Sastrugi Marketing - Search Engine Optimization
How does a search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) determine the order of results for a specific term? Let's say you search for "Littleton Colorado Pizza Place." First, it will look for sites that contain the words Littleton, Pizza, Colorado or Place. This will be billions of pages, so preference is given to sites containing all four words, and more preference to sites containing the words in precise order: "Littleton Colorado Pizza Place."
Search Engine Ranking Algorithm
Search Engines give higher rankings to pages deemed "more important." Importance is primarily determined by the number and importance of other websites that links to page ("Off-Page Factors"). For example, a seldom visited personal blog page in which the author says "I went out to a Denver Pizza Place last night" will have little importance compared with a national pizza chain which may have thousands of inbound links (online yellow pages in every city, etc.) The search engine will then consider and weight these two factors through a complex formula, and rank the search results.
Of course, you want to be at the top of the search results. For most searches, people only look at the first page. Generally, the first page will contain a variety of answers to the consumer's problem.
The Value of Good Search Results
The top of the search rankings implies a a positive business reputation. Building a large site, and acquiring many inbound links takes time. Who tops the search list for "Denver Grocery Stores?" As of this writing, the biggest grocer in Colorado. The higher you rank, the better you look.
A closely related field to Search Engine Optimization is Online Reputation Management (ORM)..
So, the obvious question facing business owners is: How to I get on the first page, preferably near the top? Short answer: Contact Sastrugi Marketing! We'll be happy to explain to you the services we can provide to improve your search rankings.
SEO tip: To build inbound links, and publicity, you can write an article for Ezine, or a similar site. Here's an article that I wrote, and received a link for.
User-Friendly Websites are Good SEO!
Nobody likes a slow website. And, Google penalizes sites that load too slowly. Headings that clearly identify the subject matter of page sections help readers scanning a a page for specific information. And, Google uses those headings to help generate search results. Concise writing is easy to read and has a higher keyword density than verbose text. Alternative text to describe photos helps visually impaired visitors and it helps Search Engines determine the subject matter of a page.
A site map helps users find pages they've visited before; and a site map helps search engines find pages. Navigation that provides a link to all important pages from every page on a site promotes good user experience, and helps search engines understand which pages the site designer considers most important.
A website that is "people-friendly" will almost always have good on-page SEO.
SEO and Technological Change
Current Search Engines are a highly advanced form of Artifical Intelligence. Based on hundreds of factors (your locations, advertiser's paid listing bids, social media activity, on-page content, etc.), they instantly make an enormous (thousands of websites) set of prioritized recommendations that are often surprisingly accurate. In the past, it was often possible for individuals or organizations to manipulate these results. Search Engines recognized the danger manipulation poses to the accuracy of results, however, and have instituted automated methods to thwart and discourage manipulation (ex: penalizing sites with fraudulent inbound links or sites that steal content from other sites, and delaying some of the effects of SEO efforts by weeks or months). The search algorithms automatically test their own performance, and modifying themselves to improve performance instantaneously. Search Results are highly customized (based on items like the location of the searcher), so identifying successful tactics is difficult. Marketing strategies presupposing specific flaws in search algoritms and specific exploits to gain traffic from the flaw is built on shifting sand.
The static Search Algorithm theory assumes human-paced development and refinement: Lots of people working long hours, then sorting out differences in committee meetings, and waiting for final executive approval of changes. In reality, Google's algorithm can, within limits, learn, teach and change themselves at digital speed. Using this technology, Google programs have successfully taught themselves to identify human and animal faces in YouTube videos.
Basic SEO techniques have diffused to many people, and thousands of SEO experts have reworked websites to improve search rankings. Fifteen years ago, fen years ago, maybe even five years ago, your organizational returns on SEO efforts were higher because competitors commonly weren't even trying. Today, that's unlikely.
"Miracle SEO" promoters are generally scammers. Sensible SEO efforts will improve search results, but they aren't a cure-all for marketing ills. Some websites contain glaring SEO mistakes (link-farm inbound links, pure Flash or image-based sites without Bot accomodation, excessive duplicate content, etc.) and rankings can be quickly improved. However, may websites have reasonably competent on-page and off-page SEO, and they are listed "about where they belong" in search rankings. It's harder and harder to move these sites up in the rankings.
Some "Miracle SEO" promoters aren't scammers: They can be explained by Bonaparte's Razor:
"Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence"
For years, SEO was undersold and underappreciated. Now, it's often oversold. In, say, 2004, many business people didn't understand the profound power of high natural search rankings. Currently, there's a tendancy to attribute all business results to SEO. SEO is only part of the Internet Marketing equation. Social media, paid search, local directory sites, Google Maps/Plus/Local, review sites, Mobile Apps, etc. all have a powerful impact on Internet Marketing. And, finally, there's your website: Does it look good? Does it respond to mobile devices? Does it have offers that attract customers, important information that encourages visitors to bookmark it?
Not every site can be #1. Some sites will rank behind others because the highly ranked sites are associated with a larger business that spent years generating more inbound links, more authoritative inbound links, a more specific focus on the specific search phrase, more social media likes, shares, etc. A large business that has engaged in mass media advertising for decades, and tends to generate more clicks when it appears in search rankings because people already are familar with the business. And this higher "click-through rate" tells the search engine its' high rankings are justified.
Improvements that are simultaneously good Web Development and Search Results Factors (fast loading sites, no broken links, clear subject matter focus for each page, concise copywriting, alt tags, etc.) are the most effective use of the client's time and money. Tomorrow's search algorithms are an unknown, but a fast sites, valid links, clear copy, and accessibility will always provide a better user experience.