Are you one of the many who don’t know what SEO stands for… and truth-be-told you don’t really care? Do you think that SEO is the marketing department’s concern? If you are the owner, Chairman, President, VP, CEO, COO, CFO, Controller, or the Director or Manager of a department in any company anywhere today, you should care about SEO. And if you are a salesperson, you should definitely care about SEO.
Let’s start with the basics. S-E-O stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is the process of improving the visibility of a website or web page in “natural” or un-paid (also called “organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. In a nutshell, SEO is the strategy of optimizing a myriad of components that search engines (such as Google, Yahoo or Bing) look at to determine a website’s (or page’s) ranking for a particular search term in order to improve the ranking. If you’re one of the many who think only the Marketing Department should be concerned with SEO, think again. SEO is something that should matter to every business leader, manager and salesperson. Here’s why.
SEO is discussed as often in marketing today as the IRC is mentioned in accounting… as often and with as much controversy. Why? Just as the Internal Revenue Code governs the rules and regulations of the world of taxation, SEO is focused on the rules that determine how ‘findable’ your company is on the World Wide Web. Like CPAs and accountants help individuals and businesses handle their tax position, people involved with SEO provide insight to individuals and companies on how web pages are ranked and strategies that can improve their ranking. SEO then goes to the heart of how companies (and their products, services or messages) are positioned on the Internet… which is the most important way for a company to be found in today’s tech-driven world. For many companies, the bottom line is: you rank, therefore you sell. This is true even for companies that don’t sell online or do any kind of e-commerce.
Understanding the Basics of SEO
In plain English, SEO focuses on improving a company’s position in the global village. The more “findable” a website is, the more potential customers may visit the website to consider buying, retaining or hiring the company’s products or services…. or evaluate the company’s expertise, size, position or strength.
SEO looks at how search engines work. Search engines, like Google, look at a number of criteria to determine website rankings for specific word or string of words. The goal for any company is for their website or blog to be listed on page one of any search for words most related to that business. SEO optimizes a website (or web page) so that it has as many of the components that the search engines value in order to achieve top ranking for those specific words or phrases. That makes a site more ‘findable.’
SEO also looks at which search engines are preferred by the targeted audience. Google is by far the most popular search engine with more unique monthly visitors in May, 2012 (900,000,000 unique visitors) than the next 14 most-visited search engines combined (521,300,000 unique visitors) according to Alexa Global Traffic Rank.
SEO also looks at what people search for… the actual words or phrases, commonly called keywords, that their target audience types into search engines when looking for that product or service. They examine how popular certain keywords and phrases are in order to decide which words they want the site or blog to rank. It is virtually impossible for a website to consistently rank on page one for all keywords. So part of what SEO strategists do is determine which are the keywords to target and make the site more ‘findable’ when people search for those specific terms.
SEO Matters Even For Businesses That Don’t Generate Their Business Online
Without SEO, a perfectly good website or web page might never get ranked very high for keywords that matter to that company…. even for a very successful company with a very good website. And, if a website does not land on the first few pages of the search results for terms that are important to that business, the chances are slim that that company’s key audience will ever find that company’s products/services online through a natural search. To put it another way, good websites don’t just naturally float to the top of rankings over time. In fact, just the opposite is true. Good websites sink to the bottom of rankings over time unless aided by SEO strategies.
Still, many entrepreneurs and professionals think “I don’t care about SEO or how we rank. People don’t look for my particular product or service online. It doesn’t matter if my website ranks on page 347,617 of a Google search because my business isn’t generated online… it comes from referrals, reputation, word-of-mouth or advertising.” Others may think “My company is already successful. My website doesn’t need to have a good online ranking.” This way of thinking is particularly prevalent with highly-successful businessmen who have achieved great success without a website or web presence. It’s also common with professionals who provide complex, sophisticated or high end services, such as attorneys, CPAs, and doctors. After all, what big company is going to choose an accounting firm using a Google search? Who would find an attorney to represent their company in a major transaction through Yahoo?
While it is true that most people won’t choose a pediatrician, attorney or financial planner from just an online search, they do use online searches to read other people’s recommendations about a company, to see how a company presents and positions itself, and to ensure that the company seems professional. So information about a company is used to validate the company’s brand and reputation. Most people turn to the Internet to research or “check out” every company and person with which they come into contact. Any business with little or no online presence or a poor ranking might be perceived as shaky and unreliable or a Johnny-come-lately. It is important for even the most elite firms to have a website or web pages that rank well for their particular key terms.
Also, search engine use is not going away. Internet use is increasing exponentially across the globe. According to Internet World Stats, 78.6% of North Americans, 61.3% of Europeans and 67.5% of Australians have Internet access. The percentage of people with Internet access in Asia, Africa and South America is not as high, but is growing exponentially.
So what do search engines value in order to improve a website or web page’s rank? That is the million-dollar question. The answer, however, is an ever-changing, always moving target. We’ll tackle that question next week. Stay tuned.
Quote of the Week
“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” Bill Gates
© 2012, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.