Search Engine Optimization – What Does It Really Mean?
These days you can not be internet-savvy and not hear the three letters SEO. If you are a business owner looking to expand your business through the internet, and especially if you are into online trading, understanding this is of utmost importance.
• What is SEO or Search Engine Optimization?
In layman terms, it is optimizing (tweaking) your website so that your target audience finds it easily on the internet. There are several search engines available – Google, Yahoo, Bing etc being the popular of the lot. In fact the term "Google" has almost become synonymous with "search". You would, by making changes to your website in terms of design and content, help the search engines find and list your website ahead of your competitors.
• Why do you need it?
Let's take the example of a furniture showroom in Mumbai. You carry great quality stuff at reasonable prices and have a website which allows prospective buyers to view your selections. However, there are several competitive stores with similar websites. How do you direct the viewers to your site? One option is to run print ads / TV ads etc carrying the website address. This would help to a certain extent but would be limited to those people actually viewing the print and TV ads (which may be run on a few select days), not to mention the astronomical costs involved!
By optimizing your website, you would enable the search engines to giving it a higher page rank for certain keywords (details follow). How many of us are patient enough to click for more than 3-4 pages of listings while searching for something online? Even if the store is number 1 in terms of quality, if it is listed in page 10 of your search list, the chances of someone taking a look at it are very slim.
• What is page ranking? How is it achieved?
The expected output of a search engine optimization exercise is a better page ranking. This determines which page of the search list your website link appears. The ranking in a search engine determines how quickly your target audience finds your webpage, and directly translates into revenue for you.
Exactly how a search engine does the ranking is not known, but we can make a few educated guesses. The most important factor is the presence and retrieval of keywords. Making use of the right keywords is very important. In the above example "furniture showrooms in Mumbai", "good quality couches", "living room sets" could have been examples of keywords normally used by prospective buyers to search for a furniture store. Where these keywords are placed in the web page, the number of times it appears etc would affect the page ranking. On the downside, too many keywords (if they are hidden or not used in the right context) could also harm you – as it may be marked as spam.
Linkages to other relevant websites are also important factors in ranking. This could be inward (links to your site from other sites), outbound (links to other sites from yours) or even internal (links within your site itself). Again, as with keywords, links to irrelevant sites may sometimes harm you if the search engine considers this as spam.
Click-through rate (CTR) is also a key factor in refining the page search ranking. This is the number of times the web page link was clicked to the total number of times it appeared on a search engine listing or on a website.
Search Engine Optimization is effectively a marketing tool designed to drive more potential customers to your website, and thenby your business. Your SEO goals should be defined by your business needs and the strategy identified. For example, if you are a local store, you may just need the basics of SEO strategies to build the required traffic. On the other hand, if you are an online trading company, investing more time, money and effort into site optimization might work wonders at increasing your sales revenue. It is very important that your SEO goals are aligned with your business goals and are reviewed periodically. It is equally important to understand that despite the initial days of optimization might be a huge step forward, SEO should be considered an ongoing process.
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