If you own a website, or your boss does, you’ve probably heard of search engine optimization or SEO. But unless you want to spend a few hours searching on Google, it’s not always obvious what SEO is, why you want it, and how you do it. But now you can relax. Sit back and enjoy the most useful thing you’ve read since Dr Zeuss.
What is it?
Let’s start from the beginning. It’s a very good place to start.
When you search on Google, say for red shoes, you’ll get something like this:
You’ll notice the shaded ads on top and those on the right - those are sponsored. The brands that you see have paid for the ads to be there. The order they appear is a product of how much they’re prepared to pay for each click, and how relevant their site is to the term in question. This is called Quality Score. Google, who want your money, will happily take you through how their process works. Just visit Google AdWords (or adCenter, if you want to advertise on Bing) and off you go. Easy.
The other links on the page, like the IMDB link, belong to what we call the ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ results (there are typically 10 of these per page). These are not paid. Google sorts through the pages that it indexes (a lot) and decides which of these sites are the best. This process isn’t arbitrary, there’s a reason these sites appear in the order they do. SEO then, is really the process of tweaking your site so that, at least in Google’s eyes, your site is more useful for given queries.
Why are you only talking about Google - aren’t there other search engines?
Yes there are, but Google is, by some margin, the largest. In the US, their market share is around 65%, in Europe it’s around 90%. Not only does this mean there’s more traffic up for grabs, it also means there are more people talking about SEO on Google than the other search engines. And that makes your job easier, because it’s easier to find out whether or not you’re doing the right thing. Think of buying a car - if you buy a Toyota or a Ford and it breaks down, any mechanic anywhere in the world will be able to help you. Buy a lesser brand, and it becomes much harder.
OK, but why would I be interested in SEO?
John Wanamaker, the father of the modern department store, famously said that he wasted half his advertising dollars, he just didn’t know which half. If you’ve ever done any offline advertising, you might be able to appreciate this. Why pay to get your message across to people who aren’t interested? With SEO, that’s not a problem.
The only people you’ll be targeting are people who search for terms that are relevant to your business. It’s a bit like walking past a car showroom with a sign saying “I’m looking for a new car”. What do you think the salesperson would do as you passed? Ask you how your day was, talk about the weather, or try and sell you a car? This is the potential SEO has to offer. Thousands of people walking past your online store, with a sign saying “I’m interested in your product”. Why wouldn’t you go after that?
And just to be clear, whether you get 10 clicks from your SEO or 10 million, Google won’t charge you a penny.
Ok, so now what?
Improving your traffic takes a time, effort, and a little money. But, once you know what you're doing, it’s relatively easy, and the awards are potentially huge. Simply put, you need to research the words your customers are using when they’re searching for your product, then ensure Google knows that it should rank your site for those products. How do you do that? Well, just read our Keyword Research section in the Wordtracker Academy - where you can learn SEO - and we’ll tell you all you need to know. We can even sell you the tools to do your SEO for you. We make it so easy, you’ll be wondering why you didn’t start this years ago!
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