Search Engine Optimization (SEO) — Overview

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Process

Exhibit 25.3   Search engine optimization process.

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

A typical user query generates millions of webpages with helpful information. And 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.

Similar to the citation-based criteria for assessing the importance of academic research papers, PageRank is based on the notion that the most important pages on the internet are the pages with the most links leading to them (i.e., inbound links). Furthermore, PageRank is not a simple count of inbound links. It is a recursive algorithm that takes into account the importance (i.e., PageRank) of the page that contains the link. Links arriving from pages with higher PageRank are given more weight than links from pages with lower PageRank.

Google employs various signals to assess the relevance of the page to the information or the services that the user is seeking. Hence, marketers need to carefully craft the content on each page such that it relates tightly with the information or services their prospects are seeking. This requires an understanding of the range of words and phrases that target customers enter into the engine’s search box, searching for information or services related to their website. Those words and phrases, known as keywords and keyword phrases form the basis for SEO.

In essence, what it all boils down to is “knowing your customers”, the immutable formula for marketing success. 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, as well as those of their competitors. They may also use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns to test alternative keywords in their ability to draw traffic and convert prospects.

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

Broadly speaking, SEO comprises the three processes — strategize, optimize and review — outlined in Exhibit 25.3. 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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