Our holiday special this year is $89 for a complete collection of back issues (24 total) of Search Marketing Standard magazine — a deal which also comes with a 1 year free digital subscription (shipping of back issues is additional). If you’re new to our publication, you may wonder what kind of content you will see in those back issues and during that year’s subscription. Here’s a free sample from our Back2Basics series, a regular feature that is geared toward beginning online marketers. Don’t wait to purchase this special deal now — it’s a limited time offer.
Back 2 Basics: Why Your Website Needs SEO
What’s so important about SEO? Short for Search Engine Optimization, it’s the art of creating web content designed to attract search engines. SEO tailors web page content so that search engines can easily find it, and consumers can easily find you. Search engines use crawling, indexing software to gather information. Effective SEO makes it possible for the search engines to find, read, analyze, and index what’s on your web pages. This gives your company a visibility and an online presence that’s relevant to your goods and services.
What does this mean for your website and, by extension, for your business? The search engine placement of your web pages determines how easily existing customers can find your website, phone number, and business address. It also determines how visible you are to potential consumers.
Is it easy for people to find you? Does your target market know you exist and, if so, how high is traffic to your website? No business can survive without good visibility. Are your search engine rankings as good as or better than those of your competitors? Where does your website appear when people try to find it? Does it show up on page one, near the top, or is it buried in the hinterland behind page ten?
“Hold on,” you might say. “Our website was created by a top design firm, and our web address appears prominently on all of our advertising. How could it possibly be hard for anyone to find us?” “And what about our existing customers?” you ask. “Don’t they already know who we are and where to find us? They have our web address, after all.” You might be surprised to learn that this is not necessarily the case.
How can you be sure that your ad campaign has reached everyone in your target market? Do you know for a fact that your newspaper and magazine ads are getting noticed? Are you certain that your advertising circulars are actually being delivered, let alone read? What about the people who weren’t listening to that expensive radio spot for which you paid a considerable sum? Are you sure that everyone who saw your billboard ad had time to write down your phone number, street address, and web address?
Okay, so what’s the big deal with search engines? What makes them better than other forms of advertising? Why should you reconsider the way you’re doing business?
Those in the market for your services will enter a few strategic keywords into a search engine text box. They hit “enter,” see your company’s website, click on your web page, and you have a new visitor. That’s the magic of search engines. There’s no question that search engines can be that effective. The catch is that high search engine rankings require skill and work. SEO is the key to the magic; it’s the only way to make it happen.
An SEO Case To Consider
Let’s look at a real example from my own life. I wanted to find a certain upscale restaurant in the area where I live. However, the website proved unusually difficult to find. I didn’t have their web address, and I wasn’t even certain they had a website. So, like most people, I pulled up a search engine, typed in the name of the eatery, and hit “search.”
There was no shortage of search results, but nothing came up that pertained to my restaurant. I did another search. This time I included the city where the restaurant is located. Now I found search results related to the restaurant like news articles and fine dining reviews. Still, none of the websites belonged to the restaurant. What was the problem? Did they even have a website?
I finally found the restaurant’s web address in one of the news articles. At last I could visit the website. I arrived at a professionally designed web page with beautiful graphics and a musical sound track contained in a Flash presentation.
Why was the website so hard to find? The most obvious explanation is that those who created it did not understand the mechanics of effective SEO. This made the restaurant like the proverbial needle in a haystack; it was out there somewhere, but its exact location was anybody’s guess.
Search engines like Google use software called robots and spiders to trawl for information about a website. This software follows links from one page to another and retrieves information from each page. What it finds is indexed and added to the database of that particular search engine.
If you were to ask Google what it had indexed about the restaurant’s website, Google would say it knows the site exists and that it has a Flash presentation. But it doesn’t know the nature of the business because the website’s content does not communicate it.
What’s Involved In The Search Engine Placement Process?
How does placement get determined, and how are web pages indexed and ranked? Only the search engine operators really know, and that information is a closely kept secret. All we know for sure is that the process is constantly being improved, and therefore it’s hard to predict.
The goal of effective search engine optimization is for meaningful web page content to be added to the databases of the search engines. When this occurs, web pages can achieve high rankings and are accessible to searches.
To learn how search engines are currently indexing and ranking pages, we begin with the information that search engine operators do provide. Then we study the characteristics of pages with high search engine placement. Finally, we analyze the results of certain keyword searches. Armed with this information, we can make logical assumptions about how to increase a website’s visibility. We can also make reasonable determinations as to what will increase a website’s placement in the search engine rankings.
After analyzing your website, we can suggest and incorporate changes to significantly increase the odds that your website will be seen and visited. We can also improve your website’s rankings for certain keyword searches. Improvements may also involve changing web page content. Not all changes would be apparent to visitors viewing the website. Most of the changes would be geared toward helping the search engines to access and index content that already exists.
What Won’t Help Your Search Engine Rankings
You’re probably thinking that since SEO is such a powerful tool, you might as well use it to full advantage. Why not get your website listed for other common keyword searches, thereby attracting lots more visitors? Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way.
Have you ever entered keywords into a search engine only to get results that have nothing to do with what you’re looking for? Sometimes you find pages that seem relevant, only to find that they redirect you to unrelated websites. These web pages were not designed to be helpful. They were created for one purpose only — to get you to visit the websites by any means possible. This is a form of spamming, and it’s based on lies and manipulation.
Spamming is frowned upon by the search engines. Although it may seem otherwise, spamming is not an effective search engine optimization technique. What exactly is involved in this kind of spamming?
- Using keywords in excess
- Duplicating content on multiple pages
- Intentionally misspelling popular keywords and website names
- Loading pages with irrelevant words
- Hiding links and text
- Cloaking and false redirecting
- Automatic doorway pages
- Centralized and unrelated link farms
- Other techniques designed to mislead search engines
To illustrate this, what if you put up a “detour” sign on the freeway driving traffic to your company’s parking lot? The lot may be full, but no one wants to be there. People don’t like being deceived, so they won’t patronize your business. The police will take away the sign.
Spamming strategies have the same effect. When people are tricked into visiting a website, they don’t want to hang around and learn more. Although spamming might increase temporary, short-term traffic, it has no long-term benefits. Most search engines provide a way to report abuse. When they learn of websites that are spamming, the usual response is to banish the offending website from the search engine’s database. The result is “bye-bye website.”
Trying to trick the search engines is a waste of time and energy. Ethical and professional SEO strategies will heighten the presence of your website and make your content relevant to the search engines. This holds true both now and down the road.
How Does Your Site Rank In Search Engine Placement?
Try this experiment. Access one of the search engines and try to find your own business. Which keywords would someone use if they were looking for your services? Do the results you get include your website?
Search engine optimization is the best way to ensure that your website turns up in relevant keyword searches. SEO is a tool that, when properly used, can position your website as close to the top of the search results as possible.
Ignore search engine optimization at your own risk. Doing so is like opening a business with curtained windows and no signs to announce your presence. No one will know where you are or whether you even exist.
If you want to thrive in the Internet age, your website needs SEO. Yes, expensive web pages with lots of special effects are fun to look at. But if customers can’t find your business without hiring a private detective, it’s all just money down the drain.