Introduction to Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves designing websites, and getting links from other websites, to make your website optimally appealing to search engines. The result is higher rankings in the search engine result pages, which in turn leads to more traffic to your site from potential customers, more income, and increased brand recognition.

Many people and companies find that SEO is the most cost-effective form of marketing in existence, especially when it is part of an integrated marketing plan that includes public relations and online advertising. Once high rankings are achieved, they tend to stick unless you are in a very competitive niche. Those rankings cost you nothing, yet they can continue to bring you an unlimited amount of new customers and revenues.

SEO consists of two parts: on-page and off-page. On-page refers to making sure that the main pages of your website contain carefully selected keywords in all the right places. Keywords are terms or phrases which potential customers are using to search for a provider like your company. All over the world, billions of people turn to their computers every day, and use their favorite search engine (70% Google) to type in something they are looking for or interested in. Those magic words, known as keywords, are the key to SEO success.

Ideally a business-oriented website is built from the ground up using a set of keywords that have been carefully and strategically selected by an SEO expert working with you. That way you can be sure that the top keywords are the foundation of your website.

But realistically most people designing websites, even experienced professionals, are not skilled in SEO or do not want to bother with it. It is complicated, and can get in the way of creative design. Therefore optimizing an existing site can be time-consuming, as the old structure and content has to be replaced with new or improved components that are fully search engine optimized. It all depends on the state of the website as it exists prior to SEO work.

In brief the targeted keywords need to be in the title of each page, the headline, and several other places on each page. Best results are achieved by using only one keyword phrase per page. Some pages are created just for search engines, with links to them in small type along the bottom of the page. Others are intended for people and search, and are part of the main menu. Keywords need to be embedded in the titles of pictures which appear in little boxes when you hold a cursor over the photo. Every page also needs what is called a “meta description” – a descriptive summary that only shows on search results pages and sometimes not at all.

SEO is best accomplished over time, six months or longer, so that the optimization appears natural and unforced. Search engines like to see websites being tended like a garden, and are suspicious when everything appears in full bloom overnight. Of course this is all part of the “secret mysteries” of search engine optimization. Google tells some but not all of what it is up to, and SEO professionals guard their methods cautiously.

However “by their fruits shall you know them.” When an SEO program is working, the site ranks higher and higher in the search engines for the targeted keywords. The results, and the traffic to your site, are measurable. SEO professionals provide their clients with monthly reports showing all SEO results and increases in rankings for the selected keywords (typically 15 to start).

Most companies who use these “organic” SEO methods also use “paid search” with Google and other search engines. The small text ads you see on the right-hand side and top of search result pages are paid for by companies bidding on the keywords – typically ranging from under $1 to over $5 per click, depending on competition. Whenever the keywords are entered into a search engine, the highly-bid ads pop up on the side and top of the page.  One of the brilliant innovations of Google – and why it is worth billions – is that there is no charge to advertisers to display an ad.  You only pay when someone clicks on it (pay per click), taking them directly to your website.

When someone arrives on your site, you only have a few seconds to convince them they have found what they are looking for. Then you have a short time, maybe a minute or more, to engage them and convince them to buy from you, call you or fill out an online contact form. This process is called “conversion.” It is different from SEO, but complementary. You are seeking to persuade people instead of attract search engines. All the traffic in the world won’t earn you a dime if you can’t convert it into paying business. But that’s a topic for another report.

So in brief the SEO process works like this:

  1. Determine target keywords through a process of shared analysis and research.
  2. Analyze to what degree the current website is optimized for those keywords.
  3. Propose a process for making the needed on-page changes.
  4. Execute the on-page improvements within the scope of the agreed-upon budget.
  5. Upload the improved pages.
  6. Begin the process of gradually improving the “tags” and other “invisible” parts of each page, highlighting the target keywords.
  7. Begin seeking links to your site from related websites.
  8. Periodically send out press releases which contain keywords and links back to your site.
  9. Continue 6, 7 and 8 in monthly cycles.

10.  Analyze results and report improved rankings to the client.

Simultaneously it is also recommended to purchase ads from Google for the targeted keywords. This typically ranges from $50 to $500 a month for small to mid-size businesses. Ads are built using the keywords to attract visitors to your site. This can be very involved, with hundreds of keywords and dozens of ad variations, since search engines consider singular and plural words and other slight variations to be different. Tests have shown word order, commas and other truly minor changes can increase click-through rates significantly.

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads can get your information on the first page of Google overnight. Many companies find it is a quick and reliable source of qualified traffic.

Very detailed results of SEO and PPC, where website visitors come from, what pages they visit on the site, and much more, can be monitored through using the free Google Analytics software embedded in each page. This allows continuous improvement of both SEO and PPC programs, so results and sales continue to increase.

Contact Lawrimore Inc. to learn more about how search engine optimization can work for you.