SEO: Searching for outcomes

Google, SEO strategies, search engine optimisatiion
Local SEO Concept Business team hands at work with financial reports Links Global Hyperlink search engine optimization and a laptop

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quality and quantity of traffic to a website and building brand awareness through organic search engine results.

SEO is important because most web traffic is driven by search engines. Indeed, in Australia, 95 per cent of web traffic is driven by Google. It’s been around for two decades yet mystery still surrounds SEO. It’s not helped that Google regularly updates its algorithm.

Richard Eaves is an SEO expert who has worked in the UK, India, Philippines, and Australia. I invited him to demystify SEO.

JB: Voodoo, black magic…what is this SEO trickery all about, Richard Eaves?

RE: It’s difficult to explain SEO because there are so many factors that go into how a website will rank on Google. SEO is basically reverse engineering how Google views your website’s relevance (to the keywords being searched) and overall authority.

JB. How long does it take to achieve results?

RE: Plenty of SEO agencies might claim it will only take six months but that’s rarely the case and is why the SEO industry has a bad reputation. It’s so easy for clients to be given false expectations. Whether engaging a third-party or hiring in-house, businesses must be realistic. Results take time – two years even – and improvements are incremental.

JB: There are 1000-odd SEO providers in Australia. If the industry has a bad reputation, what should businesses look for when choosing an SEO agency or expert?

RE: SEO providers vary widely in quality and ethos. Ask for case studies. In SEO, there should be data to back up every claim. And don’t be concerned if an SEO agency has worked with your competitors. Industry experience can be highly valuable. A lot of SEO knowledge is niche and it takes time to understand how an industry works.

JB: What do you say to businesses that would settle for being on page two of a Google search?

RE: I tell them the best place to hide a dead body is on page two of Google. <laughs>

SEO is almost winner takes all because the click-through rate plummets as you scroll down page one. Be wary of SEO providers that extol the virtues of gaining a position on page two.

JB: What are “informational” and “transactional” keywords?

RE: Informational keywords help with online research. Say you’re researching sneakers. “How
to” and “What’s the difference” are informational keywords – they’ll help you locate what
you’re searching for.

Transactional keywords, on the other hand, indicate the searcher has intent to buy something or take decisive action. Using the sneakers example, you might add “buy”, “sale”, “cheapest”, or “near me” to your search.

JB: How is SEO different to PPC?

RE: PPC (pay per click) is paid traffic so your Google presence will be clearly labelled “paid” (Ad). According to Moz, on average only 2.6 per cent of searchers click on a Google ad result.

In contrast, being organic, SEO tends to deliver much higher click-through rates (28.5 per cent average for a page one Google search result). With SEO, you’re building equity in your website. If after a while you were to stop SEO, the equity you’ve earned will still work for your business whereas the second you stop spending on PPC, it’s switched off.

JB: What’s more important: Google rankings or conversion rates?

RE: You need both. Ranking high on Google means little if no one is clicking through to your website. And driving a lot of traffic to your website is pointless if visitors aren’t then making a purchase, subscribing to your newsletter, downloading your whitepaper, or doing whatever else you want them to do. The goal is to convert but you need the Google ranking to achieve that.