Search Engine Optimization is Also Known As SEO
WE will discuss how search engines work and why search engine optimization is important.
In the second section, we’ll discuss basic techniques and important factors in SEO and search rankings.
And, in the final section of this guide we’ll discuss how to maintain and continually improve SEO long term.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is optimizing your content to drive search engine traffic to your work.
It involves gaining a thorough understanding of how search engines work and then reflecting that knowledge in your writing and webpage design to maximize traffic to and user experience on your page.
SEO is important because search engines like Google, YAHOO!, and Bing drive the majority of web traffic. Shares on social media can cause short term spikes in stats, but real, long term success comes from maximizing search engines ability to drive traffic to your page.
Not only will good SEO improve search rankings and increase traffic for the author, but it helps people interested in your topic find your page and improves the viewer’s experience as well.
SEO involves strategically using appropriate keywords, building links to your work and making your pages search engine friendly. Although it is important to understand what SEO is, it is also important to understand what SEO isn’t. While SEO can make a big difference in stats, it cannot fix bad writing or poor content. SEO can make good writing into a great, high performing webpage, but it cannot turn poor content into good writing.
How Search Engines Work
Search Engines use “spiders” or “crawlers” to build an index of the webpages available, the words on each page, and where on the page those words were located.These program robots begin on popular webpages and add important words found on the page to the search engine’s index. From there, they follow every link on the page and index the corresponding pages before using the links on those pages to go to the next set of pages, and so on and so forth. This process is known as crawling.
Once this information is gathered by the spiders, it is encoded and stored for indexing. In order to even out the difference between the time needed to search a term beginning with a popular letter like ‘t’ and a search term beginning with a less popular letter like ‘q,’ a numerical value is applied to each word. This process is known as hashing. Not only does hashing even out problems related to letter frequency, but it condenses the index. Only the numerical value and a link to the actual information is stored in the index. This increases index and search speed, especially with more complicated searches that involve multiple words.
When a user performs a search, he or she types a query into the search box. Boolean operators can be used to define specific relationships between the terms in a query. Some of the most common operators are:
- AND-requires that both terms are on the page
- OR-requires that one term or the other is on the page
- NOT-excludes pages that include the following term
- NEAR-requires that two terms be near each other on the page
- “quotation marks”-requires the query be treated as a phrase, instead of each significant word in the query being considered an individual keyword
- FOLLOWED BY-requires that one term be followed by another
These searches are defined as literal searches. Research is currently underway on concept based searching which uses statistics statistical analysis of webpages containing your query to recommend pages you might be interested in, as well as natural language searching which allows users to type a question into the search box using the simple language they would use to ask a friend their question instead of using Boolean operators.
There’s More than One Search Engine
Each search engine uses different rules for determining which words are indexed and which words aren’t. Some search engines index every word on the page. Others focus on the most common words, the words in titles and subtitles, meta tags and the first few lines of text.
If you’ve ever tried searching the same phrase on different search engines, you probably noticed that you got different results. This is because each engine uses different algorithms to weight and index keywords and determine search result rankings. Search engine ranking algorithms use website popularity, meta tags, number of back links (links to the page), keyword frequency and location and a wide variety of other factors to rank webpages and how well they correlate to viewer searches.
In addition to relevance, website popularity is taken into account in determining search rankings. As more interested users are directed to your page by your SEO techniques, not only will the techniques increase your relevancy scores, but the popularity component of the ranking algorithms will increase as well.
(For more concrete information on specific ranking factors and their relative weight please see this website.)
Your Audience is Important in SEO
Now that you know how search engines function, we need to consider how users interact with search engines. To conduct a search, the user types a few keywords into the search box and clicks enter, browses the results and selects a page to visit. If the user is unsatisfied, he or she will return to the search and select another result or modify their query for a new result list.
People perform searches because they a) want to go somewhere specific on the web b) want to do something specific or c) learn a piece of information. In order to create a high performing webpage, you need to think like your user.
Ask yourself how many of your audience’s needs can be met on your page. Add additional, relevant content that meets these needs to attract more viewers and happier views. Then ask yourself if your audience can find your page. What queries might your target audience put into the search engine? Are those keywords found in your titles, subtitles, alt text, summary and first few sentences?
Remember, building content for your users will lead to better results than trying to build pages for search engines.
SEO for Blogs: If You Build It, Will They Come? -- search engine optimization -- High Rankings -- Keyword Discovery
When it comes down to it, there's one factor that matters more than any other when it comes to an online marketing campaign: your return on investment (ROI). If you can maximize your ROI, and sustain it over the long term, your marketing campaign, by definition, will be an unquestionable success.
So which online marketing strategies tend to have the highest ROI?
Before I can hope to answer this question in any objective or meaningful way, I have to clear up a few initial points and establish a foundation for my reasoning:
- ROI is somewhat tricky to nail down. Even with all the data in front of you, it's difficult to pin down a precise measure of ROI. This is partly due to the fact that many forms of "return" are imprecise, such as brand reputation, credibility, trust, and visibility.
- Time and money are both investments. If ROI were a simple matter of "money in, money out," it'd be much easier to estimate and compare. However, some strategies require more of a time investment than a money investment, which adds another difficult-to-measure variable to the process.
- Long-term ROI is different than short-term ROI. And one isn't objectively better than the other. Over the course of five years, a long-term investment will pay off far better than a short-term one, but sometimes you need results to start showing immediately.
- Marketing strategies depend on execution. Let's say there's a marketing strategy that has a tremendously high average ROI, but you have no idea what you're doing; would you expect to see that high of a return in your campaign? The success of a marketing strategy depends on its execution.
- Every business is different. Every industry, every demographic, and every individual brand has unique factors that affect how effective different marketing strategies will be. It's impossible to account for all these factors.
With those considerations out of the way, let's take a look at some of the most popular marketing strategies around today and how they compare with each other.
Most business owners who have tried it will tell you that paid advertising offers a good ROI. However, there are a few considering factors that complicate paid advertising, making it difficult to pin down an objective conclusion about the strategy. For example, the price per click on a Google search ad can vary wildly depending on what industry you're in, sometimes up to $50 or more per click. Plus, you're not "building equity" with a paid advertising campaign, no matter what platform you're on; it's more like paying rent. Once you cut funding to paid ads, they instantly turn off, and the only lasting value you get from it is the sales you made while the ads were active.
Content Marketing and SEO
Unlike with paid advertising, it's technically feasible to get started in content marketing and SEO with no monetary investment. However, if you want to scale your strategy to a meaningful level, it's going to take significant time and/or money. When you first start out, your results will leave you wanting more, but the true power of content marketing and SEO is their ability to scale exponentially over time; rather than giving you linear results, as with paid advertising, every new piece of content you produce will hold a lasting, semi-permanent value for your brand in terms of web real estate, referral traffic, and domain authority.
Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is another area where it's technically feasible to pursue with only an estimate of time. Depending on the scale of your efforts, social media marketing could cost thousands of dollars per month. As for the value--that's trickier to measure than the results you'll get from SEO or direct advertising. You can measure engagements, traffic, and conversions, but it's hard to accurately quantify the reputation value your brand has generated. Plus, there's wide variation between industries when it comes to social effectiveness, and the price of paid social media ads.
Email marketing has been described as the highest-ROI online marketing strategy, when implemented properly, with 67 percent of businesses listing it as their highest earner. Part of this is the low cost of creating a list and sending out emails; it won't cost you much in the way of time or money. There's also something of a growth factor, as the value of your email campaigns will increase with the size of your list. However, email marketing is dependent on a number of other interrelated strategies to be effective--and actually getting that email list built up in the first place, which can be very expensive.
The Final Contender
Out of the significant online marketing channels I listed, it's tough to pick a clear winner, especially after acknowledging the considerations I outlined above. In the short-term, paid advertising can give you a strong return, and email marketing seems to work best for the majority of businesses once they have a strong email list built up. However, if I had to pick one "best" strategy when it comes to ROI, I'd choose content marketing and SEO--thanks to its multifaceted range of effects, permanent value, and potential for compounding returns, there's just no better way to spend your marketing budget (though ideally, you'll be pursuing all these strategies in one form of another).
The Definitive Guide to Marketing Your Business Online
Search Optimization in the Mobile Age
SEO is constantly changing. It's changing because Google wants to improve the user experience. This past January, a core algorithm update was quietly implemented. It's now March and people are still not quite sure what this update did and how it's going to alter the SEO landscape.
It made me think about how SEO has changed and how it will continue to change going forward. I approached Scott Cohen, the CEO of 180Fusion, to talk about this issue.
AJ: Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to speak to me. Before we launch into SEO, could you tell my readers about what 180Fusion does?
Cohen: 180Fusion is the leader in performance driven digital marketing that specializes in helping companies increase sales by driving online traffic in a profitable way. The platform and services support all aspects of SEO/ SEM, including local SEO, content marketing, PPC, and Enterprise SEO campaigns. Our goal is to help our clients go from being "in business" to "succeeding in business online."
AJ: To start with, what do you think is the general trend hitting SEO today?
Cohen: I think the trend is exactly the same as it has been for some years. Google wants its results to reflect relativity and genuine popularity. First of all, if you are not opting for completely white hat SEO techniques, you are making a massive mistake. Even if you are using grey hat techniques, Google is going to catch up with you one day.
But genuine popularity is the key. If you can produce content that people actually want to read, as opposed to just generating a link, then you are going to achieve incredible success.
AJ: You mentioned relativity. What do you mean when you say 'relative'?
Cohen: Relativity has changed. Previously, it was about making sure that you are being ranked for the right keywords. Google has made it practically impossible not to rank in the correct category because their technology has come so far.
Relativity is about laser targeting your audience through using long-tail keywords. Over half of searchers are using search strings that are more than four words to get the right results.
It goes further than simply using long-tail keywords. Local SEO has become prominent because of Google's habit of providing personalized search results. This means that two people can search for entirely the same thing, but get two sets of results based on their geographical location. There's also the potential for hyperlocal SEO to become a thing as Google's algorithms become more accurate.
AJ: Moving on to the mobile revolution, this can be quite confusing for people who are new to the SEO arena. How would you make sense of this?
Cohen: I would say the newcomer to the field needs to keep in mind that they absolutely have to be optimized for mobile searches. The customer experience is the most important thing here. Take this statistic as an example: 55% of customers would pay more for a guaranteed good experience.
You can give them that good experience without them having to pay more. Responsive design is a must because it impacts the user experience directly. It's why Google has used the Mobilegeddon thing to penalize websites that don't cater to mobile users.
You should go even further in catering to mobile users by creating content specifically to them. This is what I mean by relativity in SEO. The way people access the Internet is changing.
AJ: What would you say the state of content marketing is?
Cohen: The state of content marketing is always an interesting subject because there are always groups who say that it's dying or already dead. I smile because every year content marketing is stronger than ever before. As the saying goes, content is king because users crave good quality content. Despite the importance of social media, there's still room for long-form content.
If you are answering commonly asked questions and directly addressing the issues of users, you are going to win in the SEO race.
Google has said many times that it wants companies to cater directly to the needs of users not SEO. Companies that have heeded these words have been rewarded by Google. By creating relevant content on a consistent basis that customers actually want to read, they have seen their rankings skyrocket.
It can take some time to build up a solid content marketing base, but when you do you are in a great position for success.
AJ: I would like to thank you for taking the time to speak to my readers today about the direction SEO is moving in.