It seems that certain internet marketing companies talk a big talk, throwing words around like “SEO, CTR, Top Page Placement”, but does it make your company grow? Understandably, companies can be hesitant when it comes to online marketing programs, especially when large amounts of money are at stake. Here we will talk about what SEO is, why certain SEO tactics don’t return results, and what expectations you should have from SEO marketing programs.
Understanding what Search Engines Do
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, sounds fancy, but really isn’t. To help us understand what SEO is, let’s first talk about what search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. actually do. They do two major things:
- Send programs called “crawlers”, “bots”, or “spiders” to crawl the internet and make a detailed list of all of the websites they find
- Answer people’s searches with relevant websites on the list
The crawlers and bots follow certain rules (aka algorithms) when they search and categorize websites. These rules are proprietary, but we know some patterns that they follow. They look for a few things such as
- Good behavior, ex. Does this website have a user friendly site structure?
- Bad behavior, ex. Does this website have keyword stuffing?
The goal of these algorithms are determine which websites from their list best answers our searches and give us the best user friendly experience.
Okay, So What is SEO?
SEO is structuring your website so that these crawlers can best understand your website and therefore rank it high for relevant search queries. Typical parts of SEO include:
- Updating HTML of your website so crawlers can “read” it
- Updating the website structure for a good user experience
- Researching/Updating keywords and descriptions in website’s code as needed
- Keeping the website content up to date and accurate
- Making new, useful content for your searchers and promoting it
Since the goal of these spiders is to find websites that answer searchers’ questions best, if you approach SEO with your users in mind, you will do well.
Will I get First Page Placement with SEO?
SEO is vital to your website’s health, but it is not a guaranteed solution to website ranking like some marketing agencies will claim. Each individual’s search results is affected by location, browser history, and more, not just your website’s SEO efforts.
If a SEO Company guarantees top, consistent organic rankings for your website, they are most likely using black hat tricks and getting you traffic that is useless to your business (read more here).
It is difficult to measure return on investment (ROI) with SEO, which is why the gimmicky sales pitch of “We guarantee top placement!” is so much more enticing than the honest “We can improve your website and user experience, but you may still not be on the first page”. For more information about companies that make bad guarantees, check out this article.
Why do SEO if it Doesn’t Guarantee Top Placement?
Just because SEO doesn’t guarantee that coveted first page in Search Engines, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow good practices that help your website be found and indexed. By following SEO strategies, your company will be able to attract better qualified leads to your site and give them an excellent user experience.
Do companies that practice good SEO get first page placement? Absolutely. That is how they got there. Can anyone guarantee that they will always be before competitor X? No.
Do I need SEO “maintenance”?
Yes and no.
Certain things in your industry (and therefore on your website) will remain fairly static. Things like keywords won’t change often unless engineers are using new terms to search for your product or service.
Other things on your website should be continuously revised, making sure that your content is accurate and still reflects what your company does. How often this happens depends on your industry and company. Blogging and social media for all industries are great ways to help rankings for a variety of searches.
So yes, your website’s SEO should be maintained, but all of your money and efforts shouldn’t go there. Paid Placement, unlike SEO, guarantees first page placement.
Guaranteed First Page Placement, Great!
By investing in Paid Placement on platforms such as Google and Bing, you are guaranteed ad space on the first page of relevant search results. Your budget, ad quality, and website quality will determine how often your ad is shown. By having this guaranteed top place, your company will be more visible than ever for the exact search phrases you want.
Paid Placement, unlike SEO, requires constant monitoring and tweaking as Search Engines change how they rank ads regularly. Certain keywords for an industry may have traffic one month but none the next. In addition, seemingly great keywords don’t always get the right kind of traffic.
I have an example of a client who runs an EDM machining shop. One keyword that we had was “EDM Shop” and it was getting lots of traffic. However, when I dug a little further, the clicks were from people looking for a clothing store called “EDM”. So although the keyword had lots of traffic, it was attracting people that we didn’t want.
Paid Placement and SEO go hand-in-hand. SEO helps increase the quality of your website and therefore the quality of your ad and Paid Placement guarantees front page visibility.
The bottom line, and how you measure your success, is how many quality leads you are getting. The purpose of marketing is to increase business. If your marketing is not, over time, increasing business, then a new tactic needs be tried. Often, SEO and PPC programs need time to take a foothold in the market, especially if your competitors have been employing these strategies for a while and you haven’t. Don’t despair if you are new to the game however! Begin marketing now to grow your foothold in the internet world.