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What Exactly Does SEO Really Mean Today?

28 Feb 2015 | Posted Under SEO
By Hector Cisneros

I often hear people talking about SEO as it were, some magical secret, that when implemented, would instantly land your website on page one of any search engine. They use the acronym SEO as if it was a single element used in internet advertising. The reality today is that the term SEO no longer holds any real meaning. That’s why you hear marketing professionals using phrases likeSearch Marketing, internet marketing and content marketing. In this article I will provide a clear understanding of the term SEO and what it now means for any business.  I will also provide you with a litany of the success factors needed to achieve organic page one results.

SEO Used to Stand for Search Engine Optimization

Let’s start our discussion by defining what is meant by search. A search is conducted when anyone enters a keyword or phrase into a search engine directory looking to find as close a match as possible to the phrase entered. In other words, they ask a question and the returned search engine response represents the answer.
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Search engine operators, browser companies, and network engineers came up with various methods of deciding what a good keyword match was. Originally, SEO meant that a web page was set up in a way that made it easy for a search engine to read and understand what the page was all about. It was “Search EngineOptimized”. This is what webmasters call on-page optimization. They are optimizing items that are physically on that web page.  The various search engine company programmers, along with browser developers, helped devise methods like META tags and cookies, which once inserted into web pages, told the search engines and browsers what was on the page.  They also looked at things such as ALT tags (that describe the graphical information) and the text that was included on-page to determine relevance and ranking.

Thank the Porn Industry

The porn industry and other unscrupulous people used these original methods to trick search engines into giving their site's unwarranted relevance with the invention of black hat techniques such as keyword stuffing, hidden content, redirects and other methods designed specifically to cheat the search engines. Because of this trickery, search engine companies like Google and Yahoo began devising new methods of evaluating pages to determine what constituted a legitimate match for any given search. That trend started 18 years ago.
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Today, search engines like Google and Yahoo use several hundred factors to determine what constitutes a relevant match for any given key word. The last time I checked, Google had admitted to having over 250 ranking factors that they were constantly tweaking.  These ranking factors were designed to provide, “the best consumer search experience possible”.

Just for the record, this is not an objective methodology. Most search engines have been caught skewing the results in their favor from time to time. Also, all search engines have a vested interest in making it harder for businesses and webmasters to understand and comply with their methods.  This has occurred both because of self-interest and because they want to stop cheaters. For example, if it was easy for any business to get on page one, no one would buy pay per click advertisements.  (AdWords is Google’s number one income producer). Also, if everyone knew the rules, it wouldn’t be long before someone figured out a way to stack the odds in their favor.

Top Ranking Factors

Some of the most important ranking factors include the quality of the content on the page, the authoritativeness of the page, how interconnect the web page is, (how many legitimate and authoritative backlinks there are), how much a page is positively mentioned in the social networks (i.e. shares, mentions, comments) and how multimedia rich the page is. In essence your page is graded for quality, relevance, timeliness and popularity. 

The grading is both positive and negative. You can get points for higher quality, relevance, timeliness and positive popularity and you can lose points for having poor or deceptive quality, relevance, timeliness or negative popularity. So, the question remains how do you get on page one of the search engines?

Here's the Secret to Organic Page One Position

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The answer is relatively simple to describe, but requires a lot of work to achieve. Create and publish lots of high quality, authoritative content in blogs, videos, slide Shares, social posts, and podcasts, while making sure they are all keyword optimized and linked to the web page you’re promoting. Also, make sure you have a full spread of interconnect web properties (social net, video, photo site, a blog, and as many Google properties as possible such as Blogger, Google+ and YouTube). The content you produce needs to be distributed via your social nets and then shared with positive comments on those social nets. Quantity is an important factor. The webpage with the most quality connections wins! On top of that, the web page itself needs to be highly focused on the desired keywords and subject matter of the search.

Carl’s useful Illustration

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As my business partner Carl always illustrates. If you have a produce store and sell Apples, Oranges, Grapes and Bananas, you need to create landing pages that are focused for each product, instead of trying to promote all four fruits at once. By creating focused landing pages for each fruit, you make it easy for the search engines to make the “relevant match”. In other words, if a person types in oranges, they want to see listings for oranges, not apples, grapes, bananas or other produce! The rest is all a matters of how many quality, authoritative, relevant, timely and popular backlinks you have pointing to that page. If you have more than your competition, you receive a higher ranking.

It’s important to understand that this can never be a one-and-done proposition. It is an ongoing process that never ends.  If you’re consistent and your competition produces less content than you do, you will win. However stopping your efforts means losing ground and in most cases you lose your page one position within a matter of months.

More important factors for success.

Selecting the right keywords - What makes a keyword a good keyword? The answer is simple, people are searching using that keyword! Using your name as a keyword is a mistake unless you have a unique branded product the people are using as a keyword. The search engines will match your name even if it’s not a keyword as long as your company name is in the content of the page. Use words that reflect the actual product or service. If you mainly sell locally, use the city or region you’re in as part of the keywords. Google AdWords has a tool that allows you to research what keywords people are currently keying in.
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Top Seven Trust Factor Elements - Your landing page or website’s primary function is to match the relevant keyword search and to build trust once someone lands on your page. Many web pages omit important trust factor elements that people are used to seeing in other advertising media, (such as phone numbers, street address and unique selling proposition). Since credibility is key when it comes to selling online, a video testimonials from people who have used your products or services is very important. Also a contact form and a call to action with a compelling offer are both necessary elements to aid in the sales effort.   Last but not least, make sure you have links and icons for your blog and social networks. The page still needs to be focused and the elements mentioned above also need to be above the fold of your landing page so that people don’t have to scroll down to see them.

Quality Look and Feel - Your website or landing page needs to have a professional look that is clean and focused on a limited number of keywords (or even a single keyword or phrase). The spelling and grammar needs to be perfect. The pictures and graphics need to be relevant, clear and not overwhelming.  You don’t want images to distract from the primary focus of your page which is to help visitors understand your message and to move them to take the next step, (i.e.…. which is to fill out your form or make a call to contact you). The social and blog links need to be easy to find but only list active social networks that you post to on a regular basis.  You lose points by directing people and search engine spiders to inactive social nets that you seldom fed.

Ease of use - One of the reasons I like landing pages is because it limits a visitor’s choices. There are fewer navigation buttons and links to distract them from your main message. Website’s with drop down buttons force a person to hunt for the thing they came to the site to find. If a person lands on your page and sees exactly what they want, they are more likely to stay and take action. It’s the above mentioned trust factors that help make your web pages sticky.  Regardless of whether you include the trust factors or not, visitors still prefer a site that is easy to understand and navigate.
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Mobile Adaptability – We live in a mobile-oriented society that uses their smart phones more than desktop computers. The last time I checked, there were over 2 billion smartphones in use worldwide. The trend as of late has been for users opting for larger smartphones so they can use them as computers on the go. You will often see people comparing prices on their smartphone while shopping in store. 
Make sure you have either created a dedicated mobile site (one that is formatted specifically for smartphones with a .mobi suffix) or you are using HTML5, which generates web pages that are scalable to any platform. Be aware that there are limits to how small HTML5 can shrink a page to make it useful on a smartphone. If your page has too much content, it will not be legible when HTML5 shrinks it down to smartphone size.

Getting on Page One of Organic Search is Not the Be-All End-All

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One last, but very important factor to consider, if you plan on being successful with your internet marketing. You need to be willing to D.W.I.T.! Do Whatever It Takes. We are big proponents of AB testing, including the use of many forms of analytics to measure our results. Getting on page one of organic search is phase one of your program. It gets you in the game. Phase two is to get visitors to stay longer and to convert them into buyers. Sometimes the elements that got you on page one are not the same elements that will convert visitors to buyers. The first place to look if you’re not converting visitors is in the ways you’re using the top seven trust factors we mentioned earlier. If you’re not converting, it’s because you’re missing one or more of the important trust factors or your compelling offer is not so compelling. Make sure all elements are in play and above the fold. Don’t forget to provide a compelling offer. Be prepared to “Buy your customers,” as Brad Sugars of Action Coach International often says.

There’s the old joke that goes, “What do you feed and 800lb Gorilla? 

Anything it wants!”

At our agency, we concentrate on providing services that feed the 800lb Gorilla exactly what it wants. We do this because Google has the lion’s share of the organic search and pay per click markets. Google has publicly said that they want to provide those  using their search engine to have  a quality experience by receiving a highly relevant keyword match based on quality, authoritative, timely content, judged popular by the social networking communities and others who have connected to that content.

Our firm’s provides over 25 different services designed to feed the hungry gorilla. These include: focused landing pages, weekly blogs, daily social networking, YouTube videos, podcasting via internet radio, a listing service to the top 100 search directory, touch marketing via email newsletters and timely press releases just to name a few.
All of these services, when performed properly, produce positive ranking factors that move a webpage towards the goal of a page one organic search position. However, we believe that it’s the volume of all of the work put together that actually allows us to succeed and provide our money back guarantees. We believe a coordinated campaign is best. The whole of our work exceeds the sum of the individual parts. When a business engages in marketing this way, their chances of success go up substantially. We recommend you do the same.

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