Feature Article (Pub: November 04) What type of companies benefit most from SEO? by Paul Rudman

If you run a website, one of the most obvious ways of blowing some of your marketing budget is on Search Engine Optimisation, but how do you know if it's a service that will benefit your business? Is the money better spent on other methods of online or offline advertising and marketing? This is an interesting question which we will address in this month's SEO article.

When considering search engine optimisation, you need to ask yourself a few questions which will help determine if it's a viable return on investment:-

What do I want to achieve?
Take a look at your website, is it an e-commerce site or what is known as "brochureware"? Get a few quotes from SEO firms and then work out how many visitors / conversions you would need to justify the cost and get good value for money. For example, if you sell a very niche product such as a specific bolt that only fits a certain type of door, are people searching for your product? The more competitive the area you are in, the more you are likely to need search engine optimisation to drive traffic to your website from the major search engines.
Is my website 'sticky?
'Stickiness' is the expression used by Internet marketeers to describe how appealing the content of your website is. Does it draw people in? Do they visit several pages in a single visit? You can spend all the money you want on SEO but if the website is not appealing in terms of content and presentation then you will get plenty of traffic, and they will just leave very quickly without converting into a sale or a call to action for further information. Make sure your website is sticky before considering promoting it via the search engines.
What is my monthly budget?
There are numerous SEO companies who will either focus in a niche field such as pay per click management, or handle all facets of SEO which would include PPC management, Organic optimisation (the normal search results), and the link building which is an essential part of SEO today. These facets are modular in some much as you can get benefit from all 3 independently so consider whether you can afford the link building, the PPC's and the organic optimisation. If you can't then which one should you go for? PPC management is very quick to become active and provides total control over how your listings are presented to the users, the downside is that competitive phrases can be expensive 'per click' and it is a system that is open to abuse in the form of fraudulent clicks (people paid to click on your listing and waste your budget).

Organic optimisation is a very good long term investment, but can take a few months to begin to become effective. You also have a lack of control over how your website appears in the rankings and for what phrases. A good SEO firm will target realistic, accurate but searched upon phrases to generate you business, so when looking, be careful to make sure that the phrases being targeted are competitive "Kitchen Worktop installation in Kent" is a phrase that, while it may be relative to your business, doesn't generate any searches. So make sure your SEO firm do their research and don't take the easy option of gaining you high rankings for relevant phrases that no-one uses.

Inbound links can be useful on their own as a form of increasing your rankings, specifically for the phrase used in the anchor text on the link, so for example "No Win No Fee Solicitors" hyperlinked to your website from other websites will improve the ranking for that phrase with the engines, as they view your as an authority on the keyword used in the link.

Inbound linking in itself is a newsletter on its own, so just briefly for now bear in mind that this is one of the 3 areas of SEO that can consume your budget in no time.

The best to look at depends on factors such as time and cost, if you want customers in a hurry, then PPC is your best option, however never think that any of the these 3 is the be-all and end-all as you will be missing out on business if you select one but not another.

While there are some companies on the Internet who have built up a brand, the majority of shoppers still go where the deals are, so search engines represent an excellent place to be found for that browser who is looking for a DVD player for example, but want's to compare prices between websites. SEO works best for companies selling B2C goods. After all, CEO's are hardly likely to use Google to find the best provider of web hosting to multi-national's for example are they? So if you offer a service or range of products to consumers then there is a very good chance that search engine optimisation will be highly beneficial in terms of driving new customers to your website.

Always bear in mind though that no matter how successful you become in having high search engine placements, that it's not the holy grail of marketing, its merely a portion of it, so don't go and blow all your money on this one area. Be careful, do some reading, and you will understand whether SEO is right for you, and how much to spend on it.


Paul Rudman is the director and head of optimisation at CommerceTuned, he's been involved in developing search strategies and search engine optimisation for 7 years.

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A key element to ensuring that our business grew to its maximum potential, required good search engine exposure, across a number of different "key search words". Having launched our site, we found it near impossible to obtain a high ranking in any of the major search engines, and had to rely on pay per clicks. ... Read more...