Amadeus Consulting Discusses: What is Search Engine Optimization?
On a recent article on MarketWatch.com, a site associated with the Wall Street Journal, BARRON’s and other big names, author John Dvorak made some interesting comments on what he sees as “Search-Engine Subterfuge.” Although Mr. Dvorak’s perspective is rightly from a business standpoint, as it relates to Google™’s flat lining stock prices, his perspective on what is happening in the world of search is surprisingly misinformed.
Unfortunately, the negative impression of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) presented in this article is not unique to Mr. Dvorak. In fact, few people outside of the industry really understand what Search Engine Optimization is, what it does, and how it works.
Even though Amadeus Consulting is primarily a custom software development company, we do deal heavily in online technologies and have become very familiar with the capabilities and necessity of Search Engine Optimization. So we would like to provide some insight for anyone still mostly unfamiliar with the concept.
Search engines are a very important aspect to finding information online. Search engines, such as Google, Yahoo®, Bing™, or many others, process your inquiry and produce results related to that inquiry.
For example, if you type in “Wedding Photographer” into your favorite search engine, it will produce millions of results that relate to wedding photographers, photography, and weddings. But how do search engines decide which results to place first, since any of the top results are directly relevant to your search?
This is actually a very complicated process, and it varies slightly depending on the search engine, which is why you may not get the same results in Bing as you would in Google. In general, the process includes the following steps:
A “bot” (automated program) scans each site on the Internet.
When the bot finds a new site, or a site that has been changed, it catalogs the site.
This catalog includes information about the content, the topics, and hundreds of other bits of information about your site.
This information is then stored in a database, which is then used to produce results when you type and inquiry into the search engine.
The most important thing to understand is that this is entirely automated. Nobody at Google decides which websites should rank above others. Instead, they are constantly fine-tuning their systems so that the software becomes smarter and better able to manage your requests.
How Does Search Engine Optimization Effect Search Engine Rankings?
Search engine optimization does exactly what it says: it is a process for optimizing websites so that search engines can understand them.
Search Engine Optimization helps design and configure websites so that the search engine software can more easily interpret them. It does this by helping comply with a complicated set of standards, sometimes called “best practices or “rules.”
Each search engine sets its own rules – or the aspects of a site that they deem important for ranking. These search engines can change the rules without notice, and search engines have no requirement to tell you what the rules are, or how to properly follow them. However, knowing the rules and abiding by them can greatly benefit you and your site.
As previously mentioned, the rules change very frequently. In fact, Google made over 400 changes to “the rules” last year alone. Most of these changes are pretty minor, meaning that they only affect a tiny number of sites, or a few very specific languages. However, some of these are very important rules. Search Engine Optimization professionals follow these changes and adapt their websites so that they match the types of things that the search engine is looking for.
Special tags and information that is provided explicitly for the search engine (Users never see this)
Guidance to search engines on how a website is setup (a map of the site), and what pages are on the site
Information about the subject matter and content of a site
Information on the importance of your site (who else links to content on your site)
Selection of popular search terms related to your site
None of this is magic, mysterious, devious or underhanded. In fact, most of it is clearly documented as “best practices” that search engines prefer that you use. Of course there are many other aspects that go into Search Engine Optimization (we’ve barely touched on the basics), but the short version is Search Engine Optimization creates or modifies websites so that search engines can understand them.
Does this sound like something a web designer should do already? Yes! This is exactly why we at Amadeus Consulting are so familiar with it. However, as mentioned above, with hundreds of major and minor changes made each year, it is beneficial to have a team of people with mixed specialties. This way you have someone who can focus on Search Engine Optimization as a main aspect of their job, and others who can keep up on the other aspects of web development that are changing equally as fast.. Otherwise it becomes too much for one person to track, and quality begins to suffer.
The Benefits to Search Engine Optimization
Ranking in the top results on a search engine can be extremely profitable. This is perhaps one of the reasons some people view it as underhanded – because a lot of money may be made or lost depending on your rank.
Part of the reason is that the top ranked results receive a vast majority of clicks (meaning that people visit the top ranked site more frequently). In fact, approximately 60% of searchers will click the top ranked link, whereas only 13% will click the second link. The results only decline from there.
Another benefit is that a top ranked link also creates impressions even to those who do not click it. In other words, 100% of the people that search for a specific keyword will see your site in the rankings. This can be beneficial later on to creating brand awareness or in other marketing efforts.
Lastly, people still prefer organic rankings over paid advertising. Of course, you can buy Pay-Per-Click ads that appear along with some search results, but approximately 3 out of every 4 people using Google will still click the natural ranked results, rather than any of the ads.
The Most Important Search Engine Optimization Rule
There is one rule that is king above all: Creating a site that a user will enjoy. This means providing useful content, creating a site that is easy to use for all types of users, and providing clear information.
Despite all the hype and emphasis on ranking and Search Engine Optimization, we still need to provide content that people want to view.
At some point in the future, search engine bots will be able to see websites almost exactly as a human sees them, which will essentially morph Search Engine Optimization professionals into Usability Experts. We’re not there yet, but ultimately even if you rank in a top spot in Google, without good and engaging content, a navigable site, and clear topics and relevancy, your site will never be successful.
What can Search Engine Optimization do for you?
We’d love to talk to you about your website and take a look at where you stand. Search Engine Optimization may be what your website needs, and our Search Engine Optimization Experts can help you find what you need.
As the Search Visibility Manager at Amadeus Consulting, Monica’s knowledge is extensive in search engine marketing and conversion optimization strategies. Monica is dedicated to helping both Amadeus Consulting and our clients succeed online and is passionate about all things search. The Search Visibility Insights blog offers knowledge and market-related information for readers interested in the ever-changing world of online marketing trends.