What is SEO?

magnetIt’s a confusing topic “Search Engine Optimisation”. For starters it there’s the typical IT approach of taking a name which is relatively short and descriptive and turning it into a confusing acronym <yawn>, then we overcomplicate the whole process with lots of other big words and conflicting information so that small business owners have little choice but to seek out the services of an SEO ‘professional’ who is happy to take their money without any tangible means of measuring results.

For you, the business owner, the most practical approach Flashburn would recommend to all its customers for undertaking any form of SEO is:

1.    Understand what SEO is (read the article!)
2.    Gather some basic website data and intelligence on your website
3.    Make an informed decision as to the best approach for you to implement some form of SEO.

Hopefully this article will provide you with some insight into exactly what SEO is, why it is important and where you can obtain further practical SEO tips and information. Flashburn has also produced an article for point 2 above which will help further develop your understanding.

Let’s start by defining what SEO is not to dispel a range of mis-truths and mis-conceptions.

    SEO is not link building. Link building (the idea of getting inbound links to your site to increase its search engine ranking) is certainly one SEO technique but link building alone is not SEO and will not in itself provide you with the results you may be seeking. If an SEO professional is offering to increase your page ranking by creating inbound links alone, run for the hills. Similarly, if you are seeking an SEO professional to assist you in increasing your page ranking by building inbound links you are missing the point of SEO.
    SEO is not Google Ad-words. SEO is not Search Engine Marketing (SEM). What is the difference between SEO and SEM? While SEO is focused on optimising your website to ensure that search engines display it in relevant search results, SEM is a means of attracting visitors to your site through other (generally paid) advertising services.
    SEO is not a product or single process you go through. No one single product can perform SEO for you and it’s not a one-off process. It’s an ongoing process which you need to invest time and money into achieving your objectives.

So what is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an ongoing process and range of supporting techniques for website owners to drive traffic (visitors) to their website which, for most website owners, is critical to the success of their business.

A simple case in point: If your website attracts 1000 unique visitors per month and 10 of those visitors purchase something for an average of $50 your ‘conversion rate’ is 1% (10 sales ÷ 1000 visitors X 100) and your revenue is $500 (10 sales x $50 per sale). Optimisation of your site can do two things:

    Increase the amount of unique visitors to your site by ranking you higher in search engine results for particular keywords. Given that the majority of users don’t move past the first few pages of search results it is particularly important to ensure your site is amongst those few pages for particular keywords and phrases.
    Increase the conversion rate once visitors reach your site by optimising the content and ensure visitors stay for longer and are compelled to make a purchase.

Taking the same scenario, let’s assume your site is optimised and as a result you are ranked higher in Google search results and now attract 5,000 unique visitors per month. Let's also assume that you have optimised your landing page and product pages which now ensure that more customers complete the checkout process and have a moderate increase in your conversion rate to 3% (anything from 3-6% is considered excellent). Suddenly your revenue has jumped from $500 to $7,500 per month! (5,000 visitors x .03 conversion rate x $50 per sale).  With just 5 times the visitors and a 2% increase in conversions we’ve managed to increase your revenue by a significant amount.

Of course not all websites sell ‘stuff’. Your website objective may be different from the scenario listed above. Perhaps you are looking to capture a email addresses of customers looking to attend an event, or maybe you are wanting visitors to download a copy of your product catalogue. The exact same principles apply: attract visitors, get them to do something.

The ongoing SEO ‘process’ is simple: Assess, Plan, Execute and Monitor. We’ll explore this process in more detail below.

A.    Assess
The Assessment stage is primarily focused on 3 key aspects: Initiation (install tools), Data Collection (keyword data collection, content review, site code review) and Data Analysis (comparison of keyword statistics, review of competition). Our article on Top 10 Free SEO Tools for Small Business provides a range of tools which you can use to carry out your assessment.

B.    Plan
Based on the outcome of your assessment it is necessary to then plan how you will undertake SEO, which SEO elements you intend to focus on and the ongoing program of works you intend carry out for a given period of time. Too many people (and SEO companies for that matter) skip this step and jump straight into the next step (Execution).

    Without a sound understanding, a clear set of website objectives and a means of measuring your performance it is near impossible to execute any form of meaningful SEO on your website.

This is where an SEO company like Flashburn can assist with planning for:

    Domain names and proper Search Engine Friendly (SEF) URL’s
    Page titles , meta-keywords and meta-descriptions within your code
    ‘Alt’ tags on site images
    Use of keywords in titles and general site content
    Producing additional, keyword rich content
    XML Site Maps
    Creating back-links to your site
    The layout and look of your site.

C.    Execute
Execute the plan! If you feeling confident you may be able to research and carry out the plan yourself, otherwise Flashburn might be a better option.

D.    Monitor
Use the tools you’ve implemented during the Assessment stage to continue to monitor your site traffic and conversions over a number of months to see what effect your optimisation has had. You may also begin to see results in your page ranking on Google but give it time. It takes anywhere from 7 to 30 days for the Google ‘robots’ to visit your site and index the contents.
Once you’re assessed the results return to step A. and repeat the process.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), is not rocket science, it’s a bit of an art form more than anything and takes time and patience to learn.

For further information see our articles on:

    Top 10 Practical SEO Tips for Small Business
    Top 10 Free SEO Tools for Small Business

Andrew Jackman is the Managing Director of Flashburn Design, a web development, marketing and web hosting company based in Melbourne, Australia, specialising in Content Management Systems and e-commerce websites.


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