What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization or SEO is a process by which internal and external aspects of a web site are adjusted to gain high organic search engine results on keyword and key phrase.
The majority of web traffic is driven by the major commercial search engines: Google, Yahoo and MSN. Google attracts approximately 60% of worldwide searches at 39 billion, with Yahoo (8.9 billion) and Microsoft (2.7 billion). A number of country-specific search engine companies have also become prominent in their own territories; for example Baidu in China, Guruji in India, Yandex in Russia.
High placements invariably lead to sites receiving an increase in traffic. 80% of users abandoning their search if the first 3 pages don’t provide an answer to their question high search engine placements are essential. 20% don’t even consider scrolling past the 2nd page of results. High traffic can be converted to revenue through sales, advertising revenue, referrals, votes or whatever call to action is invoked on landing pages. Smart, professional Search Engine Optimization yielding high organic returns (70% of search engine users prefer organic search returns to sponsored links or PPC) can deliver extremely powerful results.
For one to be able to achieve high organic search results, he must implement the right business practices. Search Engine Optimization is a dynamic discipline with engines regularly adjusting algorithms and external issues (over which you or your Search Engine Optimization partner will have no influence whatsoever) coming into play – for example, competitor optimization techniques and the popularity and search engine kudos of sites that link to yours.
Professional and successful search optimisation is a multi-disciplined process involving an astute combination of professional skills. Copywriting, web design, web development, marketing, advertising and analysis are all integral to a planned, focused and well-executed Search Engine Optimisation project.
A solid starting point about Search Engine Optimization projects is in defining the words and phrases necessary to attract relevant visitors to your site – your semantic space and the foundation of your campaign.
Keywords and phrases are entirely dependent on business objectives and need to be researched thoroughly to determine which words and phrases best represent the crossover of what you as an organisation which to offer (the reasons for your online marketing) and what terms your ideal audience for these services or products are using to search on. If your message is well-defined, then your keywords and phrases will bring you visitors that are most likely to follow your call to action be it a sales, a download, a vote or whatever – the primary objective of Search Engine Optimization.
As well as defining your semantic space it’s important that the site is prepared for the search engines on a technical level. A thorough site analysis will reveal unfriendly URLs, obstacles to search engine spiders and inappropriate Search Engine Optimization damaging code. Small coding differences can make a big difference – with a fast loading, well coded site with an accessible structure and high ratio of content to code proving irresistible to the search engines.
They say “content is king”. In the case of Search Engine Optimisation there are many who would agree. Search engines don’t look for images, video, audio or Flash – they search for text content. Good copy can go a long way. Whilst it is possible to achieve top rankings for specific keywords almost immediately based on “relevance”, some Search Engine Optimization ‘specialists’ try to be too relevant. They go keyword crazy when writing copy, a clumsy, short-term approach that reads terribly, dissuades visitors and damages credibility. Strong copy that interests and engages its audience (still including keywords and phrases of course) is without doubt the most effective approach in the long term. Quality counts as visitors will recommend the site, link to it increase its popularity by word of mouth – especially if the copy is kept fresh and updated regularly.
In addition to content, search engines respect structure and they like to know what’s important about your organization. Sites ideally should have the most semantically relevant information higher up in the site hierarchy and each page should use structural elements – heading, paragraph and other HTML tags – to prioritise importance.
Link Analysis is another critical aspect of search engine’s ranking, in fact a large part of website optimisation happens off the page with Google and the other search engines determining sites importance by the links from external sites. Global Link Popularity is arguably the most important Search Engine Optimization criteria. Google, Yahoo, Msn and the other major search engines love to see sites that have quality incoming links from other relevant sites. Sources might include current associates, online directories, press releases and blogs.