Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Content Relevancy and Link Popularity Explained
How does a web page get ranked #1 on Google? There is no doubt that the methods of the 1990s no longer work - and most definitely, not since Google went public in 2004.
Back then, the content of your website's pages was the major factor. Today, however, having links on the Internet that point back to your website is another important criteria, which will require that you involve yourself in the Internet community.
The later point is a very interesting to consider. How do you involve yourself in the Internet community? What does this have to do with search engine optimization (SEO)? Actually, involving yourself in the Internet community doesn't directly have anything to do with SEO; however, many people seem to pigeon hole anything related to the search engines into SEO. Therefore, we will need to define the various acronyms that are used in the Internet industry.
The Internet has also created an environment in which institutional control of information has been lost. As a result, control of information has trickled down to the individual level. Imagine the transition from several thousand companies once controlling messages through traditional media to today's expansive communication via several million individuals free to distribute their own information on the Internet. What you find is that the logic process has also been spread over millions of people; and for this reason, it is harder to explain why certain things happen on the Internet.
Because the Internet has opened the communications to the individual, the individuals are now exposed to the concepts of business. Not everyone has a business degree and most only have a superficial understanding. As such, the definition of marketing and how advertising plays a role in this process is not well understood at the individual level. This has caused improper usage of the various acronyms used on the Internet today.
Marketing and Advertising Defined
Before we can understand the various acronyms being used within the Internet industry, it is important to understand the definitions of marketing vs. advertising.
* 'Marketing' is the process or technique of promotion, selling and distributing a product or service. * 'Advertising' is to make your product or service publicly known; an announcement to call public attention by emphasizing qualities to arouse a desire to purchase.
You can see from the definitions that advertising is part of marketing. Marketing includes everything about raising the awareness of your business from branding, messaging, public relations, advertising, events, customer relationships and much more. Advertising is a component of marketing and should never be the only method used to promote your business.
Defining SEM, SEA, SEO and LP
Using what we have learned about the definition of marketing, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) would include all processes related to promoting all of your website's pages with the search engines. Included in this process would be Search Engine Advertising (SEA), which would be the sponsored search advertising - or, what some also refer to as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. These are the sponsored links along the top, right side and bottom of search results. Also, included in SEM would be SEO and your outreach program on the Internet away from your website that increases the number of links to your website, also known as Link Popularity (LP).
What is SEO?
It is important to understand how to tell the search engines that a particular page of your website is an authority in a particular topic. Keywords and phrases are utilized to communicate this expert status to search engines. You will notice that we are talking about pages of your website. Each page of your website can be optimized for a topic based on its visible content. We are no longer optimizing blindly the entire website for the same information, but using each page to help drive traffic to our website. By all means, this does mean that for a particular search result, visitors may enter your website from somewhere else other than the home page!
Each search engine has a different algorithm in deciding what the person searching is seeking and how relevant the information on the individual pages of your website relates to the search. They take into account the title of the page, the meta description, and the visible text. Some search engines do look at your meta keywords, but not nearly as much as they used to in the past. What you are presenting with visible text is what the visitor will see; and therefore, the content has more value than the Meta keywords. This also prevents spammers and fraudulent websites from hiding their true identity.
Why is SEO Important?
The volume of information on the Internet is staggering. The Internet seems larger than our real world. Search engines have an enormous task to filter all of this information to provide something meaningful to the searcher in a matter of seconds. Compared to the old days of using search tools like Archie and Veronica that required hours and sometimes days finding information on the Internet, the results from the current search engines are significantly improved.
The competition of web pages (whether they are direct competitors or not) as well as your business competitors are all seeking to also be ranked within the first three pages of search results. It is important that you seek out the right resources to help you optimize your pages and give you a fighting chance.
What to do before you SEO
Research, research, research! There are many tools out there that provide you information about what people actually type into the search engine, the number of searches performed over a 30 day period, as well as how many competing web pages exist for that search term. These are the three major parts to the research you are seeking. The search engines can provide you the first two with their tools, while the third item may require you to perform a search in quotes to get a real understanding of the total competing web pages. There are third party tools that can also provide the complete information, however, always keep in mind that the search volume is not an absolute from any source including the search engines. Use the information as a guideline to give you direction. Regardless of the tool(s) you use for your research, they will all provide you options for other key phrases to consider based on your initial entry. This will be helpful to consider other alternatives you may not have thought about.
In this process you will learn two important items.
* First you will learn that the rest of the world may not necessarily search for your website's products and services the same way you expect them to. For example, you may be ranked number one for a particular term, but if no one is searching for that term, what difference does it make if you're number one or number 100? Go with what people are searching.
* Secondly, you will want to seek out a balance between the number of searches and the number of competing web pages. The search term that has several million competing web pages will take you longer to rank where as those that are only in the thousands will be easier. Take a look at the search volume to see what would happen if you had 1% of those visitors purchase? Based on what you are selling you may not need to be ranked for terms that have thousands of searches. For your business, those with lower search volumes and less competition may suffice as a foundation.
Consider your research as a starting point, not an end point. You can always change your optimization later; and always keep in mind that you can optimize the pages within your website to cover a variety of possibilities from your research.
What you do to SEO
Search Engine Optimization does require some technical understanding of the HTML code in order to add the necessary meta tags, insure you have the right image alt descriptions, the right link title descriptions and lastly, to appropriately write the visible text on the pages. The elements of this process include the following:
Be sure that your HTML code adheres to the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) standards. Many will ask the question why and the answer is simple. If you adhere to the standards, you can't go wrong. If you don't adhere to them, there is a higher chance that it will have a negative effect for browsers and search engines.
Websites with outdated Flash animations, frame designs, and broken links are certainly not going to allow search engines to identify the content of your web pages. Use current coding methods, not table based websites. Can you easily navigate your website? If not, then neither can the search engines; and therefore they cannot identify how to rank your web pages.
Does your website allow a visitor to reach your business objective easily from the point of entry? Make sure you have a call to action on all pages of your website.
Use of all meta-data
Meta data goes beyond Title, Keywords and Descriptions. There are a variety of meta tags that inform search engines about the content of your web page. Use all of them. Don't forget to have unique Title, Keywords and Descriptions for each of your web pages. Duplicate content is not something the search engines appreciate.
Be sure to have well-written, grammatically correct and spell-checked content to your web pages. If your website becomes a resource for its unique content you are more likely to receive traffic-seeking information about your business.
Your Outreach Program: Link Building
Consider link building as a process that will increase the critical mass of information about your business. The information or content you post (vs. advertise) on the Internet will have a shelf life of years. Therefore, the links to your website will also accumulate over time and also have a shelf life of years.
The more links you have pointing back to your website the more popular your website is considered by the search engines. Based on the content that is posted your website will be considered an authority on that topic.
The process of posting content on the Internet will not only generate traffic from the search engines, but also generate traffic to your website from the websites where the content is posted. Oddly enough you will get traffic from these websites before receiving traffic from the search engines.
Content you will post on the Internet will come in five primary forms: Articles, News Releases, Videos, Photos and Social Media Marketing. The process of content marketing is quite involved and is also labor intensive when done correctly. If you come across anything that may sound like a "link farm", you will want to run because they will not give you any long term results and are not considered responsible link building.
Finally the link building process comes in three formats: direct links to your website, cross linking content on the Internet, and deep linking to specific pages within your website. Understanding this process becomes a strategy in order for your prospects to find you and have all paths lead back to your website.
Is this an overnight process? Absolutely not! It is an ongoing process that acts not only as a public relations tool, but also as a long term advertising tool. The process of maintaining your website and the content marketing process of link building is something you do daily, weekly and monthly. Part of this process and Internet marketing strategy also requires the initial research process and the measurement of the results and the effects of your efforts.
About the Author: SmartFinds Internet Marketing agency (Smartfinds) develops strategies for corporations with a sophisticated approach to digital marketing. From website development, creative, branding, to research and strategy development to digital marketing to digital advertising to measurement, reporting and data analysis.