I get asked a lot about Search Engine Optimisation, what it is and whether to be bothered with it, so I thought it would be a good idea to write a few words about my thoughts and my experience with SEO.
SEO – Search Engine Optimisation, is the process of getting your website to rank in the first page of searches when someone types in a keyword into their search engine. Popular search engines include Google, Yahoo, Bing (formerly MSN). There are two ways that you can rank in search engines.
Paid for ads, and Free natural listings.
Paid for Ads (Adwords):
Paid for ads are called Adwords in Google. They appear first in the search results and in the side panel in a shaded box, which is simply labeled ¡®ads¡¯ (they used to be called ¡®sponsored links¡¯). You ¡®bid¡¯ for keywords and depending on the competition bidding for the same keywords and relevancy of your ad, your ad should appear on the first page as an ¡®ad¡¯ above the natural listing.
You can choose geographic regions (from towns, to national and international) that your ad gets displayed in. The wider the coverage, the higher the bid price will be. You can set a daily budget, so that when your budget limit is met (i.e. your ad has been clicked on x many times) your ad will no longer display that day.
Pros of Adwords:
Your ad appears instantly on the first page (or second – depending on competition)
You only pay when someone clicks on the ad.
Cons of Adwords:
Can turn out very expensive, especially with competitive keywordsNo guarantee of sales as a result of clicks.As soon as you stop paying, your ranking drops instantly.
The best time to use Adwords
Because the listing is instant, it¡¯s a good way of ranking on the first page of search results particularly when it¡¯s for a new business or website. However, for the long-term it can end up expensive, so you should also work on getting a good ranking with your natural listing.
Natural Listings (free)
Natural listings appear under the ads section of the search results. There is some arguments that people ignore the ads and only look at the natural listings, so it¡¯s as well to focus some time on improving your natural listing, even if you¡¯ve got some paid ads, because paid ads have no effect on your natural listing.
It can take much longer to improve your natural listing, sometimes 6 months to see a significant jump. This is because the natural listings are controlled by ¡®spiderbots¡¯ – automatic programmes that search the web registering the content. They explore links, revisit links, check content and generate listings so that when people type in a search term in their search engine, it will give a listing of sites that are most related and popular. They check how many other sites are linking to it, the quality of those links, how recently the content was updated, the content itself and how relevant it is. The difference is that once you¡¯ve got to the first page, your site is there until competitors start improving their SEO and out-rank you.
Pros of natural listings:
Natural listings cost nothing.Once you¡¯ve got on the first page, it stays there.
Cons of natural listings:
Can take many months of work before ranking in first page of search results with the page, particularly for competitive keywords.
The work of getting ranked on the first page is called SEO – Search Engine Optimisation. SEO is largely dependant on 4 main areas:
Keyword phrases and their popularity v/s competition
Content – frequency
These areas are quite complex and will be explored in a future post. What is important is that SEO is just one of many methods that you can exploit to get targeted visitors to your website. Your website is just one tool you have access to in your armoury to convert prospects into paying customers. SEO can be time-consuming and if you pay someone else to do it, it can work out expensive too.
Ultimately, anything you do in your business must have a purpose e.g. get new clients. Your business model might depend on getting strings of new clients (e.g. wedding caterer – isn¡¯t likely to get repeat business). So, you must judge whether getting traffic (visitors) to your website from search engines is going to be part of your marketing plan to gain new clients, or whether other marketing methods like networking, social media, referrals, PR etc will give a better return on investment.