Why Search Engines Matter and What to Do About It, Did you know that over 90 percent of the adult population uses a search engine?
Were you aware that, other than e-mail, search is the most popular online
activity? Did you have any idea that Google processes over two billion searches
every single day? With statistics as staggering as these, is it any wonder that
search engine optimization has become a major component of improving online
visibility? With this book, my goal is to help you understand how search engines
work and how your website can become more relevant in their eyes.
So what exactly is search engine optimization (SEO) and why is it so
important to anyone looking to attract online business? SEO is important
because search is important.
Why Search Engines Matter and What to Do About It
Consumers are changing and so are their preferences for how they want to
engage with business. Potential customers are overwhelmed with advertising
coming at them from all directions, such as billboards, radio, television, direct
mail, telemarketing, and more. This overabundance has resulted in a lower
tolerance for intrusive advertising.
That is why search engine optimization has become such a necessity in
modern-day advertising. Instead of shouting your message at your prospective
customers, you can sit back and let your customers find you at the exact moment
they are looking for what you have to offer.
This could very well be the reason that sales leads coming through SEO
average a closing rate of 14.6 percent while outbound leads (such as print
advertising or direct mail) average a closing rate of only 1.7 percent, according
to a study conducted by Search Engine Journal (a respected resource on
advertising). This same study found that 40 percent of SEO marketers
interviewed experienced a return on their investment in excess of 500 percent.
Just take a second to think about how powerful those kinds of advertising returns
could be for any business.
Search engine optimization is all about traffic and location. If you own a
restaurant, you will find it most profitable to build your restaurant in a busy area
with bustling foot traffic. Similarly, the most profitable websites appear at or
near the top of everyday popular searches within the most active and biggest
search engines. Getting to the top of the search engines is important. Websites
that use search engine optimization to target their audience have repeat visitors,
often get shared socially, and are more likely to convert new customers online.
Over the past decade, I have lived, breathed, and slept search engine
marketing, for I’m a believer. I’ve visited Google’s ridiculously extravagant
headquarters. I spent four years working at Microsoft on its Bing.com search
engine. For the past three years, I have been running an SEO agency whose sole
focus is to get websites to that enviable position at the top of the search engines.
I have personally witnessed countless situations in which high search
engine rankings have produced significant increases in business, phone calls,
sales, and overall brand awareness. I’ve been fortunate to work with hundreds of
individuals, businesses, and organizations that have used search engine
optimization on their websites to achieve incredible success.
During my time working directly for a search engine, and later with my
own agency, I’ve assisted hundreds of businesses in building their client base
through search engine exposure. I worked with a roofing company in Seattle that
wanted to increase calls and land more jobs during the rare months in Seattle
when it isn’t raining. I worked with a community bank in Montana that needed
to build brand awareness and open more checking and savings accounts. I even
worked with an Alaskan preservation group determined to help protect and
restore the wild salmon and trout population throughout the state—a worthy
cause, to be sure. You know what they all had in common? In each case, these
entities applied the strategies outlined in this book to reach their objectives.
Although their aims and objectives were very different, the outcomes were all
the same: overwhelming success in reaching their online goals.
These are just some of the many cases I’ve witnessed where improving
search engine traffic has made the difference between a good attempt and a
successful venture. Whether you’re establishing a new business, developing an
existing one, or simply trying to build awareness for a website or cause
important to you, working with the search engines to improve your online
visibility could absolutely be the determining factor of your success.
Allow me to formally introduce myself. In 2006, Microsoft launched
adCenter, and I was recruited to help advertisers market themselves through this
new paid search platform. Over the next four years, I experienced an evolution
of smarter search engine marketing, the launch of Bing.com, and an integration
between Microsoft and Yahoo! to increase search engine dominance.
At the beginning of the Yahoo! integration, I left Microsoft to start my own
search engine agency. At Sovo Media, my primary focus has been working with
business owners to meet their online goals, and as such, I’ve been exposed to
hundreds of opportunities to drive increased search engine rankings. While the
only guarantees in life are death and taxes, and it is true that even the best SEO
professionals aren’t successful 100 percent of the time, I will say that I have had
a consistent track record of success. In this book, I’ll reveal the exact process,
techniques, and tools I use to achieve these types of results.
My intent with this book is to give you the tools and resources you need to
apply these same techniques and to experience similar success. What can you
expect by increasing your search engine rankings? Success on the search engines
typically leads to increased web traffic and visibility, a spike in interested
visitors to your website, and the resulting benefit of more awareness, phone
calls, and online sales through your web presence.
Before we get started, I would like to introduce a quick history lesson. In
1996, two Stanford classmates had a vision to organize all of the information
found on the web in a relevant and manageable way. To say that this was a
challenging task is an understatement. Billions of web pages with information on
every imaginable topic can be found on the Internet today. And the place most
people now visit when searching for information? Google—the brainchild of
those two Stanford classmates.
Throughout this book, I’ll discuss the strategies I use to get websites ranked
on search engines like Google for the search terms most relevant for their
products and services. Within this book, I primarily refer to strategies geared
toward positively impacting Google searches, since Google currently accounts
for around 70 percent of all search engine traffic. Plus, when you optimize for
Google, you will typically experience increases on the rest of the search engines
As a reference, here is a current breakdown of search engine traffic by
individual search engine:
Search Engine Market Share Report
Source: comScore – a global leader in measuring the digital world and
While I often refer to Google, please note that these tactics will typically
assist with increased exposure across all of the search engines. However, it’s
much easier to focus your attention specifically on Google given the search
market share it currently enjoys.
My goal with this book isn’t to help you beat the system. In fact, it’s the
opposite. I want to help you figure out the best way to make the search engines
understand what your site is about and why they should give you priority for the
search terms you deem important. By working with the search engines, you can
drive significantly more traffic to your website and create a better experience for
the searcher as well. It’s a win-win situation: the search engines provide better
information to their users, while you get more traffic to your site. And when
everybody wins, it’s a good day!
Search engine optimization has acquired a negative perception over the
years. Some people see SEO as trying to trick and manipulate the search engines
into giving their sites preferential treatment. I’ll let you in on a secret. The search
engines want you to do optimization—because it makes their searches better. A
search engine’s business is built on offering searchers relevant information.
When you make your information more relevant to searchers, the search engines
benefit and, more importantly, so do you.
Let’s begin with why search engines matter. As mentioned earlier, over 90
percent of the adult population uses search engines to find information. It seems
that Internet users have become preconditioned to go to a search engine first.
Many have set a search engine as their default home page. In fact, many Internet
users will go to a search engine to find a site even when they already know the
name of the site they’re trying to locate!
Take a look at this recent data from the Pew Research Center:
Source: The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, April 26
– May 22, 2011 tracking survey.
As you can see, getting ranked on search engines has become something of
a necessity. By getting ranked, I’m referring to the process of having your
website show up on the search engines for search terms relevant to your site.
Unfortunately, how to get ranked has proven extremely confusing for many
website owners. But it doesn’t have to be some unknown black hole. Careful
consideration goes into Google’s search engine placement, and discovering how
those decisions are made can make all the difference.
Search engines are continuously crawling the web while seeking out new
pages and content. They aren’t overly sophisticated, as they can read text and
links but not much else. When you conduct a search, the results are displayed
almost magically, but a lot is happening behind the scenes. In this book, I’ll
uncover these mysteries so that anyone who wants to be found on Google will
have an opportunity to do so.
When I started my agency, I did extensive research, went to conferences,
made friends with other search engine marketing firms, and spent a tremendous
amount of time and money to truly understand how and what it means to rank
highly on the search engines.
What I share in this book isn’t some random theory about why search
engines give preference to some websites over others. It isn’t meant to be a
general outline of what to look out for. It was born out of real-world results and
is designed to be a concise, easy-to-implement process that, if followed
diligently, should help you garner better results on the search engines. Again, as
a word of caution, nothing is ever guaranteed in the world of search engine
optimization, as any SEO professional can attest.