How does a web page get ranked #1 on Google? What does SEM, SEA and SEO mean? What’s the big deal about “relevant content” and “link popularity?” How do I get through all the tech-jargon to know what I should or should not be doing to get my website that all-important top ranking?
Things have definitely changed since the 1990s, especially since Google went public in 2004. Understanding what Google wants and what your website needs can feel like an unsolvable mystery as frustrating as Rubic’s cube puzzle. Here are some basics to help you unlock that mystery.
Marketing and Advertising Defined
Before we can understand the various acronyms being used within the Internet industry, it is important to understand the definitions of marketing vs. advertising.
“Marketing” is the technique of promotion, selling and distributing a product or service. “Advertising” is to make your product or service publicly known; an announcement to call public attention by emphasizing qualities, features or benefits to arouse a desire to purchase.
You can see from the definitions that advertising is part of marketing. Marketing includes everything about raising the awareness of your business from branding, messaging, public relations, advertising, events, customer relationships and much more. Advertising is a component of marketing and should never be the only method used to promote your business. However agents tend to think only in terms of one or the other. They use the terms “marketing” and “advertising” interchangeably. This is where the website helps out.
Defining SEM, SEA and SEO
While you probably know what SEO is, you may not have seen much about the acronyms SEM and SEA. Using what we have learned about the definition of marketing, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) would include all processes related to promoting all of your website's pages with the search engines. Included in this process would be Search Engine Advertising (SEA), which would be the sponsored search advertising - or, what some also refer to as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. These are the sponsored links along the top, right side and bottom of search results.
What is SEO?
The most effective real estate websites know how to tell the search engines that a particular website page is an authority or has authority in a particular topic. Keyword phrases are utilized to communicate this expert status to search engines. You will notice that we are talking about individual pages of your website. Each page of your website can be optimized for a different topic based on its visible content. We are no longer blindly optimizing the entire website for the same information, but using each page to help drive traffic to our website. By all means, this does mean that for a particular search result, visitors may enter your website from somewhere else other than the home page!
Each search engine has a different algorithm in deciding what the person searching is seeking and how relevant the information on the individual pages of your website relates to the search. They take into account the title of the page, the meta description, and the visible text. Some search engines do look at your meta keywords, but not nearly as much as they used to in the past. What you are presenting with visible text is what the visitor will see; and therefore, the content has more value.
Why Is SEO So Important?
The volume of information on the Internet is overwhelming. The Internet seems larger than our real world. Search engines have an enormous task to filter all of this information to provide something meaningful to the searcher in a matter of seconds. Compared to the old days that required hours and sometimes days finding information on the Internet, the results from the current search engines are significantly improved.
The competition of web pages (whether direct competitors or not), as well as your business competitors, are all seeking to be ranked within the first three pages of search results. Seek out the right resources to help you optimize your pages and give you a fighting chance.
Before You SEO, What Do You Do?
Investigate, investigate, investigate! Many tools are available that provide you information about what people actually type into the search engine, the number of searches performed over a 30 day period, as well as how many competing web pages exist for that search term. These are the three major parts to the research you are seeking. The search engines can provide you the first two with their tools, while the third item may require you to perform a search in quotes to get a real understanding of the total competing web pages. Third party tools can also provide the complete information, however, always keep in mind that the search volume is not an absolute from any source including the search engines. Use the information as a guideline to give you direction. Regardless of the tool(s) you use for your investigation, they will all provide you options for other key phrases to consider based on your initial entry about which you may not have previously thought.
This process can be revealing in two ways. First you will discover that the rest of the world may not necessarily search for your website's products and services the way you expected. For example, you may be ranked number one for a particular term, but if no one is searching for that term, what difference does it make if you're number one or number 100? Go with what people are searching.
Secondly, you will want to seek out a balance between the number of searches and the number of competing web pages. The search term that has several million competing web pages will take you longer to rank, whereas those that are only in the thousands will be easier. Take a look at the search volume to see what would happen if you had 1% of those visitors purchase? Based on what you are selling you may not need to be ranked for terms that have thousands of searches. For your business, those with lower search volumes and less competition may suffice as a foundation.
Consider your investigation as a starting point, not an end point. You can always change your optimization later. Keep in mind that you can optimize the pages within your website to cover a variety of possibilities from your research. Because of this, SEO is a living, breathing art form that changes with the seasons.
What You Do to SEO
Search Engine Optimization does require some technical understanding of the HTML code in order to add the necessary meta tags, insure you have the right image alt descriptions, the right link title descriptions and lastly, to appropriately write the visible text on the pages. The elements of this process include the following:
Be sure that your HTML code adheres to the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) standards. Many will ask the question why and the answer is simple. If you adhere to the standards, you can't go wrong. If you don't adhere to them, there is a higher chance that it will have a negative effect for browsers and search engines.
Websites with outdated Flash animations, frame designs, and broken links are certainly not going to allow search engines to identify the content of your web pages. Use current coding methods, not table-based websites. Can you easily navigate your website? If not, then neither can the search engines; therefore, they cannot identify how to rank your web pages.
Does your website allow a visitor to reach your business objective easily from the point of entry? Make sure you have a call to action on all pages of your website.
Be sure to have well-written, grammatically correct and spell-checked content to your web pages. If your website becomes a resource for its unique content you are more likely to receive traffic-seeking information about your business.
Is this an overnight process? Absolutely not! It is an ongoing process that acts not only as a public relations tool, but also as a long term advertising tool. The process of maintaining your website and the content marketing process of link building is something you do daily, weekly and monthly. Part of this process and Internet marketing strategy also requires the initial research process and the measurement of the results and the effects of your efforts. With the proper tools, you will be on your way to success.
If you’d like to learn more about it, join my FREE introductory webinar Driving Prospects to Your Website, and I’ll walk you through it.