What is SEO?
Searching is the second most commonly performed activity of all Internet users - right behind using e-mail. The majority of Internet users use search engines and web directories as their primary method to find information or resources on-line.
However, with approximately 4 billion web pages publicly available on the World Wide Web, and growing competition in every sector of the provision of data and services, the raw chances are that these people will find other sites than yours for the vast majority of even such searches as relate to your products.
Search Engine Optimisation uses knowledge and observation of exactly 'how' search engines and web directories decide which web sites to return as results for queries, and applies this to attain significantly higher placement for particular (proprietary) documents and sites. SEO is the process of assisting the search engines and directories to accurately evaluate which search queries your web content can answer effectively, and additionally seeks to place a certain 'bias' in your favour for ranking your sites within the search results for those queries.
How important is SEO?
In recent studies, top e-commerce and information web sites were discovered to receive up to 85 percent of all of their visitors (and customers) from search referrals. Without doubt, for the vast majority of on-line companies, SEO provides the highest possible ROI of all marketing and promotional activities.
More than 80 percent of Web users find the sites they're looking for by using a search engine, according to both Forrester Research and Georgia Tech's GVU Center User Surveys. Every single day, 57 percent of Web users search the Internet, making search the second most popular Internet activity after e-mail (according to Statistical Research, Inc.).
Search listings outscore banner and button ads by more than two to one on measures including awareness, likelihood to click-on, and overall opinion, in a recent study by NPD Group. The survey also found that consumers are five times more likely to purchase your products after seeing search listings versus banners.
Search engines drive extremely targeted traffic. The visitor who finds your site through a search engine is already actively looking for exactly what you provide. You can't find a more targeted form of marketing than that.
As the number of pages on the Web grows, so do the number of pages indexed by the search engines. Several engines have moved from the millions of pages indexed into the billions. With this kind of clutter, high rankings are no accident. They have to be thoughtfully planned and executed like the other tactics in your marketing mix.
According to industry leader Search Engine Watch, only 7 percent of searchers will go beyond the third page of listings. So if you're not in the top 30 search results, you may as well not be there at all.
Let's outline all of that one more time. Without SEO you are quite possibly throwing away up to 85 percent of your potential customers and visitors, and a full 80 percent of your potential customers will find their way to a rival business instead.
Website marketing: Reality check
Think about it. The top of anyone’s mind is a very cluttered place these
days. Rising above the signal to noise ratio requires repeated
impressions focused directly on your target market. Repetition increases
perception and so, builds awareness.
Nowhere is this more true than on the Internet, which comprises around two billion pages, with 30,000 new ones added every day. Effective placement in online media such as search engines and directories is essential to making sure the users who are looking for your site succeed in finding it.
How do you interest your target market in looking for your website?
Simple: promote your website, even if you have an established offline business. If you don’t, how will your target audience know what you are doing and why it is worth their while?
Use as many offline tactics to promote your online business as you can afford: advertising, media relations, direct mail, trade shows. In addition, take advantage of emerging online promotion tactics. And of course, optimize your website for searches.
Then, be sure your website delivers on your value promise. This is essential to increasing your conversion rate, the number of visitors who complete the transaction you want them to at your site.
Whether eCommerce, or supply chain exchange, your website must work for the user. Technology is an arena in which you truly get what you pay for. The experience, knowledge and expertise to produce an effective business online doesn’t come cheap. If you didn’t pay much, you most likely didn’t get much.
[Sidebar] Ten Tactics Online
- List in a business directory for your industry
- Buy an ad in a newsletter your target market reads
- Launch opt-in email marketing campaign
- Use promotions on you site to encourage repeat business, e.g. discount prices, coupons
- Start your own affiliate program with related websites
- Purchase positions for targeted keywords
- Use a button to your site for branding
- Make registration very visible to capture user information and create your own email database
- Send an email newsletter, in text, to maintain interest in your website
- Create your own links page to add value and visibility.
The Rules for SEO have changed
The Internet has grown to nearly two billion pages. To keep up, search engines are consolidating and sharing resources in broad based efforts to index as much as possible for their users and maintain profitability at the same time. The resource load on top online search media is heavy and growing, and so is the trend toward conserving demands on bandwidth, transaction volume and server space.
This means SEO has changed.
What works today is searchable content, links to and from your site, and judicious use of paid placements. Savvy Web marketers need to make sure the content of their website appeals to target users and is clearly accessible to search engine spiders, and link their sites to relevant and popular sites.
The SEO tactics that worked last year may, in fact, decrease rankings or worse, remove your site entirely from search databases. If your site's search rankings depend on any of the following, your SEO is out of date. If a Search Optimizing Service suggests these techniques, find one who is current on website marketing best practices.
Submitting a site more than once in a short time frame is considered spam by the major search engines. AltaVista gives preference to older submissions, so resubmitting a site, thereby tagging it with a fresh date, will actually decrease the site's ranking. Google prefers to find a site, rather than have it submitted.
Why? Repeating submissions overloads their resources. Submitting a site by automated software, even for the first time, is frowned on by all the major search media. AltaVista has made auto submissions impossible. Human directory editors will label a site spam if it is repeatedly auto-submitted to them.
Indexing in hundreds of search engines:
There are only a handful of search media that matter for most Web sites: Yahoo, AOL, MSN, Google, LookSmart, About.com, The Open Directory Project, Lycos, Excite, Alta Vista, Ask Jeeves and Overture (formerly GoTo). While there are also topic–specific search engines, most of the other so-called "search engines" on the longer lists are just links farms which automatically swap links between your website and lots of irrelevant sites, no substitute for a highly targeted and relevant links to a from your site.
Nearly all the major search media have some form of revenue-raising paid placement plan. While all but Overture assure you placement only, not ranking position, these are extremely effective at quickly gaining critical links from popular web media, helping to improve sites' performance in search results. Paying a subscription fee is the only way the Inktomi database, with its finite number of URLs, will guarantee that a site is replaced in their database when it refreshes every 48 hours. The good news is sites that change content frequently will have their new content indexed quickly by Inktomi, and appear in the partners using that database: MSN, AOL, and Overture's secondary results.
Few search engines consider meta tag content in current algorithms anymore to determine rank. While the meta description tag shows up on some search results, search results usually return snippets of content from pages. Long meta tags, or meta keyword tags containing words that don't appear in content will actually downgrade a sites' ranking.
While there are some logical applications for creating simple pages that point to a larger site, those created to appeal to individual search engines are frowned on by every major online media. Top search engines have a huge and growing workload trying to index information on the Internet. Excess pages only clutter their paths, impede progress, and generally tick them off. Not a good thing, since the search media make the rules about how the Web is indexed.
Cloaking (aka Dynamic page swapping):
Every major search engine says they will ban your website if they catch you engaging in the deceptive practice of using one set of data on a page to attract a search spider, and then swapping in your real home page to deliver to the searcher. While cloaking goes on, and some don't get caught, you really have to ask yourself if it's worth the risk of having your IP address banned form the Web for all time.