Internet search engines are the directories of the world. The digital Almanacs of Everything. Everyday, billions (yes billions) of search requests filter through sites like Bing, Yahoo, Ask.com, and the current champ of the search engines, Google. In 2013, internet users turned to Google nearly 6 billions times a day to find recipes, get directions, check movie times, make purchases, and research businesses. That’s an astronomical number – equivalent to one web search for every man woman and child on this planet, every day!
Here’s another staggering figure; the number of search engine users who go past the first page of a search result – less than 10%. A business or organization that doesn’t show up on page one is missing out on tons of exposure. A business or organization that shows up on page 10 is nearly invisible.
The implications are clear, that first page is prime internet real-estate. The digital equivalent of a 100 ft. billboard in Times Square.
So how does a website land on that coveted first page? What is the metric that determines the order of placement? And most importantly for the owners of these sites, what can be done to influence this metric?
The answer is SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Search Engine Optimization is the process of generating ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ traffic to a website and works on the principal that not all websites are created equally. While the strategies and processes of SEO are constantly changing and evolving to keep pace with developments in search engine technology, here’s the basics of how it works. All of the primary search engines, from Google to Bing, utilize primary search results. Primary search results determine how and in what order web pages, videos, or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users. Many factors can influence the priority given to different sites including content, encoded images, videos, geographical information, and a host of other variables.
Search Engine Optimization works to align the content, coding, and functions of a website with the criteria of each search engine’s primary search results algorithms. These criteria and algorithms are different among all search engines and are subject to frequent changes. For example, a website that is on the second page of a Bing search result may be on the fourth page of a Google search result. A site that shows up at the top of the first page may find itself lost on the 23rd after an algorithm update. For these reasons, proper Search Engine Optimization is not a one time effort, but rather an on-going and hands-on endeavor.
The only alternative to Search Engine Optimization for getting to the front page of a web search is through paid advertising. Search engines like Google offer paid advertising spots on their results pages, but these ads are often less effective than good a SEO for generating traffic. Click through rates for Google ads are only 2%, with an even lower conversion rate. Organic traffic is always likely to be more receptive that manufactured traffic. The goal of SEO, while similar to that of advertising, works on a different principal. The goal is not to find your customers, but to make sure they find you.
While most skilled webmasters build their sites with SEO in mind, a failure to stay on top of Search Engine Optimization efforts can reverse any hard work on their part. Enlisting the help of an SEO specialist can go along way ensuring a steady flow of traffic to your website and improving your bottom line.
So what page of Google does your website show up on?
And what are you going to do about it?