Published On: 11/12/2014

Smartphone BusinessThe way consumers look for information and ultimately make purchase decisions has drastically changed through the years, and perhaps the greatest catalyst to this change has been the role of search engines and how they have influenced consumer behavior.  In fact, nearly all consumers leverage online media to shop locally (97%), and it influences their purchase decisions both online and offline.

When you think about how consumers are finding you via online search—directed to your website via the keywords and phrases they enter via Google, Yahoo!, and Bing—there are several best practices that you can implement on your website and tips to keep in mind to ensure maximum engagement and results.  The overall goal of search engine optimization, or SEO, is to organize the information and content on your website to create a positive and intuitive user experience, while clearly and unambiguously communicating the theme, topic and intentions of your website to the search engines. Doing this should attract natural inbound links and traffic, which boosts rankings for thematically relevant keyword phrases.

Keep in mind that organic search engine optimization is a process.  It’s not a ‘one and done’ quick fix in any regard—work on site content and keyword research is ongoing, as content needs to be refreshed to enhance performance within search.  There are, of course, elements outside of your control which determine how well your website ranks in search, including competitor websites, search algorithm changes, and the like, but you can optimize everything in your toolkit to your content appealing to search engines.

Content is what can make the difference between rankings and no rankings and sales and no conversions. To rank in search you need to have something on the website which tells customers that the site is relevant to a topic—try to engage with visitors and build their trust in the services offered, increasing the likelihood that they will buy or convert. A landing page with lots of relevant content on it will increase your PPC (pay-per-click) quality scores as your page will be seen as being more helpful to people clicking on search ads.  The higher the relevancy (or helpfulness) of this landing page compared to the keyword the higher quality score—these scores are important as they help to reduce the cost of PPC (paid search).

Search engines use ‘bots’ or ‘spiders’ to crawl web sites to discover, analyze and index new content and links.  Bots are becoming more sophisticated daily; however they are unable to fully appreciate colors or pictures or changes in font weight or size.  They are efficient machines that disregard what they don’t understand, including Flash and images without text attached. These characteristics of ‘bots’ are important  in that since they don’t see colors, logos/product images, or fancy layout tricks that visually (to a human) convey information about the importance of the certain words on the page, properly structuring your data helps the engines better understand your content, and deliver it to the right (more qualified) searchers.

Search engine optimization is equal parts art and science, and constant attention to the process needs to be made to ensure effectiveness.  Baltimore Sun Media Group’s 435 Digital offerings provide assistance with both paid and organic search, with a robust history of helping websites enhance their content and deliver results.  For more information, contact your Baltimore Sun Tribune Media Group representative.