What is Search Engine Optimization? Search Engine Optimization, which is also known as SEO, is the process of increasing the volume and quality of traffic to a website from search engines via organic or search results. The higher your company's website ranks on Search Engine Result Page (SERP), the more searchers will visit your site. As a marketing strategy for increasing site's relevance, SEO consultants consider how search algorithms work and what people search for. A SEO process may involve a site's coding and structure, content and copywriting, site presentation, as well as fixing other problems that will prevent search engines from indexing your company website. If your company's website is not indexed by search engines, there will be no chance at all for your site to get high visibility rankings on search engines. Therefore, it is extremely important for businesses to take note of SEO and make sure that their websites are properly indexed by search engines. The term "SEO" can also refer to "Search Engine Optimizer". This is an industry term that refers to agencies and consultants that carry out search engine optimization process on behalf of their clients, and by employees who perform SEO services in-house. Every agency and consultant has their own SEO methodology; therefore they may use different methods to achieve high organic rankings for websites. In most cases, in order to have effective SEO, it may require changes to the HTML source code of a site, SEO tactics will be incorporated into website development and design. That is why almost all credible SEO agencies and consultants will first look at the design and back-end architecture of a website before starting any SEO process. This will ensure that SEO is carried out effectively. Search Engine Optimization as a Marketing Strategy for Businesses So how should businesses use SEO as a marketing strategy? The primary objective of implementing SEO to a company's website is to drive targeted traffic to it. Eye tracking studies have shown that searchers scan a search result from top to bottom and left to right, looking for relevant results. Therefore, if your site is near the top of organic listings rankings (organic listings refer to the web results that are listed on the left hand side of the SERP), it will most likely increases the number of searchers who will visit your site. A successful online marketing campaign may usually involve SEO, but it also consists of the use of paid advertising on search engines, building high quality websites to engage and persuade site visitors take action either through enquiries or online sales, setting up analytic programs to allow site owners to measure their successes and improving a site's conversion rate. Benefits of SEO for Businesses Businesses can benefit from SEO in a lot of ways, be it to increase brand awareness, get sales leads or increase sales revenue. The following is a list of benefits that businesses can get from SEO: o Get more targeted traffic. SEO can increase the number of visitors to your site who are actively searching for your product or service. o Increase brand awareness. SEO can give your brand a high international profile. You can also use SEO to create brand awareness for any new service or product by optimizing related product/service key phrases to rank higher on search engines. o Marketing your brand 24/7. With SEO, your website will get exposure 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - without stopping. o Higher sales. As SEO brings you targeted traffic, it can mean increased sales of your product or service. o Long term positioning. Once a properly optimized & designed site is in place, rankings on organic listings should be consistent whereas the cost for Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising is ongoing. o More value for dollars. Once your company's website has achieved high organic rankings for various key phrases, you will not have to pay for each visit. Whereas for PPC Advertising, to enjoy high ranking visibility on search engines, you need to pay for each click or visit to your site. However, to make sure that you have a successful SEO implementation, you need to make sure that your dedicated SEO agency abides to the guidelines of search engine when optimizing your site... White Hat SEO VS Black Hat SEO When it comes to SEO, there are 2 schools of thoughts - White Hat SEO vs Black Hat SEO. White hat SEO is techniques that search engines recommend as good practice and black hat SEO is those techniques that search engines do not approve of. For SEO consultants who practise white hat SEO, they tend to produce results that last a long time. Black hat SEO techniques may get a website to rank well initially, but the site will eventually be banned either temporary or permanently once search engines discover what they are doing. So it is very important for you to know the best practices in the SEO industry and make sure that the SEO agency that is handling your account uses techniques that conform to the search engines' guidelines and involves no deception. White hat technique is generally summed up as creating content for users, not the search engines. The content that is created should be easily accessible to search engine spiders, rather than intending to trick the algorithms from its intended purpose. So, the general rule of thumb is to stay on the safe side by creating content that is relevant to your target audience. Search engines value relevancy - they will definitely want to rank a site higher their organic listings if the content on the site is what searchers are looking for. Black hat technique usually involves techniques that attempt to improve rankings that are disapproved by search engines, or involve deception. One common black hat technique is to use hidden text, either as text coloured similar to the background of the website, or positioned off-screen. Another common technique known as cloaking is to load a different page depending on whether the page is accessed by a human or a search engine spider. Search engines will penalize sites which use black hat techniques, either by reducing their organic rankings or even eliminating them from their database completely. This is a very costly mistake on the business point of view as you will lose out a lot of grounds as your competitors are enjoying free organic traffic from search engines due to their high rankings for major key phrases. One infamous example was in February 2006, whereby Google removed BMW Germany from its database for use of black hat methods. However, the company has quickly apologised and cleaned up the offending pages and were eventually restored to Google's database. Therefore, it is very important to make sure that your SEO agency is moving away from black hat methods. You will not want to be blacklisted by search engines which will translate into loss in sales and profits. Keyword Research - The Key Factor to Successful SEO Implementation Major search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN Live and AOL get a lot of searches every day. Before you implement SEO to your website, you must know what key phrases or keywords your target audience is using to search for the product or service that you offer. Whether you like it or not, there is a good chance that many people have never heard of your company. These people might be your customers, if only they can find you on search engines and buying from you. It is well accepted that building awareness is the first step to land a new customer. For example, when someone sees a TV advertisement about that new car, you hope that he or she is in the market for a car at the moment. However, relatively few people are in that situation at any one time. Majority of people who saw the TV advertisement have no interest in buying a car at the moment. But someday they will. So advertisers know that the messages - the model of the car and company name in their commercials will stick in viewers' minds, who might remember the message later when they are ready to buy a car. It is the same for SEO. Searchers might not know that your company offers a particular product or service unless they see your site listed on the Search Engine Result Page (SERP). Unless they see your listings, they will not think of you. Most of the time, searchers looking for a product or service for the first time might not be aware of any specific company or brand name as they are just gathering information. However, according to a research done by search marketing consultancy iProspect, more than 55 percent of searchers expect to see big brands listed at the top of search results. The same study also shows that over 66 percent of searchers believe that sites that are listed at the top of search results are the top companies in their field. So can you imagine how this affects your company's brand awareness? If your company's website is not listed at the top of search results, they will not see your company as a "big brand" in their mind. Therefore, it is extremely important for you to optimize keywords or key phrases that your target prospects will use to find the product or service that you are offering. So what types of keywords or key phrases should you choose? Businesses should target keywords that are relevant to the content of their websites. Basically, keywords can be categorized into 3 types, which are: "Too Hot Keywords", "Just Right Keywords", and "Too Cold Keywords". Too Hot keywords are single word search terms like "Aircon" and "Translation" which do not seem to be targeted enough to get conversions. These keywords usually bring in high search volume (which is naturally tempting to optimize) but the conversion may not be as ideal as targeting keywords which falls into the "Just Right" category. (For examples: Aircon Servicing, Translation Agency Singapore") By optimizing those "Just Right" keywords, businesses can get more targeted traffic to their websites and increase the chance of conversions. Choosing the right keywords is the real beginning of any SEO effort. After you have determined the right set of keywords to target, you can start the work of search engine optimization. Why do you need to outsource SEO? SEO is a very time-consuming process as continual fine-tuning and monitoring need to be done. Therefore, it is advisable for you to hire a search engine optimization agency to plan out the optimization plan for your company. A professional SEO agency will look at your site and make recommendations to increase your search engine ranking and website traffic. Once they start to optimize your website, they will provide recommendations and monitoring reports for you to know the progress of it. Last but not least, in order to achieve successful optimization results, it is very important for your SEO agency to work closely with your website designer if you have your own IT department. This is because your company website needs to be both visually appealing and search engine friendly in order to achieve high organic rankings, as well as conversions.