What is SEO

by Geoffrey Hoesch — Apr 10, 2007

Over the years, I've been approached by countless CEOs and Webmasters who, without any understanding of the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO), tell me that their website needs SEO. "Great," I respond, "which pages require SEO? Are you fond of any particular keywords? Are you running a pay-per-click campaign?" Occasionally, a well-studied CEO actually understands the questions I am asking; rarely, a CEO understands why I am asking the questions. Before I explain the relevance of these questions, let me provide a brief description of Search Engine Optimization.

Search Engines (Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Altavista, etc.) are websites designed to navigate the web and isolate web pages deemed significant to a particular keyword search. A keyword is the searched for term. If, for instance, you wanted to purchase a new computer you may type 'computer' into Google's search window, click the search button, and find a list of results that includes Dell, Gateway, and Apple. Increasing a page's listing on this results page, also known as a Search Engine Results Page or SERP, is the goal of Search Engine Optimization.

So Why is SERP position important?

While the percentages vary, it is generally accepted that approximately 65% of all surfers do not navigate beyond the first Search Engine Results Page, which lists only the top ten results for the selected keyword. Few surfers navigate beyond the second results page. This means that unless your page is ranked within the first 20 Search Engine Results for a particular keyword or phrase, you will rarely receive any organic traffic. Organic traffic refers to natural, un-paid-for traffic. Advertising is considered non-organic traffic.

The approximate click rate, percentage of total surfers that click on the SERP link, is as follows:

  • Result #1: 40%
  • Result #2: 12%
  • Result #3: 8%
  • Result #4: 6%
  • Result #5: 5%

As you can see, the higher your site's rank, the more visitors you will receive. A listing of #1 will receive approximately four times the amount of traffic that a #2 ranked site will receive. The conversion is relatively simple...four times the traffic, four times the sales.

Before you jump on the internet and perform a keyword search for 'SEO services', here are a few things you should know:

Not every page on your website requires SEO. The 'About Us' and 'Contact' pages should not require keywords. Pages that require keywords are your landing pages. A landing page is the page on which your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.) displays when a link is clicked or a web address (www.) is entered.

You should have a general idea which keywords you want. You know your business and customers better than anyone, and you should know how they'll find you on the internet.

Are you running a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign? If yes, you should ask your advertising department which keywords are converting most successfully and for which keywords the PPC campaign is catered. This information is useful to SEO copywriters.

That was a very cursory introduction to Search Engine Optimization. This information is intended to provide a foundation for future SEO discussions and is in no way a complete overview of the topic.

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