Search Engine Optimization (Part 1 of 4)

In our tour of Alliance Day 2010 presentations, we now focus on the Search Engine Optimization presentation given by Lauren Moler,  who works on the web team at National Instruments.  She discussed SEO, and how you can build a program around search optimization to increase traffic, and thus leads, to your website.

SEO Basics

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of driving more traffic to your site through organic search results. Organic results are not paid for and are found on the center of the Google results page.  As opposed to SEM, which stands for Search Engine Marketing, and is the process of driving traffic to your site through paid results or advertisements.  These results are found on the right or top of the results page.  SEO is typically seen as more credible as it is not paid for, but it can take quite a bit of time to optimize your content for search and start showing up at the top of the results.  SEM, by contrast, is pretty quick.  You can pay for an ad and be showing up the next day when someone types in the word.  Ni.com gets about 15 times more traffic from SEO than we do from SEM.

Step 1 – Understanding How Search Engines Work

Finding Content

Imagine that the web is like the network of stops in a subway station.  If I’m going to see a city, I have to travel the subway line and get off at each stop to look around.  Instead of sending out a person to explore the web, Google sends out a bot.  A bot is a software application used to find your content.  And the best subway line the bot can use on the web is links.  So the bot moves from page to page through links in order to find your content.  This means if you don’t link to a page, Google will never find it.

Index content

Once the bot finds these pages, they have to look at the content  on the page and index it into file which can be recalled when you are searching for a term.  Since Google sends a bot instead of a human to explore your website and read the content, it’s important to think about what the bot sees.  When a Bot goes to ni.com, this is what it sees.  It sees the HTML that is used to build the page.  We saw this great video full of rich content.  All the bot can see is a file path pointing to the video on our server.  The only thing it can use to tell what the video is about is the descriptive text underneath it. 

Return results based on relevancy

The main way that Google determines relevancy to a page is through something called anchor text or link text.  Anchor text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink.  Google assumes that this anchor text is descriptive of the page you are linking to.  You want this anchor text to match as closely as possible to the keyword you are trying to optimize. Since it’s a software application and not a bot that’s reading your content, you should make sure the anchor text matches your keywords as closely as possible. 

Rank Based on Importance

Finally, Google ranks the results based on importance.  Google determines importance based on popularity and the quality of your popularity.  At the end of the day Google is trying to reward good content, so it assumes that popular content is deemed good by users.  Google puts more weight on pages with a trusted reputation, such as .govs, .edus, and user-generated content like blogs or forums.   In the search world, this means that if someone links from a .edu to a blog, and that blog links to ni.com, that Google “juice” will flow all the way up to ni.com.

SEO (2 of 4) – Understanding the End User

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One Response to Search Engine Optimization (Part 1 of 4)

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