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SEO is an organic art, not a science

o Stefan Hammond
07.11.2013 kl 19:22 | Computerworld Hong Kong

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a strategy that can benefit an enterprise greatly. But it must be managed.

 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a strategy that can benefit an enterprise greatly. But it must be managed.

Its Webopedia definition spells this out: "Search engine optimization is a methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a Web site by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (SERP)...SEO helps ensure that a site is accessible to a search engine and improves the chances that the site will be found by the search engine."

It's a methodology. But at enterprise level, it's more art than science.

SEO for Hong Kong firms

"Our clients tend to be established brands who want to work with experts, targeting searchers in Hong Kong and the US," said Doug Pierce, head of Search & Analytics at Hong Kong-based SEO agency Cogney.

The agency has consulted on SEO for firms in Hong Kong and China including Shanghai Tang and Swire Properties. Pierce says luxury fashion brands are his most common clients.

What Pierce considers most valuable is organic search traffic, as opposed to paid results. "Organic results are the links that make up the body of a SERP--determined algorithmically to be the most relevant and authoritative Web pages that satisfy queries," he said. "SEO is the process of improving a Web site's traffic from organic results, which require no direct payment to search engines, unlike SEM (Search Engine Marketing). To appear in the best positions of organic results for the widest selection of relevant queries, you must influence the signals that the search engine algorithm looks for when it matches pages to a searcher's query and determines the order of those pages."

"A Web site benefits from SEO in three ways: (1) more visitors, (2) who are more likely to buy, and (3) even if they don't, they will still remember your site." Pierce points to studies by research firms HubSpot and Custora that highlight organic search traffic as a new tool for branding.

But it's not always an easy sell. "Going after the organic search opportunity is not an easy challenge and is likely the reason why a majority of major brands are barely reaching their potential," wrote Seth Besmertnik in his blog on conductor.com. "Unlike other channels such as paid search, SEO requires a holistic approach to marketing where people must collaborate and work together--something that becomes increasingly difficult the larger you are, especially across departments."

SEO best practices

"People use search engines to find things online, so it make sense to ensure that your products and services are properly included and well ranked on search engines, so conforming to SEO best practices is essential," said Maneck Mohan, founder and CEO, Recruit.net. "In the case of Recruit.net we want to ensure that our job listings feature prominently when people search for jobs online."

Mohan listed two key areas that must be addressed in SEO: human and machine. "The human side is about providing useful content, easy navigation, and a good user experience for visitors,"he said. "This is an important part of SEO because the algorithms search engines use to rank your site give high weighting to the quality of your content and the general user-experience. So don't try to 'over-optimize' your site by using excessive keywords or meta tags--this might end up hurting you. Focus on delivering an excellent user-experience as opposed to optimizing excessively for robots and crawlers."

"The machine side is about your technical infrastructure. You must ensure your pages load fast and you must have proper site maps and internal linking. You need to ensure that search engines can easily find and index all your content. It's a combination of optimizing the front-end user experience and the back-end machine processing to enable deep and regular indexation of your content."

Mohan said his site's main SEO advantage comes from a "clean, user-friendly design, with ultra-fast searching for thousands of available jobs. With Recruit.net, SEO is an ongoing process as we have over 50 million pages indexed in Google and operate Web sites in 14 countries. Google's ranking algorithms change constantly so it's essential that you stay aware of what's happening in the industry. Don't over-optimize--focus on your content and on providing an excellent experience for your users."

How to nurture organic results

"The phrase 'content is king' is 100% accurate--there's no better SEO booster than solid content," said Ric Shreves, founder of Indonesia based water&stone Consulting. "I'm not talking about keyword-density or other esoteric concepts--while those things have a place in your SEO strategy, nothing is more important than compelling content. It generates buzz which translates into page-views."

"Success in SEO requires a multifaceted approach," said Shreves. "Too many people are caught up with being on Google's first page. But who cares if you get traffic--if it's the wrong kind of traffic?"

"You want quality leads," he said. "You want to connect with your target market and simply betting the farm on Google isn't necessarily the best way to go. Invest your efforts in a strategy that reflects the nature of your product, service, or content."

Leveraging social chatter

"Today's search engines are focused on social signals: how much buzz there is on the Web about your content," said Shreves. "So an effective SEO strategy must integrate social media optimization. You need people sharing your content: tweets, Facebook 'likes', Pinterest 'pins', recommendations, and reviews. These are gold in the present SEO environment."

"LinkedIn, for example, provides solid HR and business-related inbounds, while Pinterest is great for retail, particularly things like fashion," he said. "YouTube works well across a wide variety of items, but YouTube is often the destination--the content is there, not on your site--so keep that in mind. Facebook company pages and company Twitter accounts are solid ways to build inbound traffic and are relatively agnostic about the nature of what's being promoted."

"Examine the niche sites frequented by your target markets as those are great sources of quality traffic," said Shreves. "If you are in the custom jewelry or wristwatch business, for example, you want to be active on those specific forums. Your company URL on your forum sig file will generate traffic and a positive presence in those forums helps generate good will."

Shreves advises SEO-wranglers to monitor cost/benefit issues. "It can be a long and costly exercise to achieve organic rank on the big search engines," he said. "But you can do well with a properly orchestrated PPC (pay-per-click) campaign and focus less effort on other channels: Pinterest, LinkedIn, specialty forums, etc."

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