If you have read the previous article of this series, then it should be clear to you how the search engines actually work. It should also create your interest in knowing more about the search engines and optimizing your site better for them. But before that, you must make it clear to yourself – why do you need to practice SEO?
Without a proper understanding of the reasons of practicing SEO, you may get your interest lost in the long run. You should be clear to yourself, what you are doing and why you are doing that.
While talking about SEO with the owner of a reputed design based web blog, he exclaims –
“Just focus on the content of your website, and you will never ever need SEO at all. SEO is for all those, who spend less time on improving their site and more on finding various techniques in ranking higher in the SERPs”.
A friend of mine, who is new enough to the world of SEO, tells me –
“Search engines should be intelligent and sophisticated enough to understand websites and retrieve information from them and rank them in a suitable way without any human intervention. It is simply pointless to follow a set of rules to make your website rank better in the search engine results”.
I have to politely disagree with both of the above mentioned statements. To some extent, they are correct in what they are trying to mean, but I am not sure whether they understand search technology the way it’s meant to be.
Why Do You Need to Practice SEO?
There are various reasons why you need SEO for your website and we will discuss them in detail in this section. Though the search engines are becoming increasingly intelligent day-by-day, but still there are some limitations for them.
Search engines use sophisticated algorithms which don’t have the capability to “think” like humans do. They are not as powerful as a human brain and needs some human assistance for better understanding.
SEO is also not just about optimizing your site, it’s about marketing and promoting your site through the vast reach of the search engines. The never ending competition between various websites will remain forever to get listed in the top of the search engine results page.
(Image Source: RadicalMarketingSolutions.com)
Understanding the Limitations of the Engines
i) Though the search engines have become amazingly intelligent over the past 15 years, but still they are not capable to understand and interpret a piece of document and judge its usefulness like a human brain. Only humans have got the power to understand and the engines take the help of human understanding and interaction to estimate the importance and usefulness of a particular document.
ii) Search engines still struggle to understand non-HTML content like flash animations, images, videos, audio clips, etc. Only humans can understand and interpret what an image or a video or a sound clip tries to convey and the engines need to rely on human interaction to judge the usefulness of these documents.
iii) Sometimes a great website can remain completely invisible to the engines if the Robots.txt file of that particular site is wrongly configured and it is blocking all search engine bots from accessing that particular site completely. You need to learn SEO and help the bots crawl and index your site perfectly.
iv) Various Content Management Systems (like WordPress) create duplicate content issues. It’s neither the fault of the CMS nor the search engines, but it’s the way they are designed which makes it difficult for the engines to find the original content out from the duplicate ones.
There are various other technical limitations that the search engines still struggle to overcome and we need to help the engines by giving them clues and hints to overcome these limitations and understand your site better.
The Marketing Aspect of SEO
SEO is not always about solving some technical problems and optimizing your site better for the engines, it’s about promoting your website or document through the huge reach of the engines.
You have to understand the marketing aspect of the search engines too which is one of the most important and involving concepts to grasp. Gone are those days when the search engines just used to match keywords and the no. of times they have been used to determine the relevancy and importance of the websites.
Now the engines are amazingly powerful and sophisticated in determining the usefulness of documents, but still they are not perfect and probably can never be. They’re not even close to the power of human brains to judge the usefulness of a particular document.
(Image Source: onlinebuisness.volusion.com)
Focusing on the content alone will not drive insane traffic from the engines. You have to help the engines to understand the relevancy and importance of your content. Search engines use human interaction like social shares, references (in the form of backlinks), etc. to understand and estimate the popularity of a particular website. More interactions simply indicate that a particular website or document is more talked about and should be important to the visitors.
Endless Competition in the SERPS
A certain search query can give you millions of search results but rarely a searcher moves to the second or the third page for more information. They demand their answer from the first page only, and not only that, sometimes they want the answer to be delivered right from the first 3 links.
A study in 2011 reveals that, the #1 position in the SERPS gets about 18% of the overall traffic and the second and the third one gets about 10% and 7% respectively.
Very few listings available ignites the competitive urge between various websites and business, not only to get traffic from the engines but also to make their company seem important and trustworthy to their visitors and customers.
Search is growing strongly at a rate of 20% every year and it reaches billions of people all over the world. Big companies are ready to spend huge money on search marketing to reach even more targeted customers and it’s estimated that search marketing will touch $77 billion in 2016.
The Internet as a whole and the search marketing is a great way to reach millions of laser-targeted customers, skyrocket sales, and generate leads and to build a successful business overall.
Time to Think About Your Target Audience
The first and the foremost thing in search marketing is to understand the needs of your target audience and to build a site focusing your audience primarily.
You have to understand one simple thing – why do we use a search engine? We have some questions and we are looking for the best possible answers to it. We may want information about a certain topic, or we may want some action to be performed, like buying football match tickets, tickets to go for a vacation, etc.
And if you get a site which proves to be useful to you, then you would like to interact with it through social shares, references, etc.
And this is what the search engines exactly want – user satisfaction. Search engines itself cannot provide the answer to your question. They can only find the right places with the answer to your question.
So the first thing about SEO is to analyze what your audience wants from you, what your competitors already have and then trying to give your best to satisfy your audience. Everything else should follow automatically after this.
How to Proceed Further
Now that you have read and understood how the search engines work and why you need to practice SEO, you may wonder how and where to proceed further. Don’t worry, we will take you to your next step.
Now a very common question should come to your mind. What factors do the search engines consider while ranking websites and have these factors been revealed by the engines? No, certainly not and it’s probably never going to be. The search engines will never reveal the factors they use for ranking websites, because if they do so then people will instantly start manipulating the results.
Search engines care about user satisfaction more than anything and therefore they are probably never going to reveal the ranking formula to you. It’s a secret which is meant to be kept forever.
Then how should we proceed further? Does everything about SEO and search marketing end right here?
Never. It’s just the beginning of a completely new journey. The major search engines like Google and Bing themselves provides some guidelines on the best practices of Search Engine Optimization. Let’s have a look at the official guidelines first:
Google Guidelines – https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en
Bing Guidelines – http://www.bing.com/webmaster/help/webmaster-guidelines-30fba23a
So, is this all about SEO that you can learn? Certainly not. These are just the general guidelines and nothing but the tip of the iceberg. Fortunately, search marketing has evolved in the past 15 years and various marketers have experimented on various ranking factors to determine the existence and importance of a particular factor in the search algorithm.
In the next article, we are going to learn about some of the most important technical terms in SEO, without which it would be impossible for us to move any further in learning SEO. It would be a very interesting article focusing on some in-depth concepts of SEO. It’s something you simply can’t afford to miss. See you in the next episode.