Search Engine Optimization (SEO) — Overview

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Process

Exhibit 18.2   Search engine optimization process.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of boosting the ranking of a site on SERPs. It is of crucial importance because the ranking greatly affects site traffic. Most users do not look beyond the first SERP (each Google SERP contains 10 results), and the higher a site ranks on this list, the higher the probability the user will visit the site. According to Google 94% of users click on a first page result and 35% click on the top result.

A typical user query generates millions of web pages with helpful information. As mentioned, Google’s algorithms rely on more than 200 unique signals or “clues” that make it possible to guess what the user might really be looking for, and accordingly rank the results. These signals include the website’s content in the context of how well it relates to the search query, the freshness of content, region, and importantly PageRank, an algorithm used for determining the authority of a web page based on the number of inbound links.

PageRank is based on the notion that the most important pages on the internet are the pages with the most links leading to them. (This approach is similar to the citation based criteria for assessing the importance of academic research papers.) However, PageRank is not a simple count of inbound links; recursive in nature, it weighs the importance (i.e. PageRank) of the page that contains the link. Links arriving from pages with higher PageRank have more weight than links from pages with lower PageRank.

The other signals that Google employs are used to assess the relevance of the page to the information or the services that the user is seeking. To score on relevance, marketers need to craft the content on each page such that it relates tightly with what their prospects are seeking, and serves the intended site objective. In particular, they need an understanding of the range of words and phrases that target customers enter into the engine’s search box, when they are seeking the information or services provided by the site. Those words and phrases, known as keywords and keyword phrases form the basis for SEO.

“Knowing your customers”, the immutable success formula remains as relevant for e-commerce. On the net, marketers are empowered by web analytic tools that allow them to “see” what their prospect are doing, and track the words and phrases they use to get to specific pages on their sites and their competitors’ sites. They may also use PPC advertising campaigns to test alternative keywords in their ability to draw traffic and convert prospects.

The selection of keywords and keyword phrases to target for optimization is a vital step in SEO. Marketers should narrow the possibilities down to a manageable list, choosing those keywords and keyword phrases that are not only relevant, but also more specific (i.e. less generic) to their site.

Broadly speaking, SEO comprises the three processes — strategize, optimize and review — outlined in Exhibit 18.2. The remainder of this chapter dwells on these processes explaining on page and off page optimization, and imparting an understanding of how to increase inbound traffic and improve on-site retention.

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