Earlier in January in this column’s introductory post, Welcome To PPC Academy, A One-Year Paid Search Course, I said that this would be a column strictly about PPC. Well, if you’ve been reading this year, you know that I lied. The scope expanded to include some of the fringe disciplines including analytics, contextual targeting, placement targeting, etc. Before this column ends, however, it’s important that I also expose you to some of the other pieces of the puzzle so that you are a well-rounded online marketer.
One of these other competencies is in search engine optimization (or SEO as it is more commonly called).
Although many search engine marketing agencies and in-house brand teams perform both the SEA (Search Engine Advertising) and SEO functions for their clients/companies, the two sides of the SEM coin are usually performed by different teams or specialists. For all of those of you who are out there doing both, I tip my hat to you. It’s not easy to really be good at both. They’re both moving at similar light speeds along with the entire digital industry which is maturing before our very eyes. Although there is some overlap, for the most part, paid and organic search have their own best practices, pricing models, tools, bloggers/thought leaders, etc. In fact, sometimes they are downright fighting each other to achieve their goals.
For those of you largely engaged in just paid search, here are a handful of frequently asked questions about SEO that will give you a better perspective of the search industry overall. It would take literally weeks of posts to truly dive into what SEO is and how it is done, so these are top level answers from a paid search specialist perspective.
What do search engine optimizers (also called SEOs) do? Search engine optimizers work to get the best exposure in search engines for their web content. One thing to note here is that SEO is not limited to web pages; it also extends to videos, microblogs, PDFs, audio content, games or any other kind of content that could appear in any kind of search engine.
How much does SEO cost? Just because there’s no cost to appear in search engines and appearing in organic results is often considered free traffic, a company’s SEO budget can sometimes be bigger than its paid search one. SEOs usually charge on an actual per hour basis in a project plan model and can show you their per hour rate by specialist and task. Also know that most SEO firms require a multi-monthly or yearly commitment to a project. SEO is not a quick fix: it can take time and a multi-tiered approach to have a successful SEO program.
How is web content collected by search engines? Basically, search engines continuously crawl the internet looking for new content to index. Yup, little virtual robots going through every link they find and they’re allowed to access.
Why would a site be ranked higher or lower than another? Search engines have software algorithms that analyze literally hundreds of data factors to determine which content should appear in organic (also called natural) results. Some of the ranking factors include on-site elements such as which keywords appear on the pages, how the internal linking is constructed, etc. Off-page factors like inbound links from other relevant and important sites can also be weighed into rankings.
What’s the best way to get to the top of the rankings? That’s the million dollar question! On one hand, engines don’t want spammers to understand their process enough to fool the system, but on the other hand, they do release tidbits of info so that the right folks can get their relevant content to rise to the surface. A lot of SEO best practices are developed by practitioners who constantly experiment to see what recipes of tactics increase rankings and campaign performance. Ultimately, the phrase content is king rules. If you have great content that the internet community wants to share and link to, there’s a great chance that you will achieve the high rankings you desire.
What can hurt my rankings? This is a very important question. In paid search, you basically can’t do anything wrong because the system won’t allow it. However, with organic SEO doing the wrong things can negatively impact your own success and rankings. Thus, doing it poorly doesn’t just have poor affects, it can actually hurt you and the need for deep expertise and competency is very important.
What tools do SEOs use? SEOs use similar tools that paid search folks use, especially when it comes to competitive and keyword research. However, they do have proprietary tools relevant to their discipline such as in-bound link reporters, submission software, and web-ranking systems.
Where can I learn more about SEO? Well, you’re already here at SearchEngineLand.com so you know about the great resources here. Some of the other top rated educational sites include SEOMoz, SEOBook and Google’s own Matt Cutts’ blog. There’s a lot of great content on the web that you can find through just those sources.
PPC Academy is a comprehensive, one-year search advertising course from beginning to end. Starting with the basics, PPC Academy progressively explores all of the varied facets of paid search, and the tactics needed to succeed and become an advanced paid search marketer.