Understanding Search Engine Optimization

Even though Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has been around for a long time, many people do not understand what SEO is and are often taken advantage of by high pressure salespeople.  Here are some facts to help you weed through the hype and find what really works.

How long will it take before my site shows up on Google? There are no guarantees that your site will show up on a search engine.   There are a number of factors that search engines use to determine when and if a site will appear.  How well your site is optimized, how competitive your market is, and the size of your market area all affect this. There is no set time frame, since each site and industry is different.  However, I have found that a brand new site will take, on average, 6 months to a year to appear on the first page of Google.

How important is my Google PageRank?  PageRank is the numeric value given to your website based on its relevance and importance according to Google. It used to be a major factor for Google’s algorithm, however, that is no longer the case.  You can check your PageRank at www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php

Which search engine is more important? According to comScore as of December 2010, Google had 69% of all searches while Bing had 24%.  Keep in mind that Google supplies AOL its search results, while Bing supplies Yahoo!.  It is best to optimize for both Google and Bing and review your ranking on both sites.  Don’t assume that if your site is doing well on one, it will do well on both.

How long do I have to do SEO for?  SEO is not something you do once and then you are done.  You must be continually tweaking and updating search terms and site content and submitting the site to search engines.  We recommend your site is submitted every 4 to 6 weeks. The web is expanding and changing and you need to keep up with those changes.  The SEO of yesterday is not the same as it is today.  In order to grow your online presence, you have to be prepared to invest time and money into SEO.

Who should handle my site’s SEO?  You can do it yourself, hire someone on staff, or outsource it.

If you do it yourself you may save some money but you will spend time learning and then doing the SEO work.  Not to mention potential loss of income while you are getting up to speed. Keep in mind that SEO is an evolving process... prepare to spend time every month reviewing new tactics and procedures, since what worked even 6 months ago may no longer work.

Hiring someone - this person should have a marketing background and work with your other marketing leaders, not your IT department.  Any offline marketing can be used online to improve your SEO.

Outsourcing is generally your best option but do your homework.  You want to work with a reputable, "white hat" firm.  They should be US based and speak English. A lot of SEO focuses on creating and publishing content and you need someone who understands English and the US market. Any company who promises to have your site ranking number one in Google by the end of the month is probably a "black hat" firm and should be avoided.  If you are unsure of a company, go to Google and search for the company name plus "reviews".

How do I measure SEO success?  There are a few ways to tell if your SEO is doing well.

  1. Is there an increase in site traffic? Traffic should steadily increase over time.

  2. Track how your site is ranking for your top search terms.  Did your site move from page 7 to page 2?  There will be some movement in your ranking, but overall it should increase.

  3. Conversion rate. Determine what a conversion is for your business.  It might be a phone call or someone using a coupon.  A higher conversion rate means that more targeted traffic is being sent to your site.

August 1, 2011

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