Search engine optimization is confusing to many business owners. In many ways, the importance of high ranking web pages in search engines is similar to the importance of a premium position in the high street for a retail shop. Retailers well understand the benefits of paying some premium to be well placed in the street but do they have a similar understanding of the value of premium search engine rankings? It is unlikely. How can SEO practitioners help to build this understanding?
In the bricks and mortar world, it is well understood that a premium location in the high street benefits from ‘passing trade’. People passing by a shop will gaze through the window and, depending upon the effectiveness of the window dressing, might be enticed to visit even though they had not originally intended to do so. Most of these people are on their way somewhere planned or are just ‘browsing’ for a little recreational activity. Either way, they can be enticed to enter the shop and when they do, there is always the prospect of a sale.
Similarly on the internet, a search for something specific might result in a list of ‘most relevant’ content being presented. All of the top positions in the resulting list have been paid for to some extent. Listings in the pay per click advertising are competing through a bidding system for premium locations on the page and those websites prominent in organic search results have typically spent some time, effort and money to be there. Like the bricks and mortar world, these listings present opportunities to entice the visitor to click through to the website; and once there have the potential to spend.
My research in recent years shows two important trends in online behavior; as people become more familiar with the internet, so they are more likely to buy online and secondly, perhaps as a consequence, the proportion of sales is shifting from traditional channels to the internet. In some industries, there is more business conducted online than in other channels. Some businesses have been quick to recognize this and have responded rapidly by establishing a strong presence in search engines. Others though are slower to react and are losing business.
The high street analogy with search engine optimization is useful because it helps to explain the online phenomenon. Search engine optimization is money well spent (assuming that the money is directed to effective SEO activity) and unlike premium retail positions, is not yet affordable only for large companies. Smaller companies have every opportunity to position well in the search engines and reap significant rewards.
Business does not yet understand the online world and the science of search engine optimization or search engine advertising. By using analogies that relate to the offline world, we as SEO practitioners can help to grow that understanding.
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