Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to a website from search engines via search results for targeted keywords. Usually, the earlier a site is presented in the search results or the higher it “ranks”, the more searchers will visit that site.
As a marketing strategy for increasing a site’s relevance, SEO considers how search algorithms work and what people search for. SEO efforts may involve a site’s coding, presentation, and structure, as well as fixing problems that could prevent search engine indexing programs from fully spidering a site.
Most important online medium?
Search engines are the most important online medium to search for information. 92% of all internet users are frequently making use of search engines. Of all search engines, Google is by far the most used search engine. It provides search results not only on its own website, but powers other search engines’ results as well.
Placement at or near the top of the rankings increases the number of searchers who will visit a site. However, more search engine referrals does not guarantee more sales. SEO is not necessarily an appropriate strategy for every website, and other Internet marketing strategies can be much more effective, depending on the site operator’s goals. A successful Internet marketing campaign may drive organic traffic to web pages, but it also may involve the use of paid advertising on search engines and other pages, building high quality web pages to engage and persuade, addressing technical issues that may keep search engines from crawling and indexing those sites, setting up analytics programs to enable site owners to measure their successes, and improving a site’s conversion rate.
Investing into SEO
Since SEO strongly influences the volume of traffic to your website, it is important to invest into this. There are numerous agencies out there that can assist you to get into the top of the rankings. These agencies are usually quite expensive, so make sure a sitemap is present, issues such as broken links are fixed, etc. so the agency can focus itself on ‘the real work’. Since there are so many agencies out there, picking the right one can be quite hard. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
- Be very skeptical against SEO agencies that unwillingly contact you. Treat them as unwanted emails about ‘making money while sleeping’ and ‘losing 100 lbs in 3 days’. In most cases these are trying to deceive you.
- Nobody can guarantee a top position in the ranking list.
- There should never be any sort of obligation of putting a link of the SEO agency onto your own website. This sounds very logical, yet once in a while some agencies will still ask you for this, which obviously is very inappropriate.
- Talk to at least 3 different agencies and give out the same information. Ask each agency about the difference in their methods and let them explain why they work differently compared to their competitors.
- Make sure you are legally covered. Don’t sign any 2 year agreements. Start with a half year or a single advice/training, so you can get used to the agency’s procedures. Make sure you are the owner of the work that gets done when cooperation between you and the agency ends.
- Be careful with agencies that are mysterious about their methods and procedures.
- Ask the agency in which way they are going to help you; often it’s a case of improving your own organization (such as writing better texts or having the web developer stick to certain guidelines).
- Always ask for references. Ask the agency what they did for other clients, so you can get an image of what they can mean to you. If you can verify this with their clients, you’re probably on the right track. A good agency won’t be problematic about this.
- SEO is per definition a long term project. Often it can take months before getting good results on all the investments and effort put in. The agency can’t guarantee you any results, but they can give you an estimate.
- A solid keyword selection is the base of a good campaign, and crucial for success. The keywords at least have to be picked together. For example, by having the agency do a suggestion which you add up to afterwards.
- Make agreements on how success will be criticized. Make sure all formalities are signed on paper. Best would be to measure the absolute number of visitors from search engines as indicator. Don’t forget to keep any seasonal influences and changes in the branch in mind.
- Make sure your expectations are very clear and point out which responsibilities you think belong to the agency and which don’t. How often do you want to have contact with the agency, which data do you wanted to see reported, how often, etc.
SEO – How does it work?
SEO agencies offer services that vary from writing next texts to giving advice on the subject of the website, and finding the right directories which the website can be registered at. A few unethical SEO agencies have given the industry a bad name through aggressive marketing strategies and attempts on gaining ranks in unfair ways.
There are a lot of different theories on ‘the perfect method’ to gain a high rank in the search engine result pages (SERP). The algorithms used by the search engines are secret and nobody can give you a 100% guarantee on a good position. However, through extensive research some methods have been proven to be influencing the ranking in a positive way. Which elements are the most important is unknown, but the following methods will help you gaining a better position in the search engine rankings.
Using keywords within the tag
Placing one of the keywords you want to be found on in the title tag will have a big influence.
Using keywords in the body text
It’s very important to use the keywords you want to be found on in the content of your website, placed in naturally and logical spots.
The relation between your content and your keywords
It’s important to have a logical relation between the content of your website and the keywords you want to be found on.
Make sure your headers are written in tags. etc, count as well but have less influence compared to the tag.
Using keywords in your URL
Even though it’s hard to actually change your domain name, it never hurts to use a relevant keyword in your domain name.
Link popularity within your website
When there are 15 internal links of your website lead to contact.php, while 25 links lead to team.php, your team page will be considered more important.
Relevance of external quality website
Putting links on your website that lead towards other websites which are high ranked will improve your own ranking as well.
The age of the website
The longer a page exists, the more relevant it gets to Google.
Visible quality text
Texts have to be visible as text and as little possible through pictures and Flash. The content needs to be as unique as possible as well. When certain texts can be found on the net too often Google will register this as spam.
Popularity of your website (links in quality and quantity)
The more links lead towards your website the more important your website will be considered.
Relevance of incoming links
When links which lead towards your website also have a relation to your content Google will consider your website more important.
Links on your website should be made out of text as much as possible. Links in the shape of pictures and/or flash are considered less important. Of course this doesn’t mean you can’t make use of pictures and banners.
Next to the methods of influencing your position in a positive way, there also are certain attributes that can hurt your position. Be cautious of the following:
Server is not accessible to bots
Search engines make use of bots/spiders that crawl your website to index your pages. When your website is offline for more than 48 hours, your position will drop excessively. For small to medium websites with fewer visitors this is more flexible.
When the content on your website is considered a ‘duplicate’, your position will be negatively influenced.
Links to low quality/spam sites
Linking to the wrong websites (low quality and/or spam) will drop your position.
Using the same title on multiple pages
When identical titles are being used on too many pages your position will drop.
Over usage of keywords
Search engines will recognize when certain keywords are being used too often (in order to get a better position) and consider this spam.
Buying and selling links
When you try to buy or sell links at high ranked websites, and get caught by Google, your position will drop down drastically and you risk being removed out of the list totally.
(Very) slow servers
Slow servers with low response times can cause low ranks when bots can’t get to your pages.
See the big picture and how it all ties together for your business?