Search Engine Optimising

Search Optimising

Search optimising, or search engine optimising (SEO), is the complete process of improving technical and marketing factors, both on- and off-site, in order to maximise website revenues. It starts with targeted traffic improvements, website design changes, and website content improvements; and ends with training the website owner to maintain and improve their site correctly.

Search optimising is - or should be - a holistic process, and has little to do with simply increasing traffic.

SEO is the primary method of increasing revenue from a website, and is therefore a crucial requirement for commercial websites. It can also be referred to as search optimisation or search engine optimisation (or alternatively search optimizing, search engine optimization and so on if using the American spelling). These all mean the same thing: to employ natural and organic methods to optimise traffic and revenue, as against using paid promotion. 

Sometimes search optimisation is simply thought of as a method of increasing traffic; but this definition is flawed, since such an approach does not produce the best income improvement. Website performance improvements are the objective, not traffic increases - they are simply a means to an end.

Search marketing, or search engine marketing, is a division of SEO that refers to a combination of organic traffic improvements and paid-for promotion methods such as advertising, and again is often abbreviated, to SEM. There is also a trend to use the term SEM as an alternative to SEO, and therefore use search marketing to mean the entire process. This tends to infer that the SEO agency concerned prefers the paid-for off-site methods, and the PPC management department in these agencies is normally the most important.

In immature or weak markets, a business may be able to compete effectively without using SEO, especially if their marketing is otherwise strong. As the market becomes more competitive, better optimising is required in order to compete strongly; and in mature or competitive markets it is impossible to compete without search optimising. In strong markets those who commit to positioning highly will easily beat enterprises who think their best efforts should be concentrated in marketing or offline. To commit means to assign a sufficient budget to the task, and to hire the best advisors. If your property does not place near the top of the page for your business terms, on page 1 of your targeted search engines, then you have not done so.

Inefficient marketers may substitute with paid promotion, and if you accept excuses instead of results, that may suffice.

Ethical SEO

A3webtech exclusively uses ethical SEO in our business management, meaning that all search optimising work carried out complies with the published terms of service guidelines issued by search engines; and we try to comply with the spirit of the guidelines where the tasks are not covered by any published technical specifications. Our mission is to increase revenues by improving website performance, business visibility, image, reputation and brand strength. Ethical SEO services of this nature do not employ any rapid result, unethical or unapproved methods that may reduce the standing of the enterprise in the community in any way.

For example, one of the main areas we must improve is website content and its presentation. This takes priority over most other areas. An alternative and riskier method might be to prioritise link numbers, and buy in a large number of cheap links. Our opinion is that the quality route is safer, and a better foundation for long-term success.

The function of Search Optimising

SEO services are designed to improve the website, increase traffic, and then increase sales or whatever else the goal of the website is. It may be that the business also needs advice on objectives or methods.

Most website traffic comes from search engines; usually, a much smaller proportion comes from advertising, repeat visitors, links, social resources and so on. Therefore a good position in the search engine result pages (SERPs) is critical. An average breakdown of traffic figures, for many sites, would be 70% of visitors from search engines, 30% from other sources - so it is clear that search-related sources are highly valuable. These numbers assume a minimum of online advertising; if ad spend is increased, a higher percentage of traffic comes in from non-search origins. Of course, if a website is not correctly search optimised, then the bulk of visitors may well come from online advertising.

The work required can be separated into technical and marketing components; and also into on-site and off-site departments. On-site work is further divided into on-page and off-page work, so that SEO services have multiple areas. Each of the two main divisions of work, the technical and marketing aspects, both have many components. For instance the technical side includes network and server issues, coding, content, usability, accessibility and statistics analysis work; the marketing side requires sales ability, copywriting skill, business experience, and knowledge of the many promotional solutions available. Many areas, like content, usability and web analytics, cross the boundaries and need attention from both technical and marketing specialists.

For this reason no single skillset is likely to achieve pre-eminence, and there are more than a dozen specialities within SEO now - this is the number of specialists you might find within a large SEO agency with a heavy work throughput. Any improvements at all to a website and its off-site profile will initially bring noticeable gains, especially where the site had no previous search optimising; but against tough competition, a holistic approach using the most efficient technical methods together with proven business marketing solutions will be required.

Advertising-based results

In the absence of search optimisation skills, advertising can be used to create traffic for a website. However, this is an expensive and inefficient way of going about revenue increase, because in effect it is putting the cart before the horse. It is more efficient to use organic SEO at first, and then use advertising, since the two are synergistic. Once the natural search positions have been improved, SEM costs for the same amount of traffic are then either vastly reduced or even redundant - advertising spend is then bringing in extra traffic.

Organic results

'Organic' or 'natural' search refers to natural and ethical methods of improving a website and its visibility that are free and do not rely on any artificial or paid-for solutions. Such methods are extremely good value for money since there are few costs other than the consultant's fee; and these methods, once utilised, are persistent: they don't go away, but stay there working for you year after year. Tuning and tweaking will keep these factors up to scratch, for 100% performance. In contrast, all forms of advertising need a constant major cash input - and the flow stops when the tap is turned off.

The art of SEO
It's fairly obvious that a combination of organic methods and advertising is the best solution. Exactly what proportion of each to use is where the art, and the argument, begins.

SEO is both an art and a science, and can be broken down into several components. Different consultants tend to emphasise different aspects, and have their own methods to search optimise a website. In fact a diverse set of approaches can achieve the required results, with practitioners who seem to hold opposing views being equally successful. Some prefer a numbers-based approach, with statistics and percentages to the fore; others use a more natural approach; while holders of the middle ground use methods from both camps. Those who favour a more SEM-biased approach prefer paid off-site methods to increase traffic; while accessibility and usability aficionados prioritise on-site work and then seek the off-site traffic sources.

SEO: a technical or marketing process?

Probably the biggest split is between those who think that search optimising is a technical operation and those who think it is a marketing exercise. In all probability this is defined by the policy of the SEO agency. Some are quite polarised on this issue - but those with such polarised opinions are invariably wrong, sometimes demonstrably so.

The marketing-oriented people occasionally have obvious faults on the servers on their own websites, that clearly handicap them and show a lack of technical knowledge (and which makes their stance - tech ability not being of much importance - rather amusing). The technical people sometimes have poor copywriting and sales optimisation, demonstrating an obvious lack of the marketing skills that should be a core component. And if you cannot spell, or have problems with grammar, how can you appeal to anyone other than an unsophisticated audience? In addition, both groups often demonstrate a poor grasp of usability issues. These factors taken together clearly show that a very wide range of skills is needed.

Successful SEO is not only a technical and marketing process, it is a combination of many skills.

Web quality optimising

Our view is that a better term, web quality optimising, could be used. It defines our approach and the goals we set out to achieve. If all factors are improved to the best possible level, then success becomes that much more likely.

A quality approach is not always taken by web business owners, and we think this is a mistake. If you plan for the long term, quality is always going to be the main factor. 

Online business consultancy

In our opinion there is even more to this debate. We cannot see how simply improving a website's traffic, and then trying to improve the sales numbers, is always the the complete answer. Of course, the end result must be that online revenues are improved drastically, since that is the expressed aim. Traffic gains are important but not the whole story. Business reputation and brand strength need to be enhanced, since that is a core requirement of marketing and long-term success.

However, many online businesses have faults: wrong methodology, improperly conceived sales targets, and more. We can't ignore all that and simply get more traffic in - we have a duty to fix what we find wrong.

Because of this, we think that genuine, full SEO is basically an online business consultancy service. Forget about traffic, sales, and the rest - if your business is heading the wrong way, somebody needs to tell you. In many cases, the first time any enterprise has heard that they may not know all they should about online business is when they call in the search optimising team; and they prove to need business advice as well as SEO advice (and that is not the same as marketing advice, in many situations).

The future of SEO

The Net moves faster than any other business environment. In particular, it is expanding at a phenomenal rate. These two factors mean that SEO as we know it now - as a fit-all solution - will have to change. SEO consultants will need to specialise more since it will be impossible to do well in all areas. SEO for CMS, SEO for ecommerce and SEO for local search are all areas that will grow rapidly.

The A3webtech SEO style

Our approach is predominantly technical, with important usability, marketing and business consultancy components. We use an evolved, systemised technical SEO process that starts with network considerations and runs right through to brand management. Our aim is persistent long term gains in every department. The keys to our method are the quality approach, the systemised technical process, and the aggregation of marginal gains. This refers to taking care of a large number of seemingly unimportant minor issues - what used to be called minute attention to detail. A quality ethos by definition means an ethical standpoint, as quality is based on the long-term view.

SEO conclusion

An enterprise may well need online business advice first. A wide spectrum of search optimising methods are successful, so that the provision of SEO services has to balance the components; and the success of this determines the end results. Such a range exists because there is no set of techniques, or sequence of operations, that always works for all websites and all businesses - and there never will be. This is because websites vary hugely both in construction and purpose; business aspirations vary; and most search engines work in different ways. Their workings by necessity are secret. As most do not engage in any meaningful form of customer communication - which by definition is a two-way process involving question and answer and/or statement and reply - their preferences are largely a matter of conjecture. In any case the operational criteria change regularly, perhaps as often as monthly.

The whole search market changes drastically every 18 months, and a proportion of the service suppliers - the SEO / SEM agencies - are not just one cycle behind the times, but in some cases two.

Search optimising is a technical operation, a marketing project, business consultancy and an esoteric art, all rolled into one fascinating package.

More SEO pages:

SEO Agency
Ethical SEO
SEO and Usability
Web Business Managers