A key decision for online businesses today surrounds the various approaches to marketing their product or brand online. For some, paid advertising through services such as Googles pay-per-click (PPC) campaign work well in presenting their service to a specific targeted audience. For others, free marketing methods such as search engine optimisation (SEO) provide a great way to rank their website organically on Google. In truth, most successful marketing campaigns will focus at least some of their efforts on each of these strategies, with the dominant or favored route largely being determined by the type of business in question and their own specific requirements.
SEO provides websites with the opportunity to enhance their exposure by climbing the rankings on a search engine, increasing the likelihood of a customer firstly noticing their site and then hopefully entering it too. Around 70-80% of search engine users totally ignore the paid links, choosing instead to select from the organic links available. So, provided you don’t wish to pay for a position boost, SEO is something you should consider both understanding and possibly implementing into your current marketing strategy.
The dawn of web ‘crawlers’ in the early 90’s allowed search engines to gather vast amounts of information on millions of web pages across the internet, completely changing the way search engines were used. During these early days (Google didn’t exist- can you imagine!) there was a strong focus on ‘beating’ the algorithms used by search engines to rank pages- for example by spamming a page with irrelevant key words- leading to irrelevant search results and the realisation by search engine providers that their businesses relied on relevant results in order to keep customers coming back for more. Relevance was critical.
The arrival of Google in ’98 changed the way the game was played. One of their great triumphs (along with their simplistic, user friendly design) was the decision to take away some of the powers of these manipulative webmasters, implementing the use of off-page factors through the launch of PageRank. This meant that the ranking a website attained was no longer totally in the hands of the people building the websites.
In the years that followed webmasters developed various other ‘naughty’ tactics, each of which being met with a harsh response from Google. By 2004 search engines generally relied on large numbers of now undisclosed factors to rank websites, making it far more difficult to manipulate a pages presence using traditional ‘black-hat’ methods.
Since then, Google have introduced further systems to control how they want websites to improve their rankings. In 2011, the introduction of PANDA penalised sites with low quality content. Previously, copying and pasting large amounts of text from another site would allow a webmaster to pinch all their keywords, allowing them to quickly boost their presence- this was the kind of thing PANDA was set up to target. Other systems, such as PENGUIN set up in 2012, punished websites building low quality links.
These changes have revolutionised the world of SEO. It now involves focusing on a wide range of areas to boost a websites rankings- the complex technical aspects now have to be coupled with creating a website valuable to visitors with useful, unique content as well as a clear strategy and communication method to build trust with customers. All these factors must be considered to reach the dizzy heights of the 1st page of a Google search!
How can SEO help your business?
Being ranked higher on a search engine naturally leads to increased chances of your site being clicked upon- how many of you take the time to search the 2nd, 3rd or 4th pages of a Google search when looking for a product or service?
But remember relevance plays a key role too. Using relevant key words among other methods means not only are you increasing your presence, but hopefully pushing your site to specific, useful audiences who are therefore far more likely to enter your site and benefit from what you are offering.
The way you create, edit and maintain your website is very important. Regularly updating text or images, or writing a weekly blog will keep the crawlers visiting your site more often leading to improved ranking position.
Bear in mind, Google provides you with a rare opportunity for some free advertising and traffic through your site. With an average of nearly 6 billion daily searches in 2013, there are likely to be more than a few customers waiting to stumble across your perfectly optimised website…