I’ll get to the headline in a minute. But first, we’ve already seen the advantages of using search engine optimization over traditional advertising. But you are probably wondering how SEO actually works?

No one knows for sure how search engines like Google, MSN, and Yahoo determine their rankings, but most of us believe elves are somehow involved. But whether mystical creatures are at work or not, the process doesn’t have to be a complete mystery. There are basically two main ways to attract visitors to your site through search engines: (1) paid listings and (2) organic optimization.

Paid listings are the quickest way to create traffic, but it is often a short term fix. In this scenario, you pay the search engine for every visitor they direct to your site. The amount charged is based on the keyword or term that you are buying, which fluctuates in a true supply and demand type market.

Paid listings are separate on the results pages so searchers know those sites have purchased the right to be there. If you are willing to spend the money, you can create traffic with this pay-per-click strategy. The problem is that this strategy is narrow, usually driving people to your site if they typed in the very specific keywords you paid for. In addition, you have to continue spending money to keep generating leads. There is very little ongoing residual benefit to such a strategy.

The second option is organic optimization. Search engines, much like high school, are really just popularity contests. (Told you I’d get back to it.) They search the internet looking for cool websites that are truly relevant, comprehensive, and relate to particular searches. The more often the search engines find your site to be topical, the higher you move up the free listing section of the search results page. The more often they find you, the stronger your ranking becomes. This is an advantage over paid listings since you are less and less likely to be dislodged from the rankings if you naturally achieve them over time.

It is important to point out that Organic Optimization is not simply submitting pages of your site to a search engine. With the increasingly competitive nature of search engine optimization this limited strategy does not achieve results.

We also discourage our clients from trying to optimize for just a few main generic terms. Instead, we encourage them to focus on a very broad based, long term strategy that moves them up the rankings and keeps them there. More obscure terms are easier to gain rank for at first, and that will eventually lead to increased rankings in more generic, broadly searched terms in the future.

A successful SEO strategy is a commitment to constantly tweaking your strategy over time. It should never be viewed as a build it and forget about it situation.Search engines are always expecting to see new, fresh content. So you have to be willing to continually analyze the success of your strategy and make updates and enhancements accordingly.

Either that, or find some way to pay off the elves.

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