Despite the profound benefits Search Engine Optimization provides businesses when applied correctly, this marketing method remains something of a mystery to many business owners the world over.
By first understanding its definition, we can begin to appreciate what Search Engine Optimization has to offer.
At its simplest, Search Engine Optimization, or SEO can be defined as a process that maximizes the number of web users visiting a website, by ensuring it is displayed as highly as possible on page one of keyword searches that the search engine will select for you.
However, this definition barely scratches the surface of what SEO has to offer, nor the processes involved in implementing a successful SEO campaign, and why it’s such an effective marketing strategy.
A brief history of search engines provides an illuminating insight into not only how they have changed the way we conduct many of our daily activities, but also into how SEO came to be.
Search engines have revolutionised the ways in which we obtain information, conduct research, search for and purchase products and services, entertain ourselves and connect with our peers.
At the back end of nearly every online destination – be it a website, social network, blog or app – lies a search engine. In fact, search engines are now so prevalent in daily life that the word ‘Google’ has itself become a noun.
With the amount of information on the web continually increasing, search engines were born out of necessity. They gathered and displayed the vast swathes of information available in a concise, easily accessible and presentable manner. Now artificial intelligence is being used to help organize much of this data.
Around 1997, when Flash was being used to create sites, search engines were still listing websites alphabetically – a far cry from the algorithms used today for determining which order to display sites.
Only a handful of inquisitive and knowledgeable web providers discovered that by reading the code of sites being displayed on the first page of search results, a unique code could be applied to other sites they worked on ensuringthey would also appear on the first page.
Applying this method resulted in increased customers for businesses hiring those that could successfully implement this strategy. However, despite the clear results, a degree of skepticism remained in some regarding the relativity of the code and its direct influence on increased visitors to the sites, and therefore, increased business. Those that changed their websites completely and lost the unique code invariably found their leads rapidly drying up and left wondering why.
The Google Revolution began in 2000
In 2000, Yahoo partnered with Google, allowing them to power their organic search results instead of Inktomi, which resulted in every Yahoo search result displaying ‘Powered by Google’.
This move, which is considered to be the worst strategic move in the history of search, inadvertently contributed to Google – who, although little-known back then, were Yahoo’s biggest competitor – becoming the household name they are today.
Prior to this point, search engines mainly ranked sites based on their on-page content, domain names, and ability to get listed in relevant directories, and their basic structure and code formation.
Google’s introduction of their algorithms and web crawler in 2014 was revolutionary for online information retrieval, while also setting the bar high for it’s competitors.
Whether or not we’re aware of it, SEO is a necessarily pertinent component of web usage. It ensures users are directed to the information most relevant to their search terms and is a powerful tool for businesses seeking more qualified leads.
If knowledge is indeed power, then understanding how results are delivered serves as an essential element to any business owners’ marketing toolbox.
First and foremost, search engines aim to provide the most accurate results to web users’ queries. They use over 250 plus ranking factors to determine the most unique, high-quality content relevant to a particular search term and display each result in a corresponding order. These factors can be loosely defined as on-page, which considers the quality of a site determined by a highly technical algorithm – and off-page, whereby sites are graded by their overall popularity.
A site’s popularity is determined by many factors, with the most applicable influencers being the number of high-quality backlinks from other websites, and the level of engagement on various social media channels.
The former is achieved through publishing highly informative and useful content on quality websites with the aim of earning backlinks, whereas the latter is accomplished by encouraging engagement on the myriad social media platforms that are linked to the website.
Skepticism about the effectiveness of SEO remains rife, with many still questioning the time, effort and financial investment in improving a website’s organic SEO. However, the acquisition and monitoring of relevant data is an integral part of SEO, and the results gleaned from this data lends credence to the benefits search engine optimization has to offer.
1. The Results Cost Relatively Little Compared to PPC and AdWords
When implemented correctly and successfully, organic listings are a worthy investment for business owners as it is long lasting.When organic SEO starts to dominate, the need for paid listings such as Google AdWords can be reduced and in time paused so the business owners do not remain dependant on this service. The services of a results proven SEO professional is a worthy investment, as consistent levels of increased traffic can be directed to a website regularly. By contrast, traffic levels typically drop back down to zero once a paid campaign is paused.
2. Increased Trust in a Brand is Invaluable
Web users trust organic listings as much as they trust Google to provide them with reputable brands in searches. In other words, the higher a site is listed in the top ten organic search results on page one, the higher the levels of trust in a brand – and that trust cannot be bought. In fact, most web users tend to ignore paid listings in favour of highly ranked organic listings. Furthermore, the lower a site ranks, the less likely web users are to trust the brand.
3. Significantly Higher ROI (Return on Investment) Than Standard Ads
While a paid ad might convert a small percentage of visitors into making a sale, the same visitors from SEO will typically yield a much higher conversion rate, thus deeming SEO as the superior marketing method – both in terms of ROI and effectiveness. Furthermore, many web users often accidentally click on Pay Per Click ads that the business owners still need to pay for regardless, whereas those same accidental clicks on organically placed listings from SEO cost nothing. Essentially, a click on an organic listing is considerably more valuable than on a paid ad, resulting in a much higher ROI.
4. SEO Provides Permanent Results
Although an SEO campaign may take some time to secure the coveted first page status with various keywords being targeted, the results gleaned from these efforts can be everlasting. Through the continued publication of high quality content, it would be highly unlikely a website would lose its high-ranking positions. On the contrary, sites that are paying for their positioning will disappear into the ether of the internet once they pause their campaigns or run out of budget.
The Importance of Content with Artificial Intelligence
Creating great content is the key to online success – and this holds especially true with the continued development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and SEO. Publishing engaging and interesting content across a variety of websites, blogs, videos, social media channels and guest blogs means that should one piece of your online presence be affected by an AI-related shift within your site, it won’t affect your overall online presence to the same degree.
When creating content for SEO purposes, your focus should be on the relevancy and value to your visitors. Keyword phrases should be replaced by the content that is centred on a key concept related to your particular keyword. Therefore, rather than repeating the same keyword in your content, it is much more prudent to write a blog post, or a series of blog posts all relating to one another that focus on a single topic while taking a broad approach to the subject.
To achieve success in an artificial intelligence powered organic search world of today, it is imperative to focus on creating a positive user experience. This is accomplished by continually creating and publishing high quality, interesting, valuable and relevant content that is easily accessible across all devices.
About Senka Pupacic
Senka is the founding Partner and Principal Consultant at Top 10 SEO. As an author, speaker, and consultant, she has advised and worked with companies and organizations across two continents in web analytics, regular testing of algorithm updates, web design, content management and online search engine marketing. Her aim is to assist businesses with their visibility on the world wide web bringing them in front of the people that matter, their future clients.