We all know what SEO is, what SEM is, what PPC is, how search engines
work, and how it all relates to building websites and performing well
in the web world.
But for the everyday Internet user, these are likely not things that
you think about on an everyday basis. Or you may have just heard these
terms for the first time and wondered what it all meant. Believe it or
not, simply understanding the basics I am describing here may help
you become a more proficient Internet user as a whole; and if
performed properly, the SEO tactics that follow should help you
improve the amount of traffic that comes to your website naturally
(i.e. at no cost to you).
For starters, let me define these three key acronyms:
SEM - Search Engine Marketing
PPC - Pay-Per-Click
SEO - Search Engine Optimization
What is SEM?
Let me begin with Search Engine Marketing, as this term is very broad
and fairly simple to explain. Anyone who utilizes search engines to
market their website is doing Search Engine Marketing, or SEM. This
includes Pay-Per-Click and Search Engine Optimization, as well as
other techniques, such as Social Networking or link building.
What about PPC?
The most common term associated with SEM is Pay Per Click, or PPC. PPC
is the act of just what it sounds - paying for clicks. This is done
via search engines such as Google or Yahoo, as well as others such as
MSN or Ask.com. Any company that performs PPC does so by placing bids
on keywords through one or more of these search engines.
FREE TO FLIRT!
They then pay
each time that ad is clicked on (but not until it is clicked on). This
can be as simple as setting a bid price on a few of the terms most
closely associated with your website, or as complicated as bidding on
thousands of keywords and keyword groups that research has proven to
be commonly used by users who are interested in a website such as
When you perform a search within any search engine - lets say Google
for the sake of simplicity - you get two types of results: paid search
results and organic search results. Lets pretend I was interested in
purchasing a copy of "The Tao of Pooh" online. I go to Google and I
search "Tao of Pooh". This takes me to a results page that Google has
populated for me. At the top of the page, I will likely see a few
links with a yellow background (and if you look closely, you will
notice a label at the top of this area that says "Sponsored Links").
There are also likely a handful of links on the right side of the
screen (also with a subtle "Sponsored links" label at the top). These
are paid search results and are, as you would guess, the product of
PPC. All other results are called organic, or natural, results. So now
we know where paid search ads come from and have a vague idea of how
Google and others decide to put them there.
What about the rest of these other organic results, right? Well that's
where SEO comes in.
So then what is SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the act of optimizing a website
such that search engines "like" your site. Unfortunately SEO is no
simple science, but that is the beauty of it. Search engines have what
are called search algorithms, or extremely complex rating systems,
that have the power to decide how relevant your site is to any given
keyword search based on a variety of factors. Where PPC is driven by
the amount that is being bid on a keyword, SEO is being driven by how
relevant your website is to the given search term(s). Sounds scary,
but the wonderful thing is, the better their algorithm, the more
likely you are to end up landing on a website that is exactly what you
were looking for.
How do Search Engines Work?
When a search is performed, the search engine sends its "spiders" out
to crawl every website on the Internet. Then, using their search
algorithm, they are able to rate which of those sites is most relevant
to the given search term(s) and return those results to you in order
or their rated relevance. Although few people know exactly everything
that is on that algorithms ever-changing mind, there are a number of
factors in a websites content, design and structure that are given a
great deal of importance. Relevancy is key - the more relevant a site
is to a given search term or group of search terms, the more likely
your site is to appear organically. But how do you prove that your
site is more relevant than another site, when there are so many other
sites out there?
More Specifically, how do I Effectively Perform SEO?
Aha, so now you want to know the key? Well again, there is no perfect
science to it, but here is what I have gathered over time as the most
important aspects of SEO that should help you focus your to improve
your site's organic search results:
The keywords that are used within your site should be relevant to your
sites content and should be chosen such that any user who is
interested in your product or service would likely be searching using
terms that are contained within your site content. Make sure that the
most prominent keywords make up 3-5% of your site content.
Links - inbound as well as internal:
Search engines view inbound links as important because it shows that
sites other than your own have some interest in your site and
therefore gives your site legitimacy and relevance. Links within your
site that link to other pages within the site are also considered
important, as it shows your site is organized in a way that improves
the user's experience. Pages on your site that have nothing linking to
them are not going to help your site out in any way.
Although this is not something you can change on the fly, it is true
that if your site has existed for some time, you are going to have a
better time at coming up higher in search results.
If you are using content that exists elsewhere, your site will be
punished for it. I recommend always having original content on your
site - even if it is only subtly different.
These are just keywords and descriptions that live within the code of
you site that tell search engines what your main keywords are and
provide a description of your site. If these are omitted, you are
missing out on a great chance to tell the search engine a lot about
your site and are likely going to be dinged pretty good by the search
Site code and structure:
There are many ways that sites can be coded to be more cleanly and
more ideal for search engines. If you have the opportunity, have
someone look at your site's code to ensure that you do not have excess
code, that you are tagging all of your images and other elements
appropriately, and especially if your site is flash-based, that your
site has html files associated with those flash files so that there is
text for the search engines to read.
The list could go on, but lets not go overboard and overwhelm
ourselves - this is a great starting off point and will have you busy
for some time.
I hope that this guide gave you a good intro into the wonderful world
of online marketing and all that it entails! Feel free to let me know
if you would like to learn more about any of this and I will certainly
be happy to take it a step farther. Happy searching!