Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the collective techniques used to enhance a website’s ranking on the search results pages. Along with social media, SEO has become a critical component of online marketing strategies. SEO aims to increase the visibility of websites and to subsequently generate conversions, whether in terms of sales or any other consumer action (such as a signup) targeted by the website.
To better understand how SEO works, it is important to know the basic dynamics of online search. Ordinarily, people use search engines such as Google and Bing to find something on the Internet. This could be just about anything, from specific data for a research they are conducting, a gift idea for a friend’s birthday, an update on a breaking news story, or just additional tips about a hobby or a personal interest.
To find any of this information, people enter words or phrases—called a search term or keywords—in the search box. For example, a user looking for information about durable wristwatches he or she could bring on a mountain trek could perform the following online search: “all terrain wristwatches”
Once a user submits the search item, search engines run their complex algorithms to return a list of web pages that these algorithms think are the ones most likely to be relevant for the user performing the online search. The pages returned by the algorithm are called the search engine results pages (SERPs). These are the pages users immediately see after they have submitted the keywords in the search box. These pages contain the links to websites that most likely will contain information on the subject the online user is searching for. The web links—or search result items—are arranged in order of relevance based on a set criteria implemented by the particular search engine.
Obviously, for companies who want to bring their brand to as many people as possible, being on the first page and on top of the search engine results pages is a much sought after advantage. A Nielsen report indicated that 86 percent of respondents used search engines to find local business information. In the same study, around 80 percent said that they have researched a product or service online, and proceeded to make an offline purchase.
Meantime, leaked data from AOL revealed that the first ten items on the SERPs generated close to 90 percent of all click-through traffic. The second page generated a mere 4.37%, the third–2.42%, and the fifth—1.07%. All other subsequent pages generated less than 1 percent of all click-through traffic.
Therefore it is critical for a business or company’s website to be included in the first page of search engine results for it’s relevant keywords as the subsequent pages receive very little traffic.
Brands and websites that are listed on top of SERPs will generate the most number of click-throughs and will also help build trust for the brand among online consumers. Even offline businesses like restaurants, electronic repair shops, and other businesses that operate physical outlets in order to deliver their services or merchandise can benefit greatly from search engine optimization. As mentioned earlier more & more people are turning to Google & the search engines to research products & services before they make a purchase.
So the importance of a well-planned SEO campaign for any brand, company, or business that wishes to increase brand awareness and sales cannot be overstated. A good SEO campaign generally uses different optimization methodologies, the most prominent of which are keyword research, on-page optimization and off-page optimization.
It is important to remember that, for better or worse, SEO has become highly keyword-centric. This makes keyword research the most critical stage of any SEO campaign. In fact, many companies today employ professional SEO specialists to determine the best words or phrases (collectively termed ‘keywords’) to associate with a particular business or brand as used by target consumers in their online searches. Using the identified keywords, these professionals then “tweak” the website in order for search engines to rank the site well in the search engines
There are a number of factors that search engines use in determining how websites are ranked in SERPs. Some of these factors may be leveraged by website administrators and/or content managers to improve their website ranking. The methods used to leverage these factors is known as on-page optimization and include the management of title tags, page content, website architecture, and various permissions for search engine robots (or spiders) to crawl and index website data.
On the other hand, off-page optimization includes campaigns that enhance a website’s visibility, presence, and ranking through factors that are not readily manageable by website administrators. Of-page optimization in a nut shell is having other sites link to yours(preferably sites with authority), wherein a business or brand enhances its authority—and ranking—on a particular subject by having other websites link to it when the subject for which it claims authority on, is mentioned in other webpages. Off-page optimization can include strategies like content distribution & syndication, press release distribution & guest blogging on authority sites.
So there you have an overview of Search Engine Optimization & why it’s important that your business pays attention to it & implements it as part of it’s branding & marketing strategy. In the next article we will look more in dept at one of the specific area of SEO: Keyword Research,