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Andre Hospidales
Understanding Search Engine Optimization
Just as building a beautiful storefront is not the only factor that will result in
sales for your business, online marketing involves much more than creating a
gorgeous website.
Sure, having a well-designed website that users find fast and easy to use is
extremely important. However, in order for your business to succeed, your
customers and prospective customers must be able to find you online when
searching for the products or services you sell.
Studies have shown that more people are likely to get to a particular website
from search engines than any place else. Consequently, if your customers and
prospects are unable to find you online, they will be doing business with your
competitors instead.
The fact of the matter is, if you're doing business on the web, SEO needs to be a
strategic component of your overall internet marketing strategy. Essentially, the
ultimate goal of SEO is to generate high quality leads by delivering a consistent
flow of "targeted traffic" to a specific website.
This is the kind of traffic that tends to lead to increased sales or conversions, and
boosts business profitability. 2HOW SEO HAS EVOLVED
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is part of a larger umbrella of marketing called
search engine marketing (SEM).
Marketing is the process of connecting, engaging, and influencing your potential
customers to buy from you, being able to earn their loyalty and building your
brand within the marketplace. Search engine marketing, on the other hand, is
the process of generating qualified leads and increased visibility from search
engines through both paid and unpaid efforts.
 SEO: SEO is a structured, process-driven business strategy that is used to
secure a high-ranking placement for a particular web page or site in organic
search results so that you are more visible to users who are searching for the
products and services you sell online.
 Paid search: Paid search will provide the fastest return on investment. It’s
fast to setup, easy to test, and you’ll generate traffic to your site pretty
quickly. The most typical form of paid search is pay-per-click (PPC)
marketing. Examples of PPC marketing include Google AdWords, Social ads
(such as Pinterest promoted posts, Facebook ads and LinkedIn ads) and Bing
 High popularity and visibility
 Top ranking in search engine results
 Improved traffic
 Online branding
 Boost in online sales 3HOW SEO HAS EVOLVED
Take a moment to think about the search terms someone might use when
searching for your business. For example, if you’re a photographer in
Northampton that offers boudoir as part of your range of photography services,
possibilities could include:
 boudoir photography northampton
 northampton boudoir photo studio
 makeover studio northampton
Now, search Google for those terms.
Does your business show up?
If not, SEO is how you get there. If you have a website and your business does
not show up in the search results when your potential customers are searching
for it is just the same as customers searching for a restaurant but driving right
past without seeing it. 4HOW SEO HAS EVOLVED
SEO Isn’ tDead;ItHasEvolved
At this point, it is important to understand how SEO has evolved over the past
few years. Google search is now powered by semantic search, and an SEO
strategy that may have worked well in the past is no indicator of SEO success
In the old days, SEO was a standalone, purely technical skill that revolved around
two primary constants: keywords and links. Keywords were critically important
to establish relevance to a search query, whilst links were needed to help the
website rise in the search rankings.
Although this is an oversimplification of the Google search ranking process, it is
safe to say that keywords and links were the main drivers of SEO in the past. This
made it relatively easy to game the system. Black hat SEO’s with deep pockets
were able to outrank websites on Google fairly quickly by purchasing hundreds
or even thousands of aged domains to create massive blog networks.
These blogs provided no value whatsoever to the consumer, and were typically
filled with meaningless, keyword-rich content to generate artificial links to the
moneysite using anchor text over-optimization techniques.
This type of black hat SEO strategy was so successful that there was a three to
five year period when networks of this nature were used to virtually dominate
the Google front page. And all of this was entirely possible because SEO was a
technically-driven, standalone discipline.
With the release of the Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm updates,
Google fundamentally transformed the SEO process. The Hummingbird update
in particular was not just a regular update like previous updates before it. In fact,
it was a complete restructuring of the Google ranking algorithm that
incorporated all of the most powerful updates before it, including Panda and
The Hummingbird algorithm introduced semantic search with Google+ at its
core, and this has transformed SEO into a socially-driven and complex
amalgamation of processes. As a result, massive blog networks that were
designed for the express purpose of manufacturing links are no longer effective
on Google.
The search ranking algorithm now uses artificial intelligence when analysing
websites, and it uses a variety of factors including lack of genuine human
engagement to identify manufactured links, elaborate link building schemes and
manipulative blog networks.
Furthermore, with the incorporation of Google+ into Search, Google now
requires everyone who uses their network to establish a visible and verifiable
online identity. This requirement has made it virtually impossible for spam and
black hat SEO strategies to thrive on Google as was the case in the past. And
while there's still a few black hat "success" stories out there, those that work are
either extremely expensive or short lived.
Relationships are now at the heart of the Google search process. The fact of the
matter is, in the new SEO, you could have a perfectly optimized website with
relevant content and hundreds of thousands of backlinks, and still be nowhere
to be found in the Google search results page for your target keywords! 6HOW SEO HAS EVOLVED
How Google Search has
It is very important to understand how the Google search process has changed.
In fact, some SEO techniques that were perfectly acceptable in the past has
resulted in sites (including well established brands) being penalized and even
In the old world of SEO, Google was keyword-driven: keywords in your URL
structure, your metadata, your content, your links, etc. It was all about
identifying the exact search terms that your target audience were most likely to
type, and then getting your site to rank as highly as possible for those terms.
Relevance was established by looking for pages that have been optimized for the
keywords used in a search query.
Today, although keyword research is still important for SEO, Google search is
topic or theme-driven, and no longer relies on keywords to establish relevance
to a search query.
Rather, semantic search uses artificial intelligence to understand the searcher’s
intent and the “contextual” meaning of keywords being searched for. It
considers the entire query as a whole and then identifies the most “contextually
relevant” results for the search query, effectively moving from keyword-based
searches to context-oriented searches.
Being theme-driven, Google’s algorithm is now better able to find and return the
"most relevant" web pages to a particular search query, even if a particular web
page does not contain keywords used in the search query.
Consequently, optimizing a web
page for specific keywords are no
longer effective in driving traffic if
the algorithm deems that those
keywords do not match the
searcher's intent.
This means that pages can accrue
traffic from dozens of keywords
instead of just one or two. 8HOW SEO HAS EVOLVED
Links are at the core of Google’s search
algorithm, and link building is the most
important off-page activity that can be used
to increase the organic search ranking of your
The concept of using links as a way to measure a site’s importance was first
made popular by Google with the implementation of its PageRank algorithm. In
simple terms, each link to a web page is considered a vote for that page, and the
page with the most votes wins. The key to this concept is the notion that links
represent an “editorial endorsement” of that web page, and search engines rely
heavily on editorial votes to determine its relative importance.
However, although Google considers links to be the best metric for site quality,
link analysis involves much more than simply counting the number of links a web
page or website has.
All links are not created equal, and the number of links pointing to your site from
socially popular, trusted and authoritative sites in your industry adds to your
overall credibility, and increases the confidence that Google has in your website. 9HOW SEO HAS EVOLVED
Since the Penguin update, all links have been getting more and more algorithmic
scrutiny. When analysing a link, Google looks closely at the link signature with a
view to negating any attempted manipulation of its algorithm through links that
have been acquired in a non-organic way.
Even links from an established, high ranking site could be discounted if the
algorithm is unable to understand the connection with the site it is linking to. In
fact, Google will penalize the high ranking site if it suspects that the site has been
selling links.
It is really important to understand that, as far as Google is concerned, the process
of link building itself is somewhat manipulative. Google views links as votes for your
site’s credibility, vouching for your worthiness to rank highly in the search results.
From this perspective, you can probably see why Google maintains that links to a
particular site must be “earned, not built”.
This was echoed by Google's webmaster trends analyst, John Mueller, in February
when he warned that you shouldn’t be building links to your site. Now, Google is
not naïve enough to think that webmasters are never going to build links to their
sites. However, the fact remains that you need to be subtle and take extra care
when building links.
And this means avoiding any overt link building practices that could lead Google to
conclude that you’re manufacturing your popularity.
All things being equal, the actual amount of links you need in order to rank highly in
the Google search results will very much depend on the backlink profile of the
competitors that are currently ranking above you in your industry-relevant SERP
(search engine results page). 10