WHAT IS SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION?
Google withstanding, search engine optimization “is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.”
Search engines systematically scour the Internet using robotic programs—called bots—that count up keywords on all the websites in the world. When someone types that keyword into the search engine, the results are rank-ordered according to who has the most of them.
Of course it is not as simple as that. Algorithms ensure that you are not gaming the system with superfluous lists of SEO keywords. Your website will rank higher or lower depending on how many incoming links it has, how much content and traffic, how quickly it loads, whether it “responds” to tablets and smartphones—and more.
Should your website cater to the bots or to human readers?
Advice generally comes in two flavors:
- If the consultant comes strictly from the technical side, then finding your website is usually an end unto itself. Readability and content are ignored in favor of stuffing as many keywords into the copy as craftily as possible.
- When consultants come from the marketing side, they will typically counsel that your copy should communicate your company’s positioning, differentiation, features, benefits, and so forth. It’s about content and readability.
Should you listen to the techno-geeks?
If your only goal is to get people to your website instead of somebody else’s, then keywords trump readability. In such cases what your company does must be very obvious; your products & services must be a relative commodity; and your brand should be a household word. A good example is “big box” home improvement stores.
Most of us are not passionate about where we buy our framing lumber. The 2 x 4’s at Home Depot are as good or as bad as those at Loews or Menard’s. So consider the result when I type the search term “2 x 4 lumber” into Google:
The Home Depot is at the top of the list. Lowe’s is a close second. Menards does not show up on the front page at all. However, Menard’s does better when I type “2 x 4 studs.” They come up third after The Home Depot and Loews. So clearly Menards would benefit from more and better keywords, at least when it comes to 2 x 4’s.
Or should you listen to the marketing mavens?
Our Madison marketing consultancy specializes in marketing for companies with science, technology, engineering, and similarly-professional products and services to sell. So I will draw my examples from there.
Such businesses are very specialized. Their website visitors are usually highly-educated prospects seeking a product or service that is very unique to their particular application. They are not shopping for products or services per se, but for the companies that will provide them. So the slightest nuances among such companies are often the tipping point for choosing one over the other.
Clearly, if you are the manager of such a high-tech company, then simply getting people to your website is not enough. You need content that will motivate visitors to pick up the phone to find out more. That requires content that explains your positioning, differentiation, experience, success stories, and more.
What’s the middle ground?
Your content has to do two things of equal importance:
- It needs to be findable: having enough and the right kind of SEO keywords so that anyone looking for your kind of product or service is likely to see your website after typing his likely search terms into Google. E.g. “Madison science copywriter.”
- It needs to be motivating: persuading the visitor to pick up the phone or otherwise be induced to “learn more” about what you do, how you do it, and how you do it better than any of your competitors: your expertise, positioning, differentiation, features, benefits, case studies, testimonials, and more.
How do you know which SEO keywords to include?
There are basically three ways to develop your SEO keyword list:
- Intuitively: Logically conjuring what search terms your target audience is likely using to find your kind of product or service. E.g., you might guess that someone looking for a “Madison technology copywriter” might type exactly that into her search engine.
- Your own research: If you already have a website, you can look at your stats page to see a rank-ordered list of what search terms people used when they found you and add more of the same. Next, you can type your intuited list (see 1) and note if companies similar to yours appear.
- An SEO specialist: hiring a person who or a firm specializing in keyword analyses across the Internet for creating a list best suited to your enterprise.
Want to learn more? Contact me at email@example.com
Stephen G. Barone is a marketing communications specialist and co-principal at barodine marketing communications & research, a general contractor of creative and analytical marketing talent to the science, technology, engineering, medical, professional, and general business communities.
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