The search engine optimisation landscape has undergone some dramatic and painful revamping since early in 2012. The full ramifications of that are far from clearly understood by many of the participants in the game.
Almost every incremental step that would once have been used to some advantage has not just been negated, its now a possible reason for over-optimisation penalties to be applied…
Launching a Non-Optimised Website
Tens of thousands of websites are unleashed annually, and if there’s one thing they have in common, it’s a desire to successfully draw in visitors and achieve a positive outcome, be it more readers, increased sales or bookings etc.
Website development / design and SEO are related but distinctly different aspects of a website’s life-cycle. Most designers place most of their emphasis on the form of the site. Their intent is producing an aesthetically pleasing website that encapsulates the client’s business, brand and services – and which will gain a visitors interest long enough to clinch a deal. Very few designers implement SEO as an integral part of the web development project, it’s usually not a part of their brief.
Effective SEO implementation requires significant additional effort and expenditure. That incremental cost factor explains why many site owners choose not implement search engine optimisation at the outset, but invariably find it is required later on, as website traffic falls well short of preconceived goals.
Before a business can increase its web-based sales or effectively sell its services, the prerequisite is that potential new clients can locate your website in a search online. The very first contact between service provider and service seeker is often via a major search engine (Google, Bing or Yahoo) or a local business directory listing.
Those in needs of products or services prospective search using a specific / relevant keyword search phrase. The web sites that appear in the first 1-2 pages of SERPs (search engine results pages) have the best chance of making a connection to the searcher. For any search where your web site does not appear in the Top 30 (first three pages) results, you are unlikely to get that searcher onto your site. Its an unfortunate fact that a mere 10% of searchers will go to or past the 3rd page of search engine results.
Where a reasonable match is not found within a couple of pages, the searcher will often amend their search phrase – or opt to explore one or other of the so-called “sponsored listings.” For a site owner trying to get noticed, paid search placement grows ever-more expensive and if its possible to improve your site’s rankings and avoid paying for placement, there a lot of money to be saved.
What SEO Does
Search Engine Optimisation is about identifying and then eliminating any facets of the site that could hold the site’s performance back. Aspects such as thin content, duplication, poor navigation, lack of social media elements, slow load times, incompatibility with mobile device display standards and more all contribute to poor rankings. SEO has previously been described as “part art and part science” but in 2013, it’s definitely about good content and compliance with guidelines!
There are two main aspects to SEO;
1 – Organic:
The first is where we improve your “organic” or natural search results – achieving higher rankings by optimising and increasing the relevancy of your site to a specific search query. This is done by carefully analysing your site’s ‘”theme” and ensuring that it is easy for the search engines to accurately categorise and index it. This requires the ability to concisely and accurately describe precisely what the site is about, using correct key words and phrases.
The keywords and phrases are positioned in the strategic on-page and off-page locations that search engines expect to find such descriptive elements. These elements may include meta-tags such as Titles, Headings, Image ALT texts, page & image file names and body text.
Organic search engine rankings are regarded as the ultimate because they are “free” once the initial work is done. Better still, searchers regard these “natural” high rankings more favourably than the sponsored listings type described next.
2 – PPC:
The second aspect of SEO is pay-per-click, where your site appears in the “sponsored listing” section of the search engine’s results page and in Adsense advertising panels in many individual web sites. This requires you first to develop a list of relevant keywords or phrases. Then, you write advertising copy by way of titles and descriptions to be displayed to a searcher who uses the keywords or phrases you’ve chosen.
If a searcher clicks on your “Sponsored Listings” in order to visit your website, you pay for that click as per the “maximum bid” threshold that you indicated you are prepared to pay. The cost goes from cents for low volume/least popular terms, to multiple dollars $ for very competitive keyword phrases. You will see PPC in action on Google on any search – usually 2-3 listings at the top of the page above the organic rankings, and additional listings down the right of the page.
PPC or Organic?
For many businesses, a combination of organic and PPC search engine optimisation works best. This is especially true if you sell a wide variety of items. Under those circumstances, it can be difficult to target all possible permutation of keywords and phrases within pages on the site. However, using Google Adwords or Yahoo Search Marketing, it is possible to target hundreds or key words and phrases – the usual editorial criteria being that you can only use terms which are relevant to the content on your site. Listings are validated by the PPC editorial staff prior to allowing them to go live online.
Both organic and PPC options are good at delivering “qualified” traffic to your site e.g. these are visitors who actively searched for the specific product or service, found a link to your site and clicked on it.
These days there is a great deal of competition amongst millions of web sites for rankings on the search engines. If you do not ensure your site is properly optimised for your specific theme, product and service, then it is doomed to mediocrity.
The consequences of NOT optimising your site are;
- most people will only find you by accident, or by paid advertising on Google et al
- you don’t get “qualified” traffic – visitors who want what you sell
- you miss out on sales of products and services and your competitors get them!!
However, the “return on investment” for SEO is usually very good indeed!
A properly optimised site will see prompt and measurable increases in search engine traffic, usually accompanied by an increase in enquiries and sales.