Search Engine Optimization Tutorial

1.2 Introduction

This is Matt Bailey from Market Motive, SEO Essentials.

1.3 What is SEO?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the work that we do to make our websites more prominent in the major search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. The more prominent our webpages are in the search engines, the more visitors and searchers will be exposed to our business information. To some businesses, this is the primary channel for gaining new customers. The ultimate goal is for your company's web pages to appear at the top of the rankings when people search for terms related to your business. However there is limited real estate on those search engine results pages and a lot of competition for those top spots. Therefore it is very important to ensure your web pages are optimized to maximize your chances to claim those top spots.

1.4 How Do Search Engines Work?

How do search engines determine which pages are listed higher than others? The simplest way to understand the process, is really to follow the money. The more visitors a search engine attracts, the more advertising they can sell. Search engines attract visitors by listing the webpages that are the most relevant to the terms people are searching for. If visitors are pleased with their results, they'll come back and use the search engine again and again. More visitors, more advertising eyeballs, more revenue. Ultimately, there are literally dozens of factors that search engines use to analyze and determine relevance for a given website. Many are secret, however, most are widely known and subsequently used by internet marketers to optimize their website for the top rankings. Everything from URLs, page titles, website copy, site architecture and even what other websites link to your site are all factors that determine how well you will rank in the search engines. We'll explore some of these strategies in just a few minutes. We'll also cover how the SEO process works in small, medium and large businesses, and how to measure SEO results. But first, we need to define a few terms that you need to know to speak the language of SEO.

1.5 Results and Position

The whole process starts when a visitor wishes to find a website to solve a particular problem or find a business. They may need to find an online retailer to buy a birthday present, find a local dentist, or look up data for a research paper. To find this information the visitor may visit a search engine and type in a phrase he or she thinks relates to the business associated with this product. To find the online retailer, they may type in unique gifts. For a dentist, they might type in San Francisco dentist. And for research, they might start with website statistics. What ultimately appears on the page are then what we call search engine results. These results appear on what is known as search engine results pages, or SERPs. You may hear people talk about rank position or front page listing when talking about their company's own search engine results. These terms refer to where a web page is listed in the search engine results. Your rank simply means where your web page exists with regards to all the web pages listed for that term. For example, if you were in the top spot for the search term San Francisco dentist, your rank is number one. Position is similar to rank in that it refers to where your website resides in the search engine results. A search engine position also refers to where in a given search result page you are listed. For example, if you're ranked number 11, you will be on the first position, of the second page. Since most search engines list only ten results per page. Given the information you just learned about rank and position, you should be able to guess what front page listing means. It's when your website ranks in the first ten spots in the search engine results, all of which are on the front page of the search engine results page. Ranking on the front page of search results is a major accomplishment for SEO, since over 50% of all clicks from search engine results come from those top ten listings. For example, if 1 million people per day search for educational toys on Google, then over 400,000 visitors are likely to end up on the Educational Toys Planet website. If 2% of those visitors end up buying $60 worth of toys, then Educational Toys Planet would attribute $480,000 per day to having the number one listing for educational toys on Google. Not bad for a single listing. The same model with various ratios applies to most businesses that seek a top ranking. Businesses who ignore this channel for exposure will likely lose the top spots to their competitors. And thus, will stand to lose a significant amount of business through the web.

1.6 SEO Processes in Large & Small Companies

While website rankings between small, medium and large businesses remain completely egalitarian from a search engine stand point, the internal processes vary from company to company. It's important to understand how the optimization process looks from the inside of each of these types of companies. So in this next section I'll illustrate the differences. Overall, while bigger companies benefit from bigger budgets and more resources to dedicate to research and implementation, smaller companies benefit from a more streamlined process, quicker response times and fewer chefs in the kitchen. Here are the more detailed comparisons. The SEO process at a small company with perhaps 4 to 30 employees is usually established by an SEO Consultant who advises the person responsible for marketing. The SEO consultant will help the small business marketer choose what key words to optimize for. He or she will help the small business marketer to adjust existing plans or campaigns to also include SEO value. While oftentimes hampered by smaller budgets and fewer resources to go after more competitive keywords, small companies generally have the advantage of fewer people, sometimes as few as one person managing the SEO projects. As a result, SEO modifications often get done quicker. Additionally small businesses often benefit from implementing effective long-tail term strategies. Long-tail terms, while not yielding as much traffic, often yield more targeted traffic. As a result, conversion rates on long-tail terms generally outperform their short-tail counterparts. The SEO process in a mid sized company with perhaps a hundred or more employees, is usually done by an internal marketer who dedicates part or all of their hours to SEO, At a mid-sized company, the SEO coordinator will often share the responsibility for website design, content, and social media marketing as well. To be effective, the SEO at a mid-sized company must be able to influence the PR, brand, communications, product marketers, and web developers. The SEO marketer will coordinate keyword research and best practices over each of these areas. Mid-size companies often see the same benefits of small companies in that they generally have smaller teams making decisions. Additionally, they have a bit more flexibility with targeted key words in that they can mix their strategy between long and short-tail terms. The SEO process at a large company with 1,000 or more employees is usually managed with corporate marketing as opposed to product marketing, and falls under the director or VP level of online marketing. The SEO team may consist of a director of online marketing who oversees all web properties, online advertising, web analytics, SEO strategy, PPC marketing, and social media marketing. An SEO manager who sets the SEO objectives and tactics, coordinates SEO efforts over all teams, including PR, brand, product marketing, web development, IT, and others. They oversee the day-to-day SEO operations and measurement in coordination with the REB Analyst. There might also be a social media manager who manages the campaigns and relationships using social media. The PPC manager who manages the pay per click campaigns the strategy spend and the measurement. A web manager who is responsible for web design content implementation and the on page SEO, and then a web analyst who coordinates we analytics implementations with IT. They're also responsible for data collection web reporting and analysis. The successful SEO manager at this level must have a rare combination of analytical, technical, communication and influenced skills. The task of selling SEO often requires disrupting the processes of other managers and selling senior management on the potential returns on SEO efforts. Large companies, while often hampered with large teams of people fighting for input as well as a long development cycle, have the distinct advantage of being able to go after more highly competitive keywords across dozens, if not hundreds of web pages. Competitive keywords often take many months, or even years, to rank highly. Larger companies have the resources and time to go after these terms and watch them pay off.

1.7 Learning More About SEO

SEO expands past natural search results into a search presence in local search results, mobile search results, video and blended media search results. It is often complimented with a good understanding of social media marketing, web development, and web analytics. SEOs who study landing page testing techniques and conversion rate optimization are more valuable to their clients and to their organizations. Books on SEO may offer some value, but because of the speed of change with the search engine algorithms and discovery of the new best practices, we recommend following reputable blogs, search engine newsletters, attending search conferences, and continuous education. It's important to keep in mind that the ultimate goal of any SEO effort is neither high rankings or visitors. The ultimate goal is converting your visitors into sales. You can do everything right SEO wise. You can rank at the top of all your keywords, drive an immense amount of traffic to your website, but unless those visitors convert to sales, all your SEO efforts in the world are worthless. To this end, it is important to keep in mind that SEO is only a piece of the overall marketing puzzle. Learning more about conversion optimization and web analytics is critical to your internet marketing success. We encourage you to continue with the next modules on these topics, so that you can familiarize yourself with the next steps in the process.

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