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Search Engine Optimization is all the rage today and it seems that every marketing firm and marketing department attempts to do some justice to “search engine optimizing” websites. A lot has happened in the background since the advent of Yahoo Search in 1995 to speed up search engine processing time, to understand search queries and to improve the user experience on the internet.

The purpose of this article is to briefly discuss the purpose of search engine optimization and six factors search engines use when evaluating your website and determining where it should rank.

The Quick Explanation of Search Engine Optimization

SEO is the optimization of your website to meet Search Engine standards and to be the best answer for relevant searches. What many website developers fail to understand is that there is much more to a website’s success than simply “looking good”.

Remember that the Search Engines are not humans and cannot actually see your website as a visitor would. In order to account for this the Search Engines use between 200 and 300 different factors or rules in their algorithm to try to predict how a visitor will react to the website. The more factors your site meets the better its visibility in search results. How you rank is a cumulative score of these factors; the more SEO factors you address the better your website will rank.

When a person sits at their computer, phone or tablet and types in a question or search, the Search Engines rely on its algorithm to determine the website or webpages that best answer the query.

So what are some of the factors that determine the websites with the “best answer” to the search?

#1 – Fast loading website pages

Search Engines know that people are impatient and do not want to wait more than a couple seconds for a website page to load. Websites with slow loading pages are usually abandoned in search of a faster and better website. Search Engines know this and display the fast websites first.

#2 – Viewable on all types of devices

A website’s content and images must be viewable over multiple devices including desktops, tablets and mobile phones. Again, the Search Engines know that people are browsing the web from various types of devices and expect a website to perform well based on the type of device it is viewed on. Are your images displaying too large on a small mobile screen, is your text too small to read on a mobile phone or is your navigation “finger friendly”?

#3 – Images supported by alt tags and content

Unfortunately, a picture isn’t worth a thousand words to a Search Engine as Search Engines can’t visually see and interpret a picture as we humans can. Search Engines look for other factors such as image alt tags and additional content on the webpage as clues to the picture. A website needs to find a good balance between images used to evoke emotion with a visitor and content used to support the image with the Search Engines.

#4 – Clear purpose and value offer

A recent study by Dianna Huff and KoMarketing  found that 83% of buyers are annoyed by lack of message on a website. Search Engines are equally put off by no clear message or branding on a website. The Search Engines want to know exactly what it is you offer visitors and why it is more valuable than what other websites may offer. Learn more about measuring your Mobile Website Usability.

#5 – Physical location of your business and hosting

The Search Engines recognize that for many search queries a locally based website provides the best results. This why the Search Engines include your business address and where your website is hosted as SEO factors.  These factors reinforce your commitment to your service area.

# 6 – Proper technical website architecture

Because the Search Engines have to crawl your website before they can evaluate and rank it, it makes sense that several SEO factors have to do with how easy it is to access and evaluate a website. These factors include valid and clean HTML code and proper HTTP response codes. An SEO Site Audit will help you assess the backend of your website and if the Search Engines can actually access the information on your website.

What else does SEO Do?

SEO works to address as many of the other 200+ SEO factors in order to improve your visibility in search results and increase traffic to your website.

SEO also works to improve the health and profitability of the website. By conducting site audits, SEO consultants can report what technical issues need to be updated and addressed, what keywords and phrases are drawing visitors and what ones are not and what platforms are drawing traffic.

By conducting analytics, SEO consultants can develop an ongoing plan to emphasize sales and services you want to move, develop platform enhancements to get your site seen and followed, and working content that draws and hold visitors.

For a basic Site Audit to see how well your website adheres to these search engine optimization factors take our free Instant SEO Evaluation or contact our SEO consultants at 1-888-262-6687 for a complimentary phone consultation.

Interested in all the Search Engine Optimization Factors?
Check out the SEO Periodic Table by SearchEngineLand.

Pay-per-click (PPC) online marketing is much like conventional marketing where you pay for exposure; once you set a budget you can expect to have your ads shown and clicked on a “predictable” number of times.

PPC marketing is very conventional and very predicable except for the fact that you still cannot predict your cost per acquisition (CPA).

If you spend a determined number of dollars per month with PPC and you make money, that’s great and it may be worth it to consider spending more money to produce even more profit…that is, until you hit the limit of what that market can deliver of course.

Should You Spend Your Marketing Budget on PPC or SEO?

You have the choice of spending your advertising dollars on PPC (sponsored links) or SEO (organic optimization) but how can you know which one offers the best value for the money.

This is a crucial decision and something you need to decide early so let’s look at where people (online searchers) click to help us answer this question.

Organic Listings Get Searched on More Often

When you do a search, where do “you” click more often?

Do you click in the middle of the page from the organic results? Or do you click on the paid listing results (the sponsored links found most often at the very top or in the right column of the search results)?

Statistics show that most people click on listings in the middle of the page…from the organic search results. The general feeling is that organic results provide content that is far more relevant than the sponsored listings.

Although the statistics can vary, depending on the market and the products being sold, we have witnessed as much as 3-5 times as many clicks in the organic listing results as compared to the PPC listing results, in several markets.

Although the sponsored listings in the paid search section do get clicked on (and can sometimes deliver a slightly higher conversion rate) the traffic volumes for sponsored listings are significantly less than those for organic listings.

In addition, if your advertising budget cannot sustain the top spots in the sponsored listing results, as soon as you stop paying, your listings disappear completely.

Public Perception of PPC

Anyone with money can buy PPC ads (sponsored listings) so unfortunately for PPC, public perception is that these listings have not been rightfully ‘earned’ like the top listings on the organic search engine listing results, therefore most online searchers tend to favor organic listings.

With the added exposure that top search engine listings can bring, where do you want your pages to be listed?

We feel that top listings in the organic search results are paramount for any company doing business online…even companies that already have a strong PPC marketing campaign.

Getting listed at the top of the organic results will give your pages maximum Internet exposure. Having listings in both the organic and paid ‘sponsored’ listings can provide an even stronger marketing campaign, since your pages will have two chances at hitting your target audience and convincing them you have what they want and need.

Getting Ranked in the organic Results

Getting listed well in the organic search results under competitive terms is not an easy task.

The highest ranked websites have good content that describes concisely what they offer. They have plenty of good quality inbound links and the architecture of the website is ‘search engine friendly’, making it easy for search engines to crawl and index the content and follow the links.

Search engines endeavor to list the most relevant and most authoritative web pages for that particular topic.
We like to think of this as search engine reputation building and as we know reputations are not easy to build and take a long time to establish.

Getting Top Rankings is a Progressive Process

A new website will need to crawl before it can walk and walk before it can run.

Getting top rankings in organic search results is a progressive process where it’s important to determine where you currently stand and where you want to go, and then take the necessary steps to get there.

If your website is not properly developed to be search engine friendly, your pages won’t rank for competitive keyword phrases, however an experienced SEO can help you create a solid base and build up to that top ranking level by improving your website in stages.

If you have a more developed, established and search engine friendly website you could consider setting your sights higher to further improve your rankings on your more competitive keyword terms.

PPC & SEO Costs

In general, Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising tends to be an ever increasing cost issue, simply because advertisers with top PPC rankings do not want to give up their exposure in the PPC search results, even against mounting competition.

In effect, PPC costs tend to keep increasing over time, as more and more advertisers move into that market.
Existing PPC advertisers tend to view search engine optimization (SEO) with some level of uncertainty, especially if they are new to SEO, yet the cost of SEO is generally a lot less than PPC marketing.

Comparing the two side by side, what you might expect to pay for PPC for a popular keyword term is far greater than targeting that term using SEO to achieve top organic listings.

PPC results can be instant if you are willing to pay the price, however your listing disappear completely if you pull your PPC marketing budget.

Top search engine listings through SEO may take some time to build but the results can be long lasting and over time, can significantly out-perform PPC marketing.

While it is not unusual for some companies to spend $5000 to $10,000 (per month!) on their PPC marketing campaigns, some of these same companies can be very reluctant to spend $1500-2000 a month on SEO…
even though statistics show that the long term benefits are far greater and costs a lot less with SEO.

The perception of some companies who invest heavily in PPC marketing is that SEO won’t be able to provide the same ROI as PPC marketing, but this is simply not true.

There are many companies that have established a strong presence in the organic search results and can easily argue that organic listings produce a significant volume of sales for considerably less than what they would spend on PPC marketing.

SEO Technical AdviceWhen website owners refer to search engine optimization (SEO), you will often hear about keywords, content development, meta & title tags and building their link popularity.

Rarely will you hear them mention server setup or how their server could be keeping them from ranking well in the search engines.

You may ask “Why would the search engines care about the server I select or how my server is set up?”

The truth is, the search engines have a lot of advertising dollars riding on your servers’ performance … and so do you.

Should the search engines find your website to be relevant for high traffic phrases, the search engines have the potential to dramatically increase your traffic and your server load.

If the amount of traffic sent to your site overloads the server or causes you a lot of downtime, this affects the user experience. If the user begins to think that a search engine shows results that aren’t working, this can cause the user to decide to turn to another search engine for better results.

SEO Server Checklist

When reviewing your server setup with search engine optimization in mind, there are a number of key areas to look at.

Many of these areas are not something you can personally fix, and often times you will need to contact your web site hosting company for assistance.

The best resource we have found for checking server related issues is www.dnsreport.com. They offer a wealth of information that can help you in determining if there are server issues that need to be addressed.

When you run the reports from DNS Stuff & DNS Reports, you will want to concentrate on the following areas:

  1. DNS Server A Records
  2. NS Records at Nameservers
  3. All Nameservers Respond
  4. CNAMEs
  5. Open DNS Servers
  6. Reverse
  7. DNS Timing
  8. Shared IP addresses

If you run these free server tests and find that these areas are not working properly or have failed, you will want to contact your website hosting company to have these issues resolved.

Often times many of these errors do not cause issues for the average website owner; but when it comes to search engine optimization, these server issues have the potential of keeping you from being listed for your most important keyword phrases.

Server Issues & Hosting Volatility

Before doing any search engine optimization on a client’s website, a search engine optimization company should always ensure that the server is working correctly.

Most professional SEO companies have had many dealings with website hosting companies; working with the web site hosting companies to educate them on how some of the areas listed above can hinder search engine optimization efforts.

Some SEO companies go through website hosting company nightmares, where they must fight tooth and nail for each area that they feel needs to be addressed.

A search engine optimization company is generally a third party company trying to do what is best for the client, but as a website owner you are the hosting company’s client; so if you meet with resistance you can simply take your business elsewhere.

How to Fix Server Related Issues

If you are told that any of the server related issues cannot be resolved, find out why. You may be told that it is your package that doesn’t cover it, or that the server that you were put on doesn’t support it. It is your job to ask them what you would need to do to resolve the issues. If they say you will need to upgrade to a higher package you may want to consider it. If they say they need to move your site ask them to do so. But don’t stop following through until the decision is in your hands. If the cost is too high for you or if your existing website host is not willing to address the server issues properly you should look at other website hosting companies.

What’s the Bottom Line?

The bottom line is if you want top search engine rankings or if you want your search engine optimization campaign to be successful, you need a unique IP address, closed DNS servers, reverse DNS working properly, Nameservers working properly, fast server response, and a clean IP.

Read about our in depth SEO Site Audit.