Like any good marketing plan, Search Engine Optimization involves proper planning and even better execution.
What’s the point of designing the most beautiful, user-friendly website without first considering how that site is going to be found? The strategy behind getting traffic to your website needs to go beyond what is printed on your business cards or stationery, and rather focus more on how search engines view your site.
There are over 100 million searches on Google each day. So, when it comes time for a website overhaul, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should not only be in the discussion, it should be at the forefront. Bottom line, you need to give your current and potential customers an easy pathway to your website, and with the lion’s share of the market, Google is that pathway.
SEO Trends, Facts and Projections
- Google is not getting any smaller and as scary as it might be, it is only going to get bigger. Owning over 72% of the search market, preparing your website for Google search is absolutely vital to any website project. Without it, you are voiding yourself of valuable leads, prospective clients, and a staggering amount of traffic that will, unfortunately, find its way to your competitors’ websites.
- The Search Engine Marketing industry also is not getting smaller; in fact, it is currently booming. Despite the present state of our economy, future revenue projections for the Search Industry are set to surpass $25 billion by 2011 (SEMPO Survey, 2008).
- Organic SEO, or the natural positioning of a website on a Search Engine’s results page, accounts for over 12% of the above revenue projections. For every one click on a paid ad placement, 8.5 clicks are from organic results (Moz.com). Organic SEO can also lead to a better return on investment (ROI) for the life span of any website. Some will argue that there is no better long-term ROI for any website marketing project than a SEO campaign.
- During poor economic environments, SEO is an affordable and long-lasting approach to marketing. It is also a forward-thinking approach because it embraces an evolving medium: the Internet.
- Even though people might not be buying your product, they are researching it, and the majority of that research is probably starting on the Search Engines. So by keeping yourself in front of your target audience with SEO, you give yourself a better opportunity to benefit when things turn around.
SEO Process and Practices
Keywords + Link Building + Quality Content + Constant Care = Better Search Results
Search Engine Optimization is an ongoing process from day one of your website planning and development. True, the majority of the process takes place during the discovery, content development and website coding stages, but it should never be neglected after your site has launched. In fact, that should only be the beginning of your optimization.
Keywords are really the heart and soul of any SEO plan. In order to have a successful SEO campaign, you must lay the groundwork for a solid keyword strategy. This is where you research and determine exactly what your target audience is searching for. And with proper preparation, you can learn what the engines are showing prospective clients. By studying trends and behaviors, and putting yourself in the shoes of your audience, you can give yourself the best opportunity to appear in the top search engine results pages (also known as “SERPs”). Figuring out the right keywords is only half of the battle; the other is implementing your keywords throughout your site architecture so the “spiders” or “engine crawlers” can capture your content and hopefully reward your site by displaying it on the first results page.
If you build a quality website—one that is attractive, well written, and informative to your industry—other sites will want to link to yours. When you link to relevant websites, Search Engines will view you as an industry expert. The more sites that link to you, the greater your company’s overall exposure on the Internet. This increases your site’s PageRank; a ranking system Google uses to determine how important your site is (think of it as a voting system).
Quality Content and Routine Maintenance—Beware of the Black Hats
Keyword research and link backs will only get you so far. Like anything else, you need to produce a quality product and a website with a great user experience. Many factors come into play, such as bounce rate, inactive pages and broken links. Most importantly, Google rewards sites that avoid “Black Hat” techniques: i.e., the process of tricking Search Engines into thinking your site is actually important.
Google actually changes their algorithm over 10 times a week in order to keep up with, and limit, the exposure of “Black Hat” sites on their search results pages. Google also likes to see websites that have slow and steady growth (think diet and exercise). Nothing is worse than a stale, neglected website. You will fall off of Google’s radar faster than a Joba Chamberlain fastball (the most important thing in this office, after advertising, is the New York Yankees).
The bottom line: Search Engine Optimization is not going away, and it’s not a fad. As long as there are websites, there will be search engines. As long as there are Search Engines, there will be a need for SEO. Therefore, any website plan should include a plan of how you are going to give your website the best opportunity to be found by your target audience.