SEO: What is it? What makes it Important, and Why Should I know about it?

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SEO or Search Engine Optimization is defined as a process which affects the visibility of a website in a search engine’s organic, or unpaid search results.  With SEO, users of the internet are able to more readily locate the information they seek when performing searches on Google, Yahoo, Bing and the like.  In order for SEO to be truly effective, it must incorporate a methodology of tactics, strategies, and techniques used to consistently increase the number of visitors to a website by securing a high-ranking placement in a search engine’s results page or SERP.

SEO manifests itself in several forms, including Organic, White Hat, and Black Hat SEO.  Now as you’re reading this article, you’re probably sitting back asking yourself “Exactly what are these different forms of SEO and what are the differences of each?” To this potential query, I’ll break it down and explain exactly what I’m talking about in a user-friendly sort-of-way.

Organic SEO: This phrase describes the processes to obtain a “natural” placement on organic search engine results pages, or SERPs. Through the development of content which includes the use of varying keywords and the analysis which often accompanies the use of such words, back linking, which is sometimes referred to as an IBL or Inbound Link contains a hyperlink which links from a Web page back to your own webpage or Web site.  A number of search engines like Google provide favorable consideration to a Web site with multiple backlinks, as they deem it more relevant in the SERPs, another important aspect of any SEO campaign.  Bottom line: Backlinks are a plus for the web developer seeking to increase the value of their online presence.

White Hat SEO: When I first learned of this variation of SEO, I thought it sounded rather gentleman like, and like any proper gentleman would be, this form of SEO is also sometimes referred to as Ethical SEO.  In the world of business, rather it be online or brick-and-mortar, conducting business in an ethical manner is preferable to conducting business in an unethical manner, which I will cover in greater detail when I discuss Black Hat SEO.  Now when a company is more concerned with increasing the long-term value of their Web site or Web page, or wants to apply a style to their content which is readable by both humans and search engines, then this form of SEO is most applicable and will certainly allow your business to remain indexed on the most popular search engines out there.  Being deindexed is not a good thing, so for much of the content you locate through a search engine, is content made available due to a White Hat SEO strategy utilized by the company providing the content you requested.    The most powerful search engines can tell the difference between each strategy being utilized by the content provider, and if they suspect a lack of ethical treatment by the content provider, it can tend to upset them and cause them to take a negative action against that content provider either through fines or SERP exclusion, something most companies would rather avoid based on their goal of achieving long-term objectives.

Black Hat SEO:  This is a form of SEO you don’t often hear about.  If you have long term goals which your company hopes to achieve, this form of SEO is one which you most certainly want to avoid.  Typically, Black Hat SEO is a form of optimization which is typically utilized by companies looking to make a ‘fast buck.’ If White Hat SEO is the gentlemen’s equivalent of online marketing, then Black Hat SEO is the equivalent of a card shark, a pool hustler, or that guy sitting on the steps of the projects promising you big cash in a game of Three Card Monty.  This form of SEO is considered unethical and contrary to the expectations of the most prominent search engines who monitor for this type of SEO across the internet on a continuous basis.  This form of SEO doesn’t consider the human element, rather, this form of SEO incorporates techniques such as keyword saturation, invisible text, and page swapping where a page is altered completely following a rating from the search engine.  Although Black Hat SEO is looked down upon, there are simply some business owners who are willing to risk the negative implications of this sort of strategy with the search engines because their financial goals are achieved before consequences can be applied and they will typically move on to the next project.  For many businesses however, this strategy has a negative impact on long term goals and should be avoided in consideration of more ethical strategies.

Recently I have found that a large percentage of local business owners I have interacted with do not fully grasp the power and benefit of Search Engine Optimization and the benefit behind utilizing this powerful strategy to develop an online presence.  With cold calls over the phone, the endless emails sent to business owners which could be misconstrued as Spam, and other various methods of inefficient communication clogging the system, SEO is now in the driver’s seat in how to be noticed more quickly, more economically, and simply more often in the course of business today.  I can certainly admit that most of us lack the proper education and possess too little knowledge on exactly what SEO is, and how to bring it to life as a benefit and a compliment to the business mission we are working to achieve.  The days of simply talking to our customers over the phone are done.  SEO provides businesses with the ability to engage their customers, develop and maintain lasting professional relationships, and effectively network with others.  It has long been said that it’s not what you know, but who you know.  SEO helps you engage and get to know more than phone and email ever could.

SEO is not the click of a magic button.  SEO requires strategy, application, and follow-through in order to succeed.  SEO is big, very big and can do great things for the online presence of your business. For those companies who have not yet embraced the world of online business, they are at a definite disadvantage.  With SEO on your side, your business and the goods and/or services it provides are in the hands of your customers faster than those competitors who have not yet implemented SEO into their business operations.  This is why SEO is so important and why the right online marketing company can make a world of difference in managing this important aspect of how business is conducted in the current generation.  So with all this being said…

SEO IS…

1.  A Competitive Practice…  Because you have to constantly maintain a high-ranking position to remain relevant.  Competitors are constantly working to improve their position and capture the top spot.  Once a business has reached the first page of a SERP, your web development and content creation team will have to consistently create high quality and engaging content which is relevant to customers in order to remain competitive.

2.  Connected to Neuropsychology.  Understanding how people think is important and we are constantly making the necessary adjustments to SEO based on human behavior. Neuropsychology is the function of the brain as it relates to specific psychological processes and behaviors.

3. Powerful Social Media…  Getting the world to take notice and want to purchase what your company is selling can be a challenge.  Getting the world to see what you have to offer through Facebook and other popular social media platforms has become increasingly vital to an effective SEO strategy.  With 15 percent of the world’s population connected to social media, the potential to have your business take a slice-of-the-pie has never been better.

4. Conversation Rate Optimization… CRO is the method of creating an experience for a website or landing page visitor with the goal of increasing the percentage of visitors who convert into customers.  Ask yourself, what causes your website to stand out and why do prospects want to return.  Your visitors want to make a connection, and the best marketers find a way to make that connection memorable and lasting.  The connection should be persuasive in ways which cause your website traffic to want to purchase what you are offering, and it’s this evolution which makes CRO essential to survival.

5. The Power of Analytics… Put the science of numbers to work for you as a method of understanding how past performance can translate into future outcomes.  By understanding the numbers behind the performance, forecasting becomes more accurate and reliable over time.

6.  Improving the User Experience… By giving customers the best experience possible, SEO rankings continually improve because search engines take notice when customers are happy with the website you provide.  This is important because webmasters should never sacrifice the customer experience over conversion.

7. Implementing the Right Design…  Aesthetics, functionality, and ease-of-use are important to both customers and search engines alike.  The layout of your website is crucial to keeping customers engaged for greater durations of time.  Search engines like Google give preference to clean looking designs, free of clutter, which provide the visitor with greater ease to locate what they are searching for.

8. Promoting the Brand… By differentiating your brand from others, creating a lasting presence in the consumer mind, attracting customers and developing a brand loyalty are all part of promoting the brand.  From the creation of a logo, to the development of a “catch phrase” that customers will remember, it is all part of a marketing strategy inside an effective SEO campaign.  Also important is ensuring that brand management is conducted to analyze and plan exactly how to effectively promote the brand so it is perceived in the most flattering light possible within the marketplace.

9. An Opportunity to Move Your Product into the Marketplace…  SEO is exactly what allows companies to be found online.  Once consumers locate you, the previously mentioned factors come into play when they decide whether or not they opt to purchase what the company is trying to sell.  Those companies with the appeal, the price, the demand from the market all factor into whether traffic converts into customers or not.

10. Critical to Lasting and Positive Public Relations…  Online ethical behavior, product reliability, brand creativity, search relevancy, and perceived image are all part of the SEO package.  If consumers make a connection with what you’re brand is saying, want the product you’re offering, appreciate the manner in which your business conveys itself to the market, and finds value in your responsibility to provide customer support in an effort to resolve problems and concerns, then SEO will complement the sort of public relations image most companies would pay to achieve and maintain.

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