You probably hear the acronym “SEO” tossed around quite a bit by fellow business owners. But do you know what makes SEO different than other types of online marketing? If you aren’t sure exactly what this term means and why it’s important to your business, read on.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s the process of adapting your website to come up higher in the search results on Google, Yahoo!, or Bing. The idea is that with an understanding of how the search engine orders websites each time someone does a search (a system known as an algorithm), a website can be better manipulated to be favored in these search rankings — and therefore have more visibility to potential customers or clients.
Because playing the game to achieve higher search rankings makes it easier for people to find your site and therefore leads to more traffic (and hopefully more business), the SEO industry has grown from its beginnings in the mid 90’s to a huge international industry.
New to SEO? It’s never too late to start finding out how you can work toward getting to the top of the page in your industry.
Algorithms and Why You Care
If you’re not yet familiar with the term “algorithm,” it’s time you made its acquaintance. Why? Search engines algorithms determine your placement in Google’s list of results. And they’re not static!
An algorithm is by definition “a set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.” A search algorithm is essentially the different standards that the search engine takes into account when determining which website is the most helpful and relevant to the user.
What this means for you as a business owner is that even if your website looks great and all of your customers love it, it still may not be visible to Google. Especially when you have a lot of competition out there, you have to follow the algorithm rules in order to get to the top of the page.
Once Is Not Enough
Because developers are constantly making changes to improve the way the search engines order results,search algorithms change somewhat regularly. The algorithm updates all work toward improving the user experience, so that the information the search engine pulls up for a search query is really what the user would find helpful.
Favoring the user experience involves staying ahead of advertisers and developers who figure out ways to use the system to their advantage without actually providing a better experience (e.g. lack of relevance). With each algorithm, Google is trying to come up with new ways to ensure that the site the bots perceive as being the most relevant actually are the most relevant.
Penguins and Pirates and Pigeons…Oh My!
Google’s algorithm changes — which have names like Pigeon, Penguin, Penguin Everflux, Pirate 2.0, and Panda — can make it hard to stay on top of the competition, but they are good for everybody overall. They bring new features, better search tools, and higher security to users, helping everybody find the information they are looking more easily. They try to bring you the best of the best, and it’s great that their strategy is constantly improving.
But let’s be honest — it makes keeping your business visible a little more difficult.
You might come up on the top of the page for one of your important search terms one month, but then disappear from the first page the next. You aren’t going crazy — Google may have just rolled out a new algorithm that has affected your rankings.
Obviously, staying ahead of the curve in terms of SEO gives you a huge advantage. Penguin Everflux, the most recent US update, will actually be continuously updated, which means that changes might be even harder to track, with new features sure to come.
Watching Your Traffic
So what can you do? Aside from frequenting Moz.com, the go-to online resource for SEO, you can start by keeping an eye on your organic traffic in Google Analytics. You can read about changes and best practices on Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch. You can make sure your website is well-structured and built with SEO in mind. You can keep a company blog with helpful content for users.
And even if you are able to do all these things, it might help you to have an expert weigh in once in a while. Staying up-to-date on all this stuff really is a full-time job, and with more experience, more tools, and more know-how, another set of eyes can help keep you protected from fallout that could hurt your business.
So here’s to what’s next — be it stork, Big Bird, monkey, Bigfoot, or anything else that Google might send our way.