Internet marketing has changed the way businesses reach their customers. Businesses have migrated from Yellow Page ads to Google search ads because of the change in technology. Now businesses have chosen to bid on how much a customer’s “click” is worth, via pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Many businesses that have a website choose PPC because it produces instant results that can be easily measured (Kritzinger).However, studies by Kritzinger show that search engine optimization can be as beneficial, and if done properly, produce better results than PPC.
What is search engine optimization (SEO)? SEO is the attempt to optimize a website to increase search engine rankings. This can be broken up into two sections, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO. On-page SEO consist of editing efforts directly on the website, whereas off-page SEO is pertaining to how other websites interact with the website. Both are equally important and should have a proper strategy constructed for synergistic results.
There are many obstacles to creating an effective SEO campaign. The main difference between SEO and PPC, PPC offers an immediate route around those obstacles by providing analytics, instant results, and software that allows users to “do it themselves”. Certainly, at first, PPC sounds like the easier and more logical route to take. However, studies show that only twenty percent of search engine users click on sponsored results (Kritzinger). By only allotting funds for a PPC campaign could result in a loss of eighty percent of potential traffic.
Clearly, if something is working, it should not be changed. Suggesting to completely drop a successful PPC campaign is asinine. The proper strategy would be to incorporate a SEO campaign in congruency with the current successful PPC campaign, if there is one. This can be handled one of two ways, splitting the allotted funding for PPC in half and investing in a SEO campaign or, create a separate budget, just for SEO. While the first is the more “budget friendly” approach, the latter will see better results. This will insure that the current traffic of a PPC campaign will continue. After all, it will take time for SEO to start producing results.
If viewing PPC as a short-term strategy, then SEO would be a long-term internet marketing strategy. PPC can provide instant results, but once funds are used, the traffic generated by a PPC campaign stops. SEO is much different in this aspect. Results in an SEO campaign may take longer but the efforts don’t diminish immediately after funds are spent. This is because Google’s algorithm has indexed the web page and until another page is more relevant, or irrelevant, the web page will stay at the position Google placed it.
Tracking SEO results is very important to keep track of return on investment (ROI). This can be achieved through several different, combined avenues. First, and most important, is creating and linking a Google Analytics account to the website. Then, create and link the website to a Google Search Console account. These are the two main tools that are essential to tracking the progress of an SEO strategy.
Unlike PPC, SEO takes time. An effective SEO strategy can be compared to creating fine wine, best results come with time. Marshall explains, in the eBook, Ultimate Guide to Local Business Marketing, it usually takes around twelve months to see proper results of an effective SEO strategy. Just like with fine wine, the way it is made is equally important. Companies seeking amazing search engine rankings must hire a SEO expert that is experience in formulating a campaign that fits the needs of the website. If the wine maker uses lousy grapes, what good is time for the wine?
The real question is, why should a business invest in a SEO campaign, or better yet, a SEO expert? The most obvious is to be at the top of non-sponsored search results. But why non-sponsored when sponsored gives immediate top results? As mentioned before, eighty percent of search engine users click on non-sponsored links. Plus, users that click on the top non-sponsored links stay on the website longer that when they click on a sponsored link (Kingsnorth). This means users find non-sponsored links more relevant to the topic they are searching.
The journey of getting to page one of search results cannot be guaranteed. However, studies done in, Search engine optimization: A case study using the bibliographies of LG Science Land in Korea, show that implementing a specific strategy can increase search engine results for key words/phrases. The key is knowing what search engines are looking for and how to show them a website has specific criteria. If the search engine cannot find the website, how can it rank the page efficiently?
Google has an array of criteria that help them index a website. The eBook, Google Search Secrets teaches how to perform an advanced Google search. In the advanced search feature Google offers, users can narrow search results base on several criteria. One of the main features is, search via types of top-level domains. Such types of top-level domains include, .edu, .org, .gov, and more. Users can also choose to search by file types. Two of the more helpful advanced search features help users pick specific languages and regions. There is also an option to search for websites that offer certain types of content sharing rights. Knowing that these types of advance search features are available gives SEO experts an insight to what Google is looking for on a website. SEO experts can then optimize websites base upon these advanced search features.
Previously mentioned are two types of search results, sponsored and non-sponsored. Sponsored results are the fruition of a PPC campaign. Whereas, non-sponsored links are the result of search engines ranking a web page according to the search query used by the searcher. There are three more types of Google search results that users will notice, local non-sponsored, local sponsored, and products. Products are another form of sponsored search results and local sponsored results appear just below the map with the green lettering, “Ad”. Yes, there are more types of rich search results that Google provides, but for this argument, the focus will be on local non-sponsored and non-sponsored.
It is important to know the difference between non-sponsored results and non-sponsored local search results. Non-sponsored local search results feature businesses that have listed their credentials with Google via Google My Business. Google places a heavier weight on the location of the business in relation to the user searching. This can be tested by doing a simple search for restaurants. Users will find that the restaurants closest to them are the ones that appear at the top of non-sponsored local search results. For the basic organic non-sponsored results, Googles’ ranking algorithm is less weighted toward proximity.
Now that the differences in for local and non-sponsored organic search results have been explain, an effective argument for proper SEO strategy can be made. Ideally, having search results that appear in local and non-sponsored search results is most effective. Sometimes this is not going to be achievable. In the case where a business on the west coast wants to reach search users organically in New York City, they are not going to have a chance to appear in local organic non-sponsored search results. Unless, the west coast business has an office in New York City, but in this instance, they do not. Ergo, the best strategy is to formulate a plan for non-sponsored organic search.
Formulating a plan of attack should take time and proper research. There are many factors that can play into short-term and long-term results. Content creation, curation, and optimization are some of the main factors that can affect the short and long-term search results. Depending upon how much content a website has will determine the next step in the strategy. If a website only has a few pages, with limited content, a copy writer must be hired to create or curate content.
Surprisingly, it is not uncommon to find websites that are content poor. Approximately seventy-three percent of B2C type of businesses do not have a content marketing strategy. This study was performed by Sim Kingsnorth in his book, Digital Marketing Strategy. He also noted, by having a content strategy, website rankings improve, website visit duration improves, customer engagement with the website increases, and overall conversions increase as well.
One could come to an over simplification of declaring “content” as just words on a page, it is more than that. Content reaches beyond the bounds of written context. It reaches to video, podcast, social media, and even apps (Kingsnorth). Therefore, a weighted effort must be put on strategy. Content is, single handedly, the largest and most important part of a marketing strategy. If all the content is taken off a website, what is left? Not much, some colors and a few pictures. Visitors have no idea what the website is about. Maybe a generalization, but nothing of substance to compel them to “make a decision”, except the decision to leave.
Knowing what kind of content strategy to implement depends upon the businesses’ needs. A seasoned SEO expert takes the time to ask the right questions, expanding their knowledge of the business. Proper digging and sorting must be done for them to find the gold nuggets hidden within the business. A SEO expert will never need to know specific financial information. However, they may ask some unusual questions. Businesses may find they have to explain aspects of the business they normally would not divulge. But businesses must remember, a good SEO expert does his research to learn about the business they are marketing.
Once content has been created, it needs to be optimized. Michigan Tech, in their web page article, Five Ways to Improve your Site’s Ranking (SEO), explain some basic ways to get started. They do show how to optimize a webpage, but you need to have a SEO expert to know what to optimize. The web page, “Search Engine Optimization (SEO)” by USA.gov, gives a brief explanation of what to put in certain html tags. Businesses might be compelled to stuff keywords into the tags described by USA.gov. However, simply putting all a webpage’s keywords into the h1, title, and meta tags, isn’t going to cut it with Googles’ search algorithm. Google may even penalize businesses that attempt to conform to this type of strategy.
There are many ways Google can panelize a website. The list of black hat SEO tactics Google searches for is ever-growing. As mentioned before, key word stuffing is one of the tactics Google could potentially penalize websites for using. Key word stuffing is when random key words are stuffed into a webpage. This is an issue for two reasons. One, Google doesn’t like this tactic, and two, the reason Google doesn’t like this tactic, is because it is hard for users to read and engage in the website. Here is a good example, view these two titles: ‘Good Best Pizza Near Me Amazing Pizza’, ‘Best Pizza in Town, Open ‘til 9’. While the first title may have many of the keywords stuffed into the title, the title isn’t readable for humans. Whereas the second mentions the key phrase and gives customers another useful piece of information, the closing time of the business.
Another type of black hat SEO tactic is submitting a website to a link farm. Link farms are websites that generate an enormous amount of links to a website without any relevance. This is not to be confused with link building. Link building is when a reputable website links to another website by placing an anchor tag with in the written copy. For best back linking results, the website linking to the website that is trying to build back links, need to be relevant to each other. For example, a pizzeria would not want a gun store website linking to their website. They are two different categories.
Undoubtably, link building is an important scope to a SEO strategy. As Marshall and Zamir believe in, Ultimate Guide to Local Business Marketing, link building is the most crucial aspect of improving SEO rankings. Some may believe that other types of strategies are more important than building back links. At this point, it is not crucial to understand which is better; back links or other strategies. A well-rounded SEO strategy will have implementation for all the important aspects that build a websites’ ranking. Some comparisons have been studied. In the case of Search Engine Optimization: Comparison of Link Building and Social Sharing, they proved that back links are more beneficial than social media sharing.
Back links can be likened to a community. Communities are typically formed and filled with certain types of people. This is how Google views back links. Just as humans link themselves to other humans by communication and interaction, websites build their community by linking to websites that are relevant to each other. This refers to building back links that are relevant to the website being worked on. There can be negative effects of websites linking to one another that have no relevancy.
There should be many questions that follow once one learns about the importance of back links. One of these questions would be, who is currently linking to my website. Previously mentioned was a tool called, Google Search Console. In the search console webmasters can see who, and how other websites are linking to their website. The next question should be, how do I know if these websites linking to my website are a good thing? This is where a seasoned SEO expert will know what to do.
Understanding the way to improving a websites’ search ranking is hiring a SEO expert. This is the beginning of the journey. Now that an understanding has been made to hire a SEO expert, what is the proper way to find one? There are plenty of “so called” SEO experts available. The key is to find one that has proven results. The SEO expert should have some form of track record they can glut about. But keep in mind, the better the expert, the higher the cost.
To hire a full time SEO agent can cost a company around fourth-six thousand dollars a year (“Average Search Engine”). Very few small businesses have the kind of budget to hire a SEO expert full time. This is where a business with a limited budget can choose one of three paths. The easiest choice is finding an SEO company. The harder, but more personalized choice, is to find an independent SEO expert or third, attempt the painstaking task in-house.
Companies will usually find that an independent SEO agent, that has a good track record, is very dedicated to their success. The good independent agent chooses their clients very selectively base on a few criteria. First and foremost is, budget verses expectation. The last thing a SEO agent wants is a company that will stop funding the SEO a quarter of the way through the campaign. This might be hard for the hiring company to understand at first, but SEO results must be measured over an elongated period. Thus, the best way to ensure both parties benefit from the arrangement is by formulating a contract.
Within the contract, it is a good idea to have the specifics of how a SEO agent will be compensated. An Analysis of the Profitability of Fee-Based Compensation Plans for Search Engine Marketing preformed an in-depth study of the most effective way companies should compensate marketing agencies. They found by using an incentive-compatible compensation plan, both parties experience better overall results. The incentive-compatible compensation analysis was preformed on PPC, but it could also be transferred to SEO. PPC cost is measured by cost per click, whereas SEO can be calculated by cost of producing content and hours spent. Their formula would have to be adjusted to account for these two SEO cost variables, but in the end, it would be more beneficial.
Having a contract with a SEO agent holds both parties accountable. The SEO agent cannot guarantee specific search results, but they should be able to show growth. How the agent determines to show search result growth, should be mentioned in the contract. Other aspects like, start and finish dates, payment schedules, and maybe even, the hours per week the agent intends to spend working on the campaign, should also be included in the contract.
The road to success with SEO isn’t an easy one. There are many turns and bumps along the way. The gold metal doesn’t go to the swift, but instead, to the ones who endure. Consider this along the journey, and always keep trying to learn more. Just as in life, things change, and adjustments might need to be made. Stay the course, and don’t get dishearten.
Having a properly formatted SEO campaign is essential to a businesses’ search engine marketing strategy. If a SEO strategy is paired with a PPC strategy, websites could see traffic increases upward of eighty percent (Kritzinger). At the elementary stages of putting information together for an SEO strategy, a well experienced SEO expert is key to the success of the campaign. With time, businesses that choose to venture into SEO with a good, well-rounded plan will see increases in traffic to their website.
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