Search engine optimisation (SEO) refers to the processes and techniques used to improve the position of a website in the non-paid search results in search engines, such as Google. These search results are commonly known as ‘organic’ because search engines do not accept payment to influence a website’s position. Instead, rankings are determined through a number of factors based on a website’s degree of ‘relevance’ to a search query and its perceived ‘authority’ level compared to other websites.
Benefits of SEO
- Unlike paid CPC results, organic results do not have an associated cost. The traffic a website receives from organic results is free and should be the foundation of every business’ online strategy.
- With TV and radio and even SEM advertising, visitors generally disappear when the advertisement does; the impact of SEO lasts much longer. Results achieved with SEO can last for years, and can be maintained indefinitely or improved with a continuous SEO strategy.
- Most businesses will naturally rank well for their own business name. SEO goes beyond this, attracting new clients through non-branded search terms. Non-branded searches exclude the business name and focus on a service (i.e. ‘emergency vet’ or ‘vets in Subiaco’) and therefore represents potential new business that was not searching for or immediately considering any business in particular.
Google’s algorithm awards the top spot in search engine result pages (SERPS) to the web page with the highest search relevance and site authority. An SEO specialist will work to improve your website with respect to these two key principles.
SEO strategy focuses on improving the relevance of a website through in-depth business analysis and key phrase research to identify high value and high volume search targets. Key phrases are then layered throughout a website in-line with Google’s scoring algorithm and additional work is conducted to address meta tags, sitemaps, site structure, search engine submission, best practice SEO coding techniques and other factors that contribute to making a site search engine friendly. Up-to-date knowledge and ongoing maintenance is paramount to an effective SEO strategy as Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving to include new ranking factors, such as local search signals and social media algorithms.
Once a website achieves a competitive relevance score through the proper on-page techniques, it is only prevented from obtaining a number one position by the level of authority it has compared to that of other competing websites.
Authority is a trust metric and refers to scoring algorithms, such as PageRank (example right), that Google and other search engines use to determine the trustworthiness and importance of a website. Authority is transferred to a website from other sites that have already been judged to be an authoritative source through links such as this (note: this is a simplified analogy).
An effective SEO strategy facilitates the development of links to increase website authority from a network of highly authoritative partners. At the same time it increases the visibility of the business by establishing it in a network of business and trade resources, directories and galleries. Additional advanced strategies include partner link consolidation, press release distribution and viral campaigns.
How cost effective is SEO?
SEO is a long term process, with results generally improving each month. As the cost of SEO is typically a fixed monthly fee, the cost per visitor will likely decrease each month.
In our experience, SEO is, over the long term, the cheapest driver of traffic to a website when compared to any other medium (i.e. paid search or above the line media). For comparison, the average cost-per-click for Google AdWords is $2.30 + management fee. The above table shows SEO would become the most economic driver of traffic after 3.5 months. The cost effectiveness of SEO is likely to continue to improve beyond 5 months, but does somewhat depend upon the skill of the SEO company and the willingness of the business to contribute towards content creation.
The lasting impact of SEO
One of the great things about SEO is even if you decide to stop paying for it; it will keep generating results for months or years after the fact if it is solidly implemented.
A word of warning
As there are no industry standards or guidelines on how SEO should be applied, there are a number of practitioners who engage in what is known as ‘black hat’ SEO. Black hat refers to link building practises used to build authority for a site in a way which Google has deemed to be unethical. Generally speaking, these links are often built by off shore SEO providers from, in most cases, spammy and low authority sites. It is a little known fact that most local SEO companies offshore the link building component of their operation, so it is essential you investigate how your SEO provider builds links.
The issue is most critical as it is often very difficult to remove links. One your website has received a penalty for grey or black hat link building, it is almost impossible to recover. We highlight this quote from Matt Cuts, which puts the seriousness of this situation in perspective:
If you’ve cleaned (up all the black hat links) and still don’t recover, ultimately, you might need to start all over with a fresh site.
Spending a bit more upfront for white hat SEO from a reputable Australian SEO company will, over the long term, ensure lasting results and provide a better ROI than almost any other marketing channel. Paying for cheap SEO from grey and black hat companies will ultimately result in poor results and a possible penalty.
SEO over the long term should work out to be the cheapest driver of traffic and sales for any business. However, as it is a long term process, we often recommend businesses who have new websites invest in AdWords (if profitable) to ensure they receive traffic and leads in the interim.