The ABC's of SEO
Posted by Travis on Thursday, October 20, 2011
The word “tire” was searched online over 16 million times in the last month; this simple fact is why search engine optimization (SEO) is important. SEO is the art and science of ranking prominently on Google (and other search engines) in the Natural or Organic Results. Each month, when one of these 16 million searches is performed, your business has an opportunity to connect with new customers looking to buy tires (incidentally over 90% of these customers do not want to buy tires online, but do perform research online). This is analogous to the phone directory 15 years ago; back then buying a full page ad in the “tires” section of the directory would ensure phone calls for your business when consumers in your community were looking for tires. Today, this same logic applies, but consumers are not looking for tires in the phone directory, they are looking for tires online (90%+ look online). Good SEO has all the benefits that a full page phone directory ad once had and more.
Before we dive into SEO, let’s talk a little about search engines and how they work. By far, the most popular search engine for consumers looking for tires, and just about any other product, is Google (StatCounter shows Google with 82.9% share of search usage for the most recent twelve months and Yahoo and Bing at 7.8% and 7.7% respectively). When a consumer looks up tires on Google, your business has three main ways to connect with them – Natural Results, Local Results and Sponsored Links.
- Natural Results: Natural (or organic) results are the non-paid listings on a search engine results page. Pages are discovered by indexing services rather than users paying to have their sites listed. Factors which positively influence position in natural results are the number of external links to the site, keyword-rich content on the pages (i.e. content with frequent mentions of the business location and the words “tires”), and well-constructed website code.
- Local Results: Local results accompany a map on a search engine results page. These show up above the natural results when a location is included in the search term. Local results can lead to large amounts of traffic, even for small businesses, because they are prominently displayed at the top of search results.
- Sponsored Links: In sponsored links, an advertiser pays to have his website listed in search results of his or her choosing. Sponsored links are displayed prominently at the top of the listings. Common methods of sponsored links include CPC (cost per click), where the advertiser pays for every click onto his or her website, and CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions), where the advertiser pays for every one thousand times a link to his or her website is displayed on search listings, whether or not the link is clicked.
The Local, Natural and Sponsored Links sections are viable ways to connect with consumers and each has a different strategy for ranking prominently. SEO is the name for the strategy to rank high in the Natural Results and this can be one of the best and most cost effective ways to connect with consumers online.
Wikipedia defines Search Engine Optimization as “the process of improving the visibility of a web site or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. This is the process of helping your website appear higher on search results for relevant keywords. For example, “Tires in Scranton” is a keyword term that might be important to tire dealers in Scranton, PA. Ranking high here could help you connect with new consumers looking to buy tires in your community. This is important because many users of search engines do not go past the first page of the search results. If your business is listed in this position, this can make a lasting impression on the customer, leading to sales for you.
For local and regional tire dealers, the best focus for SEO is ranking high on searches with locally based keywords as opposed to just the term “tires”, which is very competitive and dominated by national tire retailers and tire manufacturers who spends millions to be ranked prominently. While the big boys might have an advantage on a term like “tires”, local and regional business have an advantage on terms like “tires in Your City”, “tires in Your State” or other city/state based keywords. Indeed, these keywords strings can be valuable. A quick analysis of one of Net Driven’s customers found that for the term “tires in Edmonton” they received over 500 unique visitors to their website in the last 30 days. A customer that does a search of this type is valuable since they are likely undecided. Even if Net Driven’s client only closed 20% of these 500 accounts this relates to 100 new customers just from one search term – wow! There are many strategies that you can use to rank high for keywords of this type; some are simple and some more complex. Here are a few strategies to consider:
- Great Content – Search engines use the content (words) on your site as an indicator for what searches it should be ranked for. If you sell tires, you want to make sure that your website has lots of information on tires (but not too much – text should be naturally written – in other words writing “tires” 1000 times on a page won’t help). Also, not all words on your website are counted equally – focus on using important words in page titles, descriptions and headlines where they have greater impact.
- Focus on Code – Putting good content on your site is step one, but without the right website code search engines might not be able to access your content. These following comments are for any aspiring web developers reading this article. First, using Flash for navigation on your website can be trouble if you can’t make Flash objects web-crawler-friendly. Search engines have a difficult time accessing a website that uses Flash. Second, avoid tables and use div tags instead – these make your website easier to crawl. Also don’t forget to get the maximum value from images by using alt tags and don’t use images for text unless you use a CSS background image text replacement technique. These techniques will maximize the value of your content and give your website the credit it deserves.
- Keep it Fresh – One more comment on content – keep it fresh – adding new content like coupons, news stories, blog posts or even new tire data will keep the search engines coming back to your site more often and help you rank higher.
In summary, driving traffic to your website is one of the most important aspects of your internet strategy and can be accomplished using SEO. A web strategy without SEO is like building a retail store in the middle of the forest and not telling anyone it is there. SEO can be one of the best ways to drive traffic online and can be one of the highest ROI marketing investments you can make. Performing SEO can be tricky, but by following the three steps above you’ll be far ahead of most of your competition and getting great traction online with new customers before you know it.