I keep being asked about SEO – do I need it and what is it?

SEO – search engine optimisation – sorry we are British so out goes ‘optimimization’ – is the active practice of making a web site friendly to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines.

Is it worth it?

Candidly – yes.

There are over 20 Billion web pages out there – as of March 2008 there were over 100.1 million websites. Of these 74% were commercial or other sites operating in the .com generic top-level domain. – and so far it is estimated that the search engines have indexed just under half of them – so there is a long way to go – it’s also a very large number so remember that. Think how difficult it is now to drive traffic to your web site, now imagine how much more difficult it is going to be when (and if) all web pages and web sites are indexed*.

The majority of web traffic is driven by the major commercial search engines – Yahoo!, MSN, Google & AskJeeves (although AOL gets nearly 10% of searches, their engine is powered by Google’s results). If your site cannot be found by search engines or your content cannot be put into their databases, you miss out on the incredible opportunities available to websites provided via the search engines. That is people who want what you have visiting your site.

Whether your site provides content, services, products or information, the search engines are the main way of getting visitors to your site.

Why do I need to carry out SEO?

If you accept that the “Googles” of the world are responsible for getting visitors to a web site you have to understand that they (the companies behind search engines) are businesses themselves.

At all times every business is looking for that competitive edge, the one thing that makes them different from their competitors. No doubt you are trying that in your business right now, even if you don’t think of it in that way.

In business you know what who your competitors are and what they are doing. You are always trying to be better, have that one thing that makes you different. That thing could be as “simple” as a fruit and veg shop having a better shop window display than their competitors. – no offence to fruit and veg shops their business is not simple and certainly their window dressing is not simple.

Think of the imapct that Google made when it started. It displayed your search results in a simple and easy way. Now every other Search Engine is trying to out do Google. Since it’s launch in 1998 – (yes Google is only 11 years old yet it seems to have been with us as long as computers have existed) – Google has grown from a garage based operation to one that today handles over 50% of all internet searches and over 73% of internet searches in the USA.

So – do I need SEO?

Search engines are always working towards improving their technology to crawl* the web more deeply and return increasingly relevant results to users – potentially your customers.

This means they are always looking for ways to improve their business – just like you. Their business is making ‘results’ available to thier customers in the easiest way.

SEO is really about making sure that the search engines can easilly deliver their product – your information – to their users.

As I pointed out earlier the online environment is becoming increasingly competitive. As time goes on those companies who perform SEO will have a decided advantage in visitors and customers.

— Footnotes —

*Search engines run automated programs, called “bots” or “spiders” that use the hyperlink structure of the web to “crawl” the pages and documents that make up the World Wide Web.

Once a page has been crawled, it’s contents can be “indexed” – stored in a giant database of documents that makes up a search engine’s “index”. These indexes are highly managed, so that when you type in a search request thay can sort through billions of documents in fractions of a second and provide you with a result.