Attracting a visitor to a website might mean using push media such as advertisements to attract website visitors the website or pull media in the form of high rank in search engine listing when the potential visitor will visit the website as part of their search process. Visitors can arrive at a website from following one of three routes (1) search engine listing (2) referral from other websites that feature links to the destination site and (3) direct pathway which results from direct input of the URL into the browser, from using a bookmark or clicking on a link in an e-mail message. Search Engine Optimisation (also known as SEO) can help you drive traffic via search engine listing.
The process of search frequently begins with visiting a search engine. Search engines are programmes that match search terms to documents on the Internet. A search engine works by using a robot or spider to crawl through websites and automatically index them. These indexes are then searched by the search engine to produce an index of all pages, very much like a library classifies books. The most popular search engine is Google which accounts for over 77% of the searches worldwide, other search engines exist such as Yahoo and Bing. Ensuring that our website is listed in search results is important in gaining traffic to the website. There is evidence to suggest a trend towards individuals preferring to enter search terms to locate a particular website rather than typing in the URL.
When a search request is made the engine selects the results to display this is known as the search engine results page (SERP). A search engine ranks or score documents in the index in terms of relevancy and recency of content and the pages with the most relevant and recent are listed first on the SERP in what are called the organic search results. In addition, the search engine will display content that organisations have paid to be displayed when specific search terms are entered. Each search engine has its own requirements for determining relevance and recency. This is called the search engine “algorithm”. Google’s algorithm which has around 200 factors or signals within its search ranking algorithm. These include both positive signals which boost ranking (for example clearly relevant content) and negative signals which reduce position (for example pages that have not been updated for some time). A comparison of Google and Yahoo search engines in their research they concluded that Google’s rankings algorithms are more rigorous than Yahoo’s. In other words, it is more difficult for new sites to raise their ranking in Google than in Yahoo.
It is important for companies to ensure that their website has visibility by being in the initial SERPS. When results are listed consumers will only click on the highly ranked links. Studies show that over a third (37%) of searchers click through on links on the first page, this falls to just over a 10th ( 12%) on the second page. There is also evidence to suggest that internet users are becoming more skilled at online search. In 2012 Pew Internet research found that 91% of search engine users say they always or most of the time find the information that they are seeking when they use search engines and 56% of searchers say they are very confident in their search abilities. This means in addition that people will not consider more than one page of search results.
The process of ensuring that a website has high visibility in the SERP is called Search Engine Marketing (SEM). SEM aims to ensure that a website has visibility and attracts appropriate visitors. SEM processes work to adjust and customise website content so that it is ranked highly and appropriately in the SERPs. There are two search engine marketing techniques. The first technique, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) involves designing a web page so that it is listed in the top results from a search engine. SEO aims to place a website at the top of the organic search ranking by ensuring that the page has the most relevant and recent content for a range of specific search terms.
SEO is important since customers place greater trust in organic search results and are more likely to purchase from that company (Malaga 2009). The second technique, Pay-per-Click (PPC) or keyword advertising and involves paying for website ranking at the top of SERPs when a search term is entered.
There are four main factors that influence search engine ranking and which should be accounted for in any SEO strategy:
- On-page optimisation
- Off-page optimisation
- Behaviour signals
- Internal link structure