What is Search Engine Optimisation?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is part of a larger umbrella of marketing called search engine marketing (SEM).
Marketing is the process of connecting, engaging, and influencing your potential customers to buy from you, being able to earn their loyalty and building your brand within the marketplace.
Search Engine Marketing, on the other hand, is the process of gaining qualified leads and increased visibility from search engines through both paid and unpaid efforts.
Search Engine Marketing can happen in two key ways.
- SEO: SEO is a structured, process-driven business strategy that is used to secure a high-ranking placement for a particular web page or site in organic search results.
- Paid search: Paid search will provide the fastest return on investment. It’s fast to setup, easy to test, and you’ll generate traffic to your site pretty quickly. The most typical form of paid search is pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. Examples of PPC marketing include Google AdWords, Social ads (such as Pinterest promoted posts, Facebook ads and LinkedIn ads) and Bing ads.
According to a study by Forrester, more people are likely to get to a particular website from search engines than any place else. In fact, research shows that 93% of web users begin their online research with a search engine.
Consequently, if your customers and prospects are unable to find you online, they will be doing business with your competitors instead. The fact of the matter is, if you’re doing business on the Web, SEO needs to be a strategic component of your overall internet marketing strategy.
Importance of SEO
Search engine optimization describes the set of techniques and processes used to improve the visibility of a website or web page in a search engine’s organic search results for a given set of keywords.
However, while being on the first page of Google is tremendously important to the success of a website, SEO has become less about getting a single site ranked in the number one position, and more about effectively optimising all of the digital assets (videos, images, social media profiles, etc.) and web properties you own in order to increase your presence on the search engine results page (SERP) for your target keywords.
The SEO Process
SEO has undergone such a dramatic transformation because of the rapid consumer behavioral changes that have occurred in the marketplace over the years. Consumers today are social and savvy, and the way they make purchasing decisions has completely changed, and SEO has evolved to reflect this change.
Today, as many as 90% of consumers will search for online reviews of the product they are considering buying or the company they are considering doing business with. Many will also search for conversations and mentions on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to find out what is being said about the company or product.
Understanding the Goal of SEO
Whilst increased traffic and search rankings are SEO Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), they are not the main goal of SEO. The ultimate goal of Search Engine Optimisation is to deliver “targeted traffic” to a website. This is the kind of traffic that tends to lead to increased sales or conversions, and boost profitability.
The merits of using SEO in online marketing include:-
- high popularity and visibility
- top ranking in search engine results
- improved traffic
- online branding
- boost in online sales
Google has also published its Webmaster Guidelines which are being constantly updated, and is engaged in an on-going effort to help online businesses understand better what they must do in order to make search work for them.
Google and Bing Search are now powered by semantic search technology. Semantic search helps users get to the information they want a lot quicker than ever before by displaying more precise and accurate results based on user intent, content, location and the contextual meaning of a search query, rather than simply looking for the best keyword optimized web page.
Semantic search has effectively rendered many SEO and SEM strategies that have been used over the last decade, obsolete.
Google Knowledge Graph
The Knowledge Graph presents search results in a way that allows businesses to get the attention of their potential customers on the Search Engine Results Page with a completely new way of marketing.
The Knowledge Graph is designed to help Google improve its search accuracy and relevancy and also to present Knowledge Graph boxes, where relevant, within its search results that provide direct answers to search queries.
The Knowledge Graph delivers a brief profile of the queried subject right on the search results page, and has significantly expanded Google’s ability to understand and answer questions. Google is no longer simply providing links, but is actually providing relevant answers right on the search results page.
For example, if you perform a search for F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, you’ll notice the Knowledge Graph has already compiled a neat and concise summary of the driver in the box to the right by using cross-referenced information collated from all over the web to create lists of objects associated with him.
Rather than sending visitors to the Lewis Hamilton website to learn more about him, Google uses the Knowledge Graph to reveal his birth date, family, birthplace, height, and personal details.
Although this is just a cursory glance at the F1 legend, it may be sufficient for some of the people searching for basic information about him. Google also provides links for those who want more information. This represents the true value of semantic search.
Bing Snapshot is Bing’s Satori-powered version of Google’s Knowledge Graph. Like the Knowledge Graph, information from Snapshot appears in a panel to the right of the main search results, or in a carousel above them.
Optimizing for Search in 2017
SEO has become a technically complex and socially-driven amalgamation of processes that is practically impossible to manipulate over the long term through sneaky keyword optimisation techniques and backlink spam as was the case before Google Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm updates.
Today, you could have a perfectly optimized website with thousands of backlinks pointing to your site and still be nowhere to be found on the search results page for your target keywords. In fact, using out-dated SEO techniques that may have worked well in the past will almost certainly land you an algorithmic penalty.
Google will always reward popular and reputable websites that contain original, fresh, industry-relevant with expert content and high quality links. Essentially, the key to success with SEO in 2017 and beyond is to focus on delivering excellent user experience and consistent value in ways that generate social buzz for your business.
This means optimising your website through on-site SEO, building a strong brand and online reputation, creating and curating quality content and developing a focused digital marketing strategy that ensures your web presence is robust enough to ensure high visibility across any search interface including Google’s Knowledge Graph, Bing Search, app store search, mobile search and social graph search.
It also involves actively engaging and building relationships with industry peers, influencers and thought leaders in your industry that can amplify your content and improve your chances of generating relevant and organic backlinks and social signals to your website.