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One of the first questions many new clients ask goes something like this: ‘How do I get to the top of the listings on Google?’
The answer to this is rarely simple, often expensive, and sometimes meaningless. But other times, may it be really significant.
We’re going to delve into the way that search engines index web pages and display search results shortly, but before we do that, let’s take a brief detour to talk about your needs as a marketer.
The job of an SEO professional is to make specific pages from your website appear near the top of the listings on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) in response to searches on specific, pre-established keywords. If you ask a search optimization practitioner about sales or profit, you’re likely to get a disinterested shrug. Most search professionals consider their job done if your page is near the top of the listings on the SERP, period. Sales and profit are your problem.
This implies that you have another issue to address first: ‘Will a high ranking on particular keywords help achieve your business goals such as generating qualified leads, acquiring new accounts, and increasing revenue and profitability?
A marketing plan starts with more basic questions: What type of customers am I looking for? What products or services do I want to sell to them? How many of them are there? Where are they located? What ways can I use to reach them at the time they are most likely to consider my products or services?
There are many ways to reach a targeted audience. When you evaluate alternatives, one thing you should consider is the selectivity of each method, so you don’t have to pay to reach a large number of non-prospects, or field useless inquiries from them. SEO accomplishes this in the same way as newspaper classifieds and yellow pages — it screens people primarily by interest, not by demographics.
If you care about the type of customer you generate (for example, the size of their business), it may be hard to perform that type of filtering with SEO. For example, if you are advertising to businesses, most of your prospects may be from small companies, simply because there are more of them overall. If that isn’t consistent with your objectives, you may want to consider other marketing programs, or focus on specific strategies to filter the prospects that SEO does produce.