Friday, June 06, 2008

Why SEO is a Smart Investment

Whether I’m at a networking event or I’m talking with friends and family about my job here at DBE, I am often asked the same question: “Tell me truthfully, is Search Engine Optimization a smart investment?” Before I started working in SEO, I also wondered the same thing myself. I have to admit, I was one who believed the many myths that surround the search results pages. I always wondered what was really behind optimization, and how the sites that ranked in the top 10 were able to get there. Now that I am well versed in search marketing, I’d like to answer that question and dispel some common search engine myths (without getting into the nitty-gritty details of optimization).

Common SEO Myths and Misconceptions

Do you know where your site ranks on the search engine results pages? If your company relies on its website to drive new business, you can’t afford to play “Where’s Waldo” in the search engine results. In this digital age, people turn to the search engines to find quality in the sea of Internet quantity. Many view a top 10 listing on the search engines as a ‘thumbs up’ from the World Wide Web.

It is a commonly held (mis)belief that all one has to do is pay Google and Yahoo an undisclosed amount of money, and their company will automatically come up in the first page of search results. Another misconception is that having a large amount of site traffic will also increase your page rank, and therefore your position on the search result pages. Unfortunately for those that are looking for the easy way out, that is not the case.

While it is true that you can bid for ads to show up on the paid section of search results pages, this does not mean that your website will automatically show up in the organic listings. What difference does it make whether your website shows up as a paid ad instead of as a natural listing? According to one source, statistics provided by Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Analytics Evangelist, reveal that users click on organic listings 86% of the time, and only click on the pay-per-click ads 14% of the time (with the click through rate on individual ads averaging out to be 2%). If you’re looking for greater click-through-rates to your website, the organic listings offer a clear advantage.

This is where Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comes in.

The Long-term Value of SEO

1. Quality SEO isn’t about tricking the search engines into listing your website. Rather, it is about meeting certain standards that the search engines look for when they “crawl” your website. If your site clearly states what it is about through its design, content, and programming, then it makes it easier for the search engines to categorize it properly. Search engines give great weight to the sites that neatly and efficiently give them core information in the manner that they ask for it. Search engines also evaluate the quality and quantity of the links pointing to your website as a factor in determining the relevance and importance of your site for a given keyword. This combination of on-site and off-site factors makes link building a vital component of search engine optimization.

2. There are no real “quick-fixes” that are going to give you the same long lasting effects that SEO will. Quality SEO demands an ongoing investment of time and effort. While pay-per-click ads give you immediate gratification and visibility on the search results pages, over the long run they will not give you the same returns as showing up high in the organic listings will. Once your SEO improvements have taken hold, your SEO maintenance costs will end up being far less costly than the daily costs of a pay-per-click campaign. (Not to mention how many more clicks come through for organic listings in comparison to paid listings!)

3. Quality SEO leads to improved rankings and highly targeted results on the search results pages. When people search for a keyword, they want to end up on a site that provides them with relevant information. Survey results from iProspect show that 68% of search engine users will choose a website listed on the first page of results, and 92% will click a search result located within the first three pages. The survey also found that 39% of searchers believe that by virtue of being on the first page of the search results, these businesses are industry leaders.

Creating a fully optimized website for both the search engines, and for your users, is well worth the time and investment. If you have a top 10 listing, you're perfectly positioned to capture a high volume of relevant search traffic and potential customers.

To learn more about best practices for optimizing your website, check out our article on white hat SEO versus black hat SEO.

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