What is SEO and Why it's Important
You've come up with a promising business idea, spent months designing and building your site, and submitted your URL to the major search engines. Now, all that's left to do is to wait for visitors to discover your site and spread the word! After a few months of waiting, your hit stats still haven't gone through the roof. What gives? Alas, with over one billion websites competing for views, this "build-it-and-they-will-come" approach to marketing is likely doomed to failure. The solution is to learn and apply SEO, which stands for Search Engine Optimization. In today's article, we'll learn what SEO is, and its role in making your website a success.
The Role of SEO in Search Engine Optimization
SEO is a set of rules that can be followed by website administrators to optimize their website(s) for search engines and thus improve their search engine rankings. These rules are necessary, because, in order for a search engine to return the most relevant results, it first needs to parse web pages and index them for both relevance and popularity. There are literally hundreds of factors that influence a page's relevance, both large and small. Popularity is determined using complex mathematical algorithms that comprise numerous variables. These variables are referred to as "ranking factors" in the search marketing biz.
SEO vs. Internet Marketing
SEO is not the same thing as Internet Marketing. A more apt description would be that it's one type of Internet Marketing. As such, it should be part of your overall Internet Marketing campaign, which normally includes other things like social media promotion, email campaigns, and other activities. In fact, SEO is really the first marketing initiative, as designing a solid document structure and authoring engaging content contributes directly to SEO.
How SEO Benefits You
Studies have shown that the majority of users are most likely to choose one of the top 5 suggestions in the results page, so it's highly advantageous for you to rank as high as possible. Doing so will help direct a far higher number of visitors to your website and/or customers to your on-line store.
Moreover, most searchers don't just search once before clicking on a website. Rather, people tend to search, click on some websites, edit their search terms, search again, click on more websites, further hone their search terms, search again, and so on. This honing behavior means that if your site continually shows up in all a user's search results, their trust in your site will grow accordingly. After enough exposure, the user will very likely click on the link to your website. Moreover, the chances of the user making a purchase are also increased by the built-up trust.
Speaking of studies, several have shown that SEO can have a better return on investment (ROI) than traditional forms of marketing such as TV and print ads. There is such a thing as paid search engine ads (i.e. Google AdSense), but what we're talking about here is just the regular search results. SEO's superior performance can be attributed to the fact that it markets to people when they are already looking for the products and services your business provides. As such, you don't have to interrupt their favorite TV show, or compete for there attention on a page where they are reading a news article. Nor do you have to convince them they need your product or service; only that you are the right business to purchase from. In that sense, good SEO preaches to the choir.
Understanding SEO allows you to properly build, format, and annotate your web content in a way that search engines can digest. Without SEO, a website can be invisible to search engines. According to Robert Nicholls, founder of Capital City Web Solutions:
"Unfortunately, a great website is only great to those who see it and without SEO, the chance of a new website being found in search engine results is practically zero."
The good news is that the steps required to make your site rank higher in search engines has the beneficial side effect of increasing the quality of your website by making it more user-friendly, faster, and easier to navigate. In the case of an online store, SEO plays a major role in helping your business grow and achieve its potential.
The traffic generated by SEO tend to be more valuable than by other means because it allows for extensive behavioral tracking. Probably the best example of this is Google Analytics. The data and metrics that Google Analytics provides is highly relevant because they give you insight into your customers: how they search, how they browse, the language they use, the technology they use, the region they live in, the days they are most active, the times of day they are most active, etc. All of this information can be extremely useful in helping you make more informed decisions regarding your business and its strategies, both online and off.
The battle for Rob Gravelle supremacy:
SEO Gone Bad: Tricking the Search Engines
Some unscrupulous individuals have gone to great lengths to achieve a top ranking in popular search engines by resorting to hacks. Many attempts to manipulate search engine results were successful for a time, until search engine bots wised up and began catching the fraudsters in the act. Sites that were propped up by artificial means were promptly blacklisted and removed from search engines.
- Paying unscrupulous companies to submit a site to a bunch of dubious link directories.
- Selling text links on the site.
- Article marketing. Thats where you write multiple similar versions of the same article, making only minute adjustments to the wording, and then submit those versions to different websites that collect free articles in exchange for a link back to your site.
Google has become especially adept at catching deceptive SEO practices. According to Nicholls:
"With updates to Google's algorithms, website are not as easily able to trick the search engine into a higher rank than they deserve and this is good. The hard part to these changes is that it makes SEO a lot harder to get quick results for a competitive market and a lot more work to improve the website's rank than it was in the old days."
Even if search engines don't catch you today, they are always evolving. Thus, they are guaranteed to catch you at some point in the future. So always do SEO the right way. How to use SEO correctly will be the subject of an up-coming tutorial.
Rob Gravelle resides in Ottawa, Canada, and is the founder of GravelleWebDesign.com. Rob has built web applications for numerous businesses and has recently developed his own jquery-tables library.
Rob's alter-ego, "Blackjacques", is an accomplished guitar player, that has released several CDs. His band, Ivory Knight, was rated as one of Canada's top hard rock and metal groups by Brave Words magazine (issue #92) and reached the #1 spot in the National Heavy Metal charts on ReverbNation.com.