Wednesday, August 6, 2008

SEO: So Easy to Overlook

Having just completed a search engine optimization (SEO) assessment for an educational services company’s site, I was surprised by the sheer volume of resources and information freely available online. For example, what I considered a well targeted search for “SEO linking strategies” generated 493,000 results on Google! So if information on this topic is so widely available, why is SEO so frequently overlooked?

In speaking with clients and contacts, they consistently offer up the following reasons for not implementing SEO best practices:
* SEO isn’t as important as other marketing efforts.
* SEO is not measurable – how will we know if our results pay off?
* SEO has a long lead time – any SEO efforts will delay other web-related projects.
* SEO is cost-prohibitive --- we can’t afford expensive consulting fees to support this effort.

Typically, SEO is initiated by the marketing organization in conjunction with (and with support from) IT. If you want to champion SEO-related efforts, arm yourself with the following information to build a solid business case.

1. It’s how consumers will find you online.
According to a 2008 study by Forrester Research (see chart), search engine results are the primary way adults and youth find web sites. If you’re not visible in search results, you’re not reaching your target audience with the vehicles (Google, Yahoo!, MSN) they use the most.

2. It’s measurable
There are several ways to measure the impact of your SEO efforts.
* Impact to traffic volume: Tap into your site analytics data to create a baseline for current monthly traffic generated by organic search results and compare before and after results. To take this a step further, evaluate the conversion rate for the incremental traffic and impact to leads and/or revenue.
* Impact to rankings: Type relevant keywords into Google, Yahoo!, MSN, etc. and identify where your site lands in search results before and after your SEO enhancements.

3. It’s relatively easy to implement
There are numerous SEO best practices a front-end developer can deploy relatively quickly once the content is assembled. Updating metadata (page titles, descriptions, and keywords) to reflect keywords, incorporating keywords in headers, image alt text and in page content, and creating simple sitemaps are all low effort/high return enhancements and can be worked in around other web deliverables.

4. It’s not expensive.
There are a number of free SEO resources and tips --- it’s just a matter of taking the time to wade through a huge amount of information. If you’re a small business, assign a web-savvy, take-charge person to familiarize themselves with SEO best practices and offer them a bonus based on results. If you have a significant online presence as an online retailer or subscription-based site, there are search consulting firms that will define a strategy and implement tactics for both paid search and SEO activities, often on a revenue share basis.

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