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Putting the O in SEO

By: Lisa Doyle
Posted: February 2, 2010, from the February 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

If your business has a Web presence, the name of your company will probably pop up on the first page or two when it’s plugged into a Web search engine, such as Yahoo! or Google. However, what about the general type of products you sell, like shampoo or moisturizer? Chances are, you’re facing stiff competition for keywords like these, and your Web site might be overlooked by the search engine, and as a result, the potential customer. Many companies in the beauty industry are now actively working on their search engine optimization (SEO) in order to move up in search rankings, and translate extra page views into sales.

In-house vs. The Pros

Tempting as it may be to attempt SEO on your own, hiring an outside company for guidance often proves to be a worthy investment—especially because the Web is ever-changing. “Only a small minority of companies keep up-to-date with Google’s likes and dislikes, when it comes to ranking well on Google,” says Nick Bell, business development director of Melbourne, Australia-based Web Marketing Experts. “To learn SEO for fast, effective results takes years of trial and error.”

Ian Strain-Seymour, director of online strategy of Apogee Search, headquartered in Austin, Texas, agrees. “When companies plan to learn SEO on their own, it often just doesn’t happen. People are so busy with day-to-day operations, it’s difficult to find time to do this,” he says. “Plus, there’s a lot of false material on the Web, and you can ‘learn’ SEO techniques that will actually end up getting you removed from Google, banned or blacklisted. Then you have to figure out why, and put in your requests to get re-included.”

At Your Service

What exactly does an SEO consulting firm do? It varies. Some companies offer a complete package—including ongoing testing, Web design and development, e-mail click-through tracking and more, while others focus primarily on keyword rankings. Apogee Search recently added the service of conversion optimization, which means tracking how many visitors made a purchase on the Web site, and then improving the site to entice more visitors into making that purchase. “We analyze a Web site’s goals for its performance, and we test to see how we can make it perform better,” explains Strain-Seymour. “For example, we’ll run two to three versions of a shopping cart on a Web site to see how many items people will buy with each version.”