Search Engine Optimisation is the process of maintaining and continuously improving the relevance of a website for both visitors as well as search engine spiders – is an ongoing task for Internet marketers. It is a painstaking and highly specialized work involving, on the one hand, technical tasks which facilitate web crawlers to easily find and index the site for relevant keywords/phrases and, on the other, visitor-oriented tasks to make the site more appealing to users. The aim of SEO is to ensure that the site achieves top positions (rankings) in the listings for natural (or organic) search in search engines’ results pages.

Search Marketing, in a nutshell, refers to the process of maximizing the values, results and return on investment (ROI) of the website (and consequently of the online marketing programme) across search engines and across the Internet. SEO therefore, inter alia, involves optimizing the site content (Keywords, web pages, landing pages, images, audio/video clips etc), the site navigation (titles, metatags, internal links, Alt image tags, sitemap etc), site functions (shopping cart, ‘Add to Favourites’, ‘E-mail a Friend’, etc), Enquiry functions (‘Quick enquiry’, ‘Click-to-Call’ etc) and so on. It also involves site submission to Search Engines and Directories; actively implementing ‘Link Campaigns’ to increase incoming links (and consequently traffic and rankings); web analytics review; and continuous monitoring and review of website performance to determine/implement modifications to improve the performance and rankings.

While some net savvy and experienced Internet marketers carry out SEO of their websites themselves, most others either do not have the expertise or the time for the purpose and prefer to hire Search Marketing Services firms (or freelance SEO Specialists). A variety of firms (and individuals) offer ‘SEO Services’ and advertise themselves on the Net. The assistance offered may range from SEO as a stand-alone service or as part of a broader marketing campaign optimization. For best results it is advisable to incorporate SEO features at the website design and development stage itself to make the site ‘search engine friendly’.

Primary SEO Services, when offered on stand-alone basis, may include any or all of activities such as Keyword research, Market/Competitor research and analysis, SEO content and strategy development, Metatags design, search engine compatible copywriting, development of home page and landing pages, link analysis and strategy, Search engine and directory submissions, search engine sitemap development and submission, SEO audits and reviews, website performance testing and ranking analysis, website modifications for improvement of rankings and so on. SEO Service providers may also offer additional supporting optimization services related to media and social networking exposure, paid search, articles and blogs etc.

Selecting an SEO Services provider should be done on the same basis as selecting any consultant i.e. expertise and experience, past clients and client testimonials, terms of contract, costs, timelines etc. Additionally, it is very important to make clear to the service provider that ‘Black Hat’ SEO practices (unethical search marketing practices which, if detected, are likely to get a site banned by search engines) to quickly get high rankings, must not be resorted to.

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