Search engine optimization (SEO) involves achieving the highest position or ranking practical in the natural or organic listings as the main body of the search engine results pages (SERPS) across a range of specific combination of keywords (or keyphrases) entered by search engine users.
As well as listing pages which the search engine determines as relevant for the search performed based on the text it contains and other factors such as links to the page, the SERPs also contain other tools which searchers may find useful. Google terms these tools part of a strategy known as Universal or blended search.
The Natural or organic listings are the pages listing results from a search engine query which are displayed in a sequence according to relevance of match between the keyword phrase typed into a search engine and a web page according to a ranking algorithm used by the search engine.
The advantages of SEO for marketing
The main benefits of SEO are:
1. Highly targeted. Visitors are searching for particular products or services so will often have a high intent to purchase and they are qualified visitors.
2. Potentially low cost visitors. There are no media costs for ad display or clickthrough. Costs arise solely from the optimization process where agencies are paid to improve positions in the search results.
3. Dynamic. The search engine robots will crawl the home page of popular sites daily, so new content is included relatively quickly for the most popular pages of a site (less so for deep links).
Disadvantages of SEO
Despite the targeted reach and low cost of SEO, it is not straightforward as these disadvantages indicate:
1. Lack of predictability. Compared with other media SEO is very unreliable in terms of the return on investment and it is difficult to predict results for a given investment.
2. Time for results to be implemented. The results from SEO may take months to be achieved, especially for new sites.
3. Complexity and dynamic nature. The search engines take hundreds of factors into account, yet the relative weightings are not published, so there is not a direct correlation between marketing action and results and “it is more of an art than a science“. Furthermore the ranking factors change through time.
4. Ongoing investment. Investment needed to continue to develop new content and generate new links.
5. Poor for developing awareness in comparison with other media channels. Searchers already have to be familiar with a brand or service to find it. However, it offers the opportunity for less well-known brands to and punch above their weight’ and to develop awareness following clickthrough.