Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art of getting your web presence noticed by web search engines. There are two ways to get noticed – buy your way to the top of a search or else maximize SEO if you don’t pay. Google will move anybody to the head of the search results if they are willing to pay for the privilege since that is one their major sources of revenue. For example, if you start typing in the word ‘American’ into Google, by the time you have typed the first three letters ‘American Airlines’ will be at the top of the search results.
But hopefully your company website, blog or other web pages don’t share a name that is similar to one of the big companies that are willing to spend the money to be first. SEO is about the steps you can take to make sure that non-pay web content can get noticed.
Every search engines is a bit different in how they rank web content in the search process, and those definitions change all of the time as the search engines tweak their algorithms. But there are enough similarities that SEO is able to make some decent generalizations about those steps you can take to improve the ranking of a web page.
In writing this article I took a look at how my own company, CCG Consulting, is ranked in a Google search. As it turns out, there are a whole lot of companies with the name CCG and even a number of them who are also consultants. There is CCG in a number of different fields such as engineering, networking, banking and cardiac research – there is even another CCG Consulting in the telecom field that specializes in helping MDUs and similar properties with telecom issues.
Because there are a lot of similarly named firms, and none that have paid to be at the top of the list, it is hard for any firm named CCG to get noticed. This blog you are reading appears in the middle of the first page of the Google search but my web site doesn’t appear until the third page of the Google search results.
This makes sense to me when you consider the way search engines do their rankings. One of the best ways to understand SEO is through something clever called the Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors. This shows the various factors that influence a search result and also ranks those factors by influence, from strongly positive to strongly negative.
Things like quality of content, use of keywords, the ability of a search engine to ‘crawl’ or read the page all are factors that have a strong influence on the ranking in Google. And there are also things that lower a search engine ranking such as having hidden pages that only a search engine can see but not humans, or buying links to try to improve your ranking.
I am not disappointed in the rankings for my web site because I don’t count on people finding me through a Google search. I maintain a web site mostly as a way for others to verify that our company exists and I don’t count on it as much of a marketing tool. Also, if somebody already knows me and searches for CCG Consulting and also types in the world telecom, half of the first page of search results are about my firm. Since I work in a very specialized market I know that a lot of my targeted potential clients already know about me from other sources such as this blog or Linked-In.
But these search results matter a whole lot to any company selling products to people that they don’t know. Let’s consider the example of a competitive carrier that sells the triple play services in Akron, Ohio. One would hope that when somebody searches Google for ‘Internet’ and ‘Akron’ or ‘cable TV’ and ‘Akron’ that this company would appear high on the search results. This is important because this kind of search is how a potential customer moving to that market might find their new ISP. If this carrier wants to be considered by new customers then they need to understand the way that search engines work. Otherwise they will miss out on the opportunity to sell to new customers.
It’s easy to find ways to communicate with people who already know you or who are already your customers. But it’s important to also think about how people who don’t know you are going to find out about you. I know that companies use things like billboards and newspaper in the hope of getting noticed and for building brand awareness. But I also recommend that you go to Google and Bing today and search for your company in the same way somebody who doesn’t know you would do. Don’t search by your company name, but rather by your products and market.
If your company pops up near the top of the first page then you are in good shape. But if you don’t, then consider what this means. If you want customers to find you on search engines you have to learn more about SEO. You might even consider buying priority at the search engines. I have several clients who have told me that they never seem to get business from people who are just moving to town, and not having web pages that get noticed is probably one of the reasons why.