Have you heard stories about legendary online entrepreneurs who hit it big after getting a #1 rank in several popular search engines? You probably wondered what it would take for you to achieve that elusive #1 spot in the search engine result pages (SERPs). Search Engine Optimization (SEO) plays a vital role in ensuring that your business gets the best possible search engine ranking, which can lead to increased sales for your online company.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
Search engine optimization is the process of modifying web page content and meta-information to improve the search engine ranking of the page. Meta-information includes certain HTML tags (title, heading, emphasized text, keyword and description meta-tags), as well as the internal (links between pages on the same site) and external (links between pages on different sites) link structure of a web site.
Impact of High Search Engine Rank on Sales
Internet market research estimates that between 70% and 90% of online shoppers use search engines to find a specific product or service. Let's examine factors that influence sales to see how effective search engine optimization can boost your revenues.
Three metrics are required to forecast online sales: the average ticket, the conversion rate, and the amount of web site traffic:
- The average ticket is the amount of money spent by a customer on a typical transaction. Computer and electronics stores have high average tickets (hundreds or thousands of dollars), while bookstores have low average tickets (tens of dollars).
- Web Site traffic is measured by the number of site visitors, typically expressed as the number of page views per month.
- Conversion rate is the number of sales divided by the number of page views per month, expressed as a percentage.
Let's look at an example. The Ultimate Taupe Widget (UTW) store has an average ticket of $25, a conversion rate of 2%, and gets 5,000 page views per month. The estimated monthly sales are $2,500 ($25 average ticket * 0.02 conversion rate expressed as a decimal * 5,000 page views per month). Achieving a high search engine rank will increase the number of page views, and therefore increase sales. In this example, if traffic doubles to 10,000 page views a month, UTW's monthly sales should (approximately) double as well (to $5,000).
Keep in mind that a high search engine rank will produce a measurable increase in traffic only if there is significant marketplace interest in taupe widgets and your web site appears in the first thirty search engine results.
However, search engine optimization is not going to produce measurable results if there is very little demand for taupe widgets. The #1 spot in search engine result pages is not particularly impressive if only two people search for "taupe widgets" each month. Role of Keywords in Search Engine Optimization
Keywords are words or phrases users provide to search engines to locate information. Search engines examine page content to determine whether a specific page is relevant for a particular search word or phrase. Thus, effective keyword selection is one of the cornerstones of search engine optimization.
Each keyword is characterized by supply (number of search engine result pages) and demand (number of searches). The easiest way to improve search engine rank is to select keywords that have favorable supply-demand characteristics; that is, ones with a relatively high demand and a relatively low supply. It is much more difficult to improve the search engine position of a page on a high supply, competitive keyword.
Good keywords must be relevant to your product line, as well as your line of business. A #1 rank for "navy widgets" is worthless if you sell taupe widgets exclusively. A potential customer will find your page, quickly discover that you don't sell any navy widgets, and promptly go elsewhere. In effect, the conversion rate for irrelevant search engine hits is very close to zero.
Using Keywords Effectively
Choosing a set of target keywords is the first step in search engine optimization. The second step is using them in the body, title, headings, and meta-tags of a page.
Include the target keywords in the text of the page. Don't overdo it, though --- the keywords should fit smoothly into the surrounding text. Search engines use several techniques to detect excessive keyword density, or too many keywords stuffed into very little supporting text, and will reduce the rank accordingly. A page has too many keywords if they interfere with the general flow of the text on a page and appear to be glaringly out of place
The title tag should contain information that describes the page. Unless you operate a multi-national conglomerate that is already a household name, your company's name is not a descriptive title. Most search engines use the title tag as the first line of your listing in the search engine result pages. Strive to make your title tag say "click me" to a prospective customer. "Superior taupe widgets - 50% off every day" is a good page title, while "Ultimate Taupe Widgets, Inc." is not.
Incorporate keywords into the headings on the page, as well as into emphasized sections (bold or large text). Even though search engines are de-emphasizing descriptive meta-tags, include keywords in them nevertheless. The description meta-tag should have an accurate description of your page, and the keywords meta-tag should contain a set of keywords (separated by commas) that list key concepts mentioned on the page.
Understanding the basics of search engine optimization is an important first step in creating an optimized, well-positioned web site.