clicks for this keyword, including at times your own prior search history, search engines have determined what is most relevant for the majority of searchers.
How do they then determine if your site is relative and score you based on that? Of course content is king, but google also factors in a whole score of things including title structure, code, URL structure, site-tree, filenames on images/files, and the metadata on images to determine what content is actually shown throughout your page.

Authoritative

Even if you search for “apple pie recipe” how do search engines determine what site you would like to see? There are million of pages that show and rank for “apple pie recipe.” Search Engines want to determine if your site is an authoritative source for apple pie recipes. How do they do this? They in a way ask others. Are other sites linking to your recipe? Links from other pages are known as backlinks. In general, the more links a page has, the more authoritative it is deemed and the higher it will rank.

Useful

A website should be built for the end user. I want to emphasize this so much because at times people have an outdated view of what SEO is. Search engines determine if your site is useful from collecting and analyzing user usage data. They track the average time on a page users spend; They track how many pages the average user visits a session; They track if a user exits back to click on further search result pages or if a sites information satisfied their needs.

What SEO is Not.

There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding SEO. Below are a few of the major ones I come across most often.

SEO is Not Manipulation Tricks

There is an intent with every search query. A requirement for a webpage to maintain their ranking position is that it must solve this intent. It cannot hijack their position. Google got to where they are today from their their reputation of being able to provide the right information their customers are searching for in a matter of seconds. If Google allows itself to become manipulated due to “SEO’d” sites too often resulting in more and more users hitting back trying the 2nd ranking spot (or below) will eventually lead the a decrease in Google’s reputation.

Many SEO “experts” have woken up to major penalties from Google where their site decreased in ranking substantially pretty much overnight.

SEO is Not an Overnight Success

A website and its changes can but submitted to search engines to alert them of its existence and/or the changes it has made in effort to perform better. This should be submitted when changes are made or on a periodically scheduled basis when many changes are constantly occurring. Though search engines still have their own behind the scenes processes and ranking algorithms that it goes through to rerank websites.

SEO is Not a Guarantee

If your business is built around selling Tennis Balls, there is no guarantee that you will rank #1 for the search term “tennis balls”. Most people searching for such a term are looking for a wikipedia type article, they are looking for a major sports site such as ESPN, they know and trust an established retailer such as Amazon. To rank for “tennis balls” is not impossible, but to get your site to rank above those is an effort to get your site to rank higher in terms of its relativeness, its trustworthiness, and how authoritative a site it is. SEO becomes symptom of your brands overall marketing success.

Perhaps garnering a high-rank for a more specialized term such as “extra bouncy green tennis balls for sale” is easier to achieve and resources should be spent focusing on this.

SEO is Not Only For Search Engines

A websites usefulness is determined by the users not search engines. In the past, one could achieve results simply from building pages and overfilling it with keywords throughout. This process came to be called “keyword stuffing” and is now heavily penalized by Google and other search engines.

A generic search of “basketball” is likely to land a user on the Wikipedia page for basketball (source). Wikipedia’s basketball page as of the day I wrote this article has 346 instances of the word “basketball” throughout the page. Definitely a lot, but that only accounts for 2.16% of all the words on the page. Creating a page with the word basketball written 1000s of times and with 100% density is not the way to outrank high-ranking sites.

SEO is Not Only About Webpages

Photos and videos should also be optimized to maximize the results gained from YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest and again Google for those searching through their Videos or Images tabs. Having top ranking videos can also lead back to establishing yourself as an authority.

SEO is Not a One-time Activity

A single session at the gym won’t earn you a six pack. Though all experts will likely agree it is still better than a session on the couch with pizza. SEO is the same in many regards. A single run-through of SEO best practices is better than nothing, though will not provide drastic results leading to an ongoing ROI. It is better to maintain your SEO efforts and ranking instead of jumping back in when you notice a sudden drop in organic traffic.

Continually maintaining your SEO efforts is essential because of:

  • New pages or content have been added to your site
  • New user search terms or techniques
  • Changes to Google’s and other search engines algorithms
  • Link degradation (aka link rot)
  • Your competition is increasing their SEO efforts

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