Updated: Apr 26, 2019
This article intends to explain what SEO is from both a pure and practical standpoint. As a consumer of SEO services, the practical standpoint is most likely your goal; you may want to drive more sales or you may want more people to find your brand. A good SEO company will start by establishing a practical outcome which will employ pure SEO as part of the implementation.
The definition of SEO in its purest form is: “…the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results—often referred to as “natural,” “organic,” or “earned” results.”
Search Engine Optimization–Wikipedia
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this definition. Deeper in this Wikipedia article it explains that SEO is a portion of an internet marketing strategy. The acknowledgement that SEO is part of your internet marketing strategy suggests that successful SEO requires a marketing plan with set objectives. This plan should identify how much productivity you want from your website, such as the number of qualified leads generated by your website or an increase in search volume for your branded keywords. A strategy should then be developed to realize these stated objectives.
With that in mind, when attempting to affect the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results, it is necessary to consider the following:
- How search engines work: This is complicated and a full understanding of how search engines work may be overkill. But you do need to understand that it’s not Larry Page deciding which 10 results to display when you Google a keyword – it’s a series of algorithms. Yes, a machine will decide which results to show on the SERP. This machine will crawl your website to collect content, learn navigation funnels, and to a certain extent appraise design features as it begins the evaluation of your website. The crawler itself will provide some scoring values as it delivers its payload to the indexing engine. The indexing engine will process the crawled data through a series of ‘factories’ that index (tokenize) the content. This indexing allows the search engine to decide the relevance of a webpage for a given keyword based on learned human behavior patterns. One of the basic algorithms for relevance is precision:
Precision (also called positive predictive value) is the fraction of retrieved webpages that are relevant to your keyword.
This is important because an SEO plan requires an understanding of what competing assets the search engine will score for a target keyword so that you can plan to add enough assets to your site to be part of this fraction of potential results.
- What people search for: You need to know what keywords people will use to find your products or services such as “buy widgets”.
- What search patterns and sequences people use to find content: Beyond know what people are searching for to find your product or service, it is necessary to understand the sequence and types of searches usually accompanied with a target keyword. To further explain, in order to target the keyword “buy widgets” you will likely need to provide content for “widget specs”, “how to use a widget”, “widget pricing”, “widget video”, “widget delivery time”, “widget applications,” “widget reviews”, and “widget guarantee”. You can turn your website into a brand driver if you build assets that provide the audience requirements for each search sequence. Landing for multiple search sequences increases the number of times your audience interacts with your brand which builds trust with the target audience. This is essential for conversion optimization.
- Which digital channels are used by your target audience: Knowing the channel attribution for your audience’s decision journey is most important. You may not have a search audience, in which case optimizing for search will not be beneficial. You may need to push content to an audience and design your website to receive visitors from alternate channels. A well planned channel strategy should be included with your marketing strategy.
From a practical point of view, if you’re interested in SEO you most likely want more than just favorable search engine ranking. Be sure to identify the value you are seeking and align strategy and reporting with this value. A good SEO will create a system of digital resources that will introduce your brand to your ideal target audience and encompass all digital channels – not just search.