What is SEO: Basic Concepts and Strategies
The overarching goal of SEO (search engine optimization) is to improve a website’s position within search engines so that potential website visitors can reach a website through relevant searches (known as queries). While SEO conversations often seem to focus on the concept of ‘ranking number one’ for a particular term, SEO has multiple facets that require unique technological and creative skill-sets. With patience, realistic expectations, discipline, and correctly implemented/managed strategies, SEO can be one of the most beneficial forms of web marketing.
The image below shows the difference between paid search results (advertisements) and organic search results for Google.com:
Goals of SEO
At its most basic level, SEO seeks to improve two core areas:
Website Content Relevancy - The degree to which a website’s content matches a users need and/or intent, which usually are represented through queries (commonly known as keywords). Website Content Popularity - The order by which search engines display search results depend on a range of factors, one of the most important of these being the quantity of external websites that link to a particular website.
These two concepts, 1) relevancy and 2) authority pervade into every aspect of SEO, which we can sum up with the following idea:
“Successful SEO modifies website content and code, and builds links from external websites so that a particular website appears in priority positions of organic search results for a relevant query.”
Why Does SEO Matter?
More and more, people rely on the internet and, more specifically, search engines to find information, make transactions, and accomplish an array of goals. As a marketing medium, search engines offer an incredibly powerful way to target a very specific audience based on intent. To illustrate this concept we’ll provide a simple example:
Bob searches for ‘short haired puppies’ in Google.com - Bob sees a lot of images, peruses some of them, but does not satisfy his need, which is to purchase a puppy Bob types-in and searches for the term, ‘best small-breed puppies,’ in Google.com - Bob sees some pet stores, and takes a look at them, but he decides that he wants to find a location close to home Bob finally types in ‘breeders that sell beagle puppies in Chicago’ - Now Bob notices that the results that appear are much more relevant as he begins to see results of local pet stores
What’s at play in the above example about Bob and his quest to buy a puppy?
Bob represents the average search engine user, where he refines his search to become more detailed as he discovers more information. Bob represents a typical user with different buying cycle stages. His search also moves from being ‘informational’ in nature to ‘more transactional’ in nature as he narrows his search query. The websites that appear in organic search results have a ‘ranking,’ which search engines determine through complex algorithms. The websites that appear first have higher content relevancy for Bob’s search terms and are more popular than other websites (these sites have links from external websites).
SEO is a Method
To be more specific, organic (non-paid/advertised search results) search results constitute a marketing channel. In the USA, alone, more people use Internet search to find information than the yellow page, and has over 220,000,000 estimated Internet users.
As such, the potential gains for ranking a website (in terms of both website visitors and potential online leads/sales) within search results for particular queries is quite high.
SEO is a Process
SEO requires a unique marketing activity that involves both technologically-driven and creatively-driven skill sets. Generally, SEO can be broken into three phases:
Planning & Strategy - This phase generally entails analyzing a business/website from both a marketing and technical perspective (usually through an ‘audit’) in order to determine a direction for SEO activities. This stage is vital for an effective SEO processes as implementation activities must be founded upon stable considerations in order to be effective. This stage also sets benchmarks, against which progress can be monitored. Implementation & Analytics - SEO generally divides itself into two camps 1) onsite optimization and 2) offsite optimization. Onsite optimizaiton addresses technical and content issues found on a respective website itself, whereas offsite optimization dedicates itself to acquiring relevant links from external websites. Ongoing reporting ensures that SEO methods work effectively. Maintenance & Training - While SEO experts can (and often times do) complete ongoing SEO activities, many businesses find it in their interest to train and manage staff in order to help manage SEO themselves. Indeed, mastering SEO can take years to learn, but certain less technologically-intensive and/or content-oriented activities can be completed by just about anyone who has the right know-how. With occasional oversight and guidance by an SEO expert, such tasks can be managed by a business/organization to ensure that it maintains effective SEO.
SEO is Long-Term
A good way to think of SEO is to think of it as a long-term investment. SEO is unlike other web marketing methods in that returns can take significantly longer. This is largely due to the fact that successful SEO must be ‘organic,’ and as such needs time to grow. Interestingly, SEO requires higher initial costs, but these costs reduce relative to benefits over time. This is such because SEO activities can take months to see an impact in search engines.
SEO Has High Long-Term ROI Potential
While SEO does have higher initial costs with lower benefits compared to online advertising (e.g. AdWords), the fact that SEO is a long-term solution makes it more profitable. One reason is because online advertising only works when it has a budget exists to pay for the advertisements; as soon as advertisements are paused, the benefits cease (for the most part). Conversely, SEO can take some time to build in order to see benefits, but with appropriate maintenance, SEO benefits will persist over time.
Furthermore, studies show that Internet search users tend to click on organic (non-advertisement) listings more than paid advertisements and that these users tend to have higher levels of education. Because SEO provides a long-term solution and drives higher-quality traffic, its chances of driving online goals (known as conversions) is more likely and, as such, has higher potential (long-term) for a positive ROI (return over investment).
Want to learn more about how GrayBox's internet marketing services can help your business use search engines to drive traffic to your website and help you accomplish your online goals? Drop us a line and we'll work with you to create an internet marketing strategy that can help you make the most of SEO.