Abstract

Search engine optimization techniques, often shortened to SEO, should lead to first positions in organic search results. Some optimization techniques do not change over time, yet still form the basis of SEO. However, as the Internet and web design evolves dynamically, new optimization techniques arise and die. Thus, we will look at the most important factors that can help to improve a position in search results. It is important to emphasize, that none of the techniques can guarantee it because search engines have sophisticated algorithms, which measure the quality of web pages and derive their position in search results from. Next, we introduce and examine the object of the optimization, which is a particular website. This web site was created for the sole purpose – to implement and test all main SEO techniques. The main objective of this paper is to find whether search engine optimization increases rank of website in search results and subsequently leads to bigger traffic. This research question is supported by testing and verification of results. The final part of our paper concludes the research results and proposes further directions.

Keywords: Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Digital marketing strategy, Rank in Search Results.

1      Inbound marketing & Consumer Decision Funnel

SEO is an important part of inbound marketing – marketing focused on getting found by customers. That is the biggest difference compared to the traditional outbound marketing, where process of attracting a customer works vice-versa and companies focus on finding customers themselves. Outbound marketing uses techniques that are not easily targetable and often interrupt people, i.e. cold calling, print advertising, TV advertising, junk mail, spam, or trade shows [1]. Research showed, that 86% of people skip through television commercials and 44% of direct mail is never opened [2].

Inbound marketing focuses on customer’s current stage in consumer’s purchase decision journey, and describes how customers research and buy products. In general, people search using different phrases in search engines depending on their “readiness” to become a customer.

Traditional view describes a funnel as a linear path (Figure 1), where “consumers start with a set of potential brands and methodically reduce that number to make a purchase.” [3]

Figure 1. Linear Purchase Funnel [3]

As an example, let’s take a person who is deciding about buying a new car. In awareness phase, when he is aware of his need of a new car, he would search for general keywords like “car of the year” or “best family car”. After moving to familiarity stage, already knowing trends on the market, he would focus on searching for more specific information, such as “is volvo safe” or “kia fuel consumption”. In the following stage – consideration – a person is already aware of many details and starts to concentrate on set of brands which went through his filter in previous steps. He would start comparing “kia vs. volvo” or “kia family vs sport car”.  Only after this whole process a person is ready to purchase. This is the stage, for which all marketers wait and lead all their activities to.

Disregard of the views, there is one common fact – marketers must be able to react on customer’s questions and needs in a right time and with the right answer.

A study conducted by a leading SEO company Moz.com confirms, that #1 position in search engine result page (SERP) gets 32.8% of all clicks [4].  It is thus essential, to be on top of a page to receive the most of relevant traffic. In general, there are two ways to achieve this, each of which has its pros and cons:

•   “Buy” a first position through Google AdWords advertising system and see almost immediate result. However, you would pay for every click on your link. This strategy can be used either in short-run, or long-run.

•   Focus on SEO, get to the first positions “for free”, but the result would be visible in 3+ months. This strategy is thus more long-run oriented.

2      Search Engine Optimization

According to Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide [5], SEO is a series of modifications and techniques, which make it easier for search engines to crawl, index and understand the content of a web site.

Generally, SEO is divided into two groups: On-page (modifying the structure of a website) and Off-page (techniques independent of website’s structure).

Right combination of both can bring significant increase in traffic thanks to higher position in SERP.

Before optimization itself, it is crucial to know the customer, market and own capabilities. It is impossible to make a search engine optimization for every word on a page, therefore, it is important to select 5 – 10 keywords, which represent the content most accurately. To keep in mind, optimization is always performed according to a specific query, which is likely to be searched by a user.

2.1   On-page SEO

On-page SEO includes the elements that are in direct control of a publisher. In following demonstrations we will focus on optimization for Google, as it owns 90% of search engines market worldwide [6]. Following lines describe fundamental techniques, which are recommended to prepare a perfectly optimized web site.

2.1.1 Content

A process of writing a text for the purpose of advertising or marketing is called copywriting. While creating a helpful, information-rich web site, copywriters should write pages that clearly and accurately describe a specific topic. It is important to think about the words users would type to find pages and include those words to a site. The aim is to create a unique, content-rich website, which is likely to be referenced, and subsequently would go viral.

To find out, what content goes viral and why, a research has been done at University of Pennsylvania [7]. Elements, which cause that some articles are shared more often than others, are:

  • Length – “word count was more closely correlated with sharing than any other variable examined. […] While long posts appear more likely to be shared through email and links, a separate study on blog comments found that users are less likely to comment on long posts.” [8]
  • Certain emotions – “content that inspires low-energy emotions like sadness is less likely to be shared, where content that inspires high-energy emotions as awe, anger, and anxiety is far more likely to be shared.“ [8]
  • Surprise – “content that is surprising, interesting, and practically useful receives more shares than the obvious, boring, and useless content“ [8]
  • Known authors – “the fame of the author was just slightly more important than content. […] While content is innately influential, it usually only carries the authority of its creator or publisher” [8]
  • Humor – “content that is truly and broadly viral is almost always funny”. A study proved, that “despite 62% of ads being aired by Fortune 500 companies, 60% of viral ads were being generated by the smaller companies“ thanks to funny content [8] [9].

According to Google, creating compelling and useful content will also influence a web site ranking more than any of the other factors. “Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. This could be through blog posts, social media services, email, forums, or other means. Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content” [5].

2.1.2 Titles

“A title tag tells both users and search engines what the topic of a particular page is. […] If a document appears in a search results page, the contents of the title tag will usually appear in the first line of the results. […] Words in the title are bolded if they appear in the user’s search query. This can help users recognize if the page is likely to be relevant to their search” [5].

In the survey among the leaders in SEO industry, 35 of 37 participants said, that keyword usage in the title tag was the most important place to use keywords to achieve high rankings. A study showed, that among keywords placements, keywords in title tag are probably one of the most influential elements to rank in the first positions in search results with 94.4% influential value [10].

2.1.3 Domain name

“Domain names are the human readable Internet addresses of websites. Root domains, which are identified by their domain names, have extensions such as .com, .org, .net, etc. Subdomains are a lower level component a root domain and precede the domain name.“ [10]

Selecting a suitable domain name is vital, because it cannot be changed over time easily. While thinking of a good domain name, one should think about keyword rich domains – length (should be less than 15 characters) and relevancy [10].

2.1.4 URL structure

A URL is human readable text that identifies the file structure on the given website. It is separated by ”/” from the domain name and follows right after it. In search engines, “URL to a document is displayed as part of a search result, below the document’s title and snippet. Like the title and snippet, words in the URL on the search result appear in bold if they appear in the user’s query” [5].

As URL is an important part of SEO optimization, the addresses should be user-friendly (easy to read), static (with a clear directory structure), relevant, have hyphen symbols“-“ as the words separators and include lower-case letters only [11].

2.1.5 Headings

Similar to books, even a web page should be divided into chapters using the heading tags. It is possible to use 6 levels of headings, ordered by priority from 1 (most important) to 6 (least important). Headings present page structure to users. The h1 heading tag is the most important in terms of SEO as it represents the name of a main chapter. It can be the same as the page title.

2.1.6 Internal linking

“Internal links are links that go from one page on a domain to a different page on the same domain. They are commonly used in main navigation” and thus build a main structure of a web site [10]. A search engine considers the amount of links, which lead to a page and how they link to it and derives the importance of a page [12].

2.1.7 Meta tags

“A page’s description meta tag gives Google and other search engines a summary of what the page is about. Whereas a page’s title may be a few words or a phrase, a page’s description meta tag might be a sentence or two or a short paragraph. […] Words in the snippet are bolded when they appear in the user’s query. This gives the user clues about whether the content on the page matches with what he or she is looking for.” [5] This meta tag might be used as a descriptive snippet of a page in search results, if a search engine does not decide to use another relevant section of a page. Even though since September 2009 Google does not use description meta tag as ranking factor, it is still one of the decision factors for visitors [13].

2.1.8 Page speed

Page speed reflects how quickly a website responds to user’s requests. In 2010, Google included a page speed signal to a search-ranking algorithm. The faster page loads, the higher search rank it might get. Even though this is probably not the most important ranking factor, between two equally relevant web sites the one, which is loading faster, could be prioritized [14].

2.1.9 Structured data

Structured data are basic html tags that “webmasters can use to mark-up their pages in ways recognized by major search providers. Search engines including Bing, Google, Yahoo! and Yandex rely on this mark-up to improve the display of search results, making it easier for people to find the right web pages.” [15] In other words, webmasters can help search engines to understand content better by marking up specific information. Schemas are managed and accepted by neutral schema.org web site. The most common types of schemas, recognized and shown in Google search results, are Breadcrumbs, Reviews, Products and many others [15].

2.1.10 Sitemap

Sitemap is a structured list of pages, which could be found on a web site. Creating and submitting a Sitemap helps Google to understand the structure and discover all pages faster. In addition, sitemaps can also provide Google with metadata about specific types of content on a web site, including video, images, mobile, and news.

Sitemaps should be particularly used, if a web site has pages that aren’t easily discoverable by Google bot during the crawl process – for example, pages featuring rich AJAX or images. They are also very useful for new web sites, which do not get so much attention from Google bot in early days.

2.2      Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO includes elements influenced by readers, visitors and other publishers. These elements are not in direct control of a publisher but can positively influence the search rankings and boost traffic to a web site.

2.2.1 Social networks

Social networks are the phenomenon of today’s world. They represent a mass of people who are willing to read and share the information for free. This word-of-mouth promotion is probably one of the most valuable marketing techniques.

In 2010, both Bing and Google confirmed, that links shared through Twitter and Facebook have a direct impact on rankings [16]. However, 4 years after, Google announced that Facebook and Twitter signals are not a part of search engine algorithm anymore [17]. Google+ remains the only social network, which is being considered while ranking the web sites in search. Activity on social networks is, however, important not only due to the search rankings but also to build relationships with users.

2.2.2 Blogs

In blogs, unlike on the official company web sites, authors can publish subjective opinions, react on the current trends, or present study results and get the direct response from the readers.

Creating and maintaining a blog is an important part of off-page optimization. Blogs are usually full of content that is relevant to an official company web site, thus creates a great internal linking source. Moreover, it indirectly helps to present company’s skills and expertise.

There are several tools that offer blog creations in just a few steps. Some are completely free and hosted on third-part servers (i.e. blogger.com), some are open sources able to host on own servers (i.e. WordPress), and there are also paid solutions as customized blogs developed for individual customer.

2.2.3 Forums and discussion boards

Forum is an online discussion site where people can hold conversations in the form of posted messages. On one side there are people looking for the information, on the other side people willing to provide the answer.

In terms of building relationship with (potential) customers, it is essential to appear in these debates. It will not just boost the awareness of brand we represent in discussion, but might also help to create a strong basis of backlinks.

2.2.4 Audio-visual media sharing

It is not just a text content that can bring traffic to a web site. Rich media, as videos or images, can be good promotion, too. They are more likely to be shared and virally distributed than text, but they also can bring traffic from image search results as they appear in SERP.

2.2.5 Link building

Link building is vital during off-page SEO. “External links are hyperlinks that point at any domain other than the domain the link exists on. Top SEOs believe that external links are the most important source of ranking power. External links pass Link Juice (ranking power) from source page to target page differently than internal links because the search engines consider them as third-party votes”, thus are more influential [10].

In 1997, Google founders created an algorithmic method to determine importance and popularity of links called PageRank. For many years this has been one of the most important ranking factors.

Nowadays, majority of search engines use many metrics to determine the value of external links. Some of these metrics include: trustworthiness of linking domain, popularity of linking page, relevancy of content between source and target page, anchor text used in the link, amount of links to the same page on source page, amount of domains that link to target page and amount of variations that are used as anchor text in links.

2.2.6 Trustworthiness

It is vital to act as a trustworthy web site on the Internet. It means creating quality content, update web site frequently, link to and get links from relevant sources and last, but not least, serve to visitors and not to search engines. There are several more factors, which influence the trustworthiness perceived by search engines: domain age and domain authority. Algorithm, developed by Moz.com, gives predictions how a web site will perform in search engine rankings.

2.2.7 Personal settings

In order to display the most relevant search results, search engines take into consideration even personal factors, which customize the search results for every one of us. Some of the factors are language, location, web search history or frequency of visits to specific web sites. If Google recognizes a web site, which is visited often by a specific person, next time it will rank higher in his search results [18].

Webmasters cannot do much about the personalized search results. However, there is still a possibility to target users based on geographic location in Google Webmaster Tools. Language targeting is obvious from the content of a web site.

 

3      Experiment

The main objective of this work is to test the impact of Search Engine Optimization on website traffic. If there is a direct implication on traffic increase, we will:

  • Analyze keywords, which have the highest traffic potential
  • Analyze competition, to find niche market
  • Compare traffic sources (direct, referral, search) to find out, which brings the most valuable visitors

We will test, if following hypotheses are true:

  • H1: An organic search brings majority of traffic after implementation of search engine optimization techniques
  • H2: Bratislava travel guide web sites are in low saturated market, where it is possible to rank on the first search results page in Google (rank<10).

This study focuses on web site http://bratislava-slovakia.eu. This web site has been created to test SEO techniques and their influence.

Web site consists of well-structured content about Bratislava and provides practical information mainly for tourists in English language. Based on keyword research, web site has been categorized in following structure:

  • About Bratislava – basic information about city and country, i.e. locality, weather, money and currency, or city parts.
  • Traveling – describes how to get to/from Bratislava to other cities, i.e. Vienna, Budapest, or Prague.
  • Places – introduces the most important places for tourists in Bratislava, i.e. airport, train station, bus station or sightseeing spots.
  • Others – other categories which might be interesting for visitors, i.e. summer and winter activities, shopping, or planned tours.

Web site has been launched in March 2012. Since then it has been continuously filled by unique content. In January 2014 it went through complete redesign and prepared for mobile devices. In October 2014 another complete redesign occurred bringing more engaging features and medial content.

3.1      Keyword research & Content creation

The very first part of creating a SEO-optimized web site should be the keyword research. We have analyzed the market, competition and potential of each keyword to drive traffic to our web site.

First of all, we needed to find out whether this topic is searched and has any potential to bring visitors. We used Google Trends tool to analyze “Bratislava” keyword. This tool not only provides general interest data about the topic over time, but also showed regional interest and related terms with rising potential.

This research has shown that the keyword is mostly searched in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria and Hungary. Even though it could look like that these markets are not relevant due to language, we assume that majority of searches occur from tourists already based in these countries and searching for further travel opportunities. However, to get more related English keywords, we were focusing on United Kingdom and United States.

We decided to use a keyword rich domain name, where the main key phrase is placed as the first word of whole name (http://bratislava-slovakia.eu). We have also used general and trustworthy domain ending with .eu, instead of .info or .net domain name. The best solution would be to use the .com domain, however, this one has already been taken. On the other hand, whole domain name now gives clear signal either for Google, or for visitors, that Bratislava is in Slovakia located in Europe.

Google Trends tool also proposed terms, which were searched right after the initial search of term “Bratislava”. This gave us better look at how visitors narrow their searches to get the results they look for. These data explore how searchers behave. However, there are still other web sites, which represent a strong competition for us for particular keywords. In order to find keywords, which are worth focusing on, we used Google Keyword tool. This tool shows the estimates of monthly searches and competition level for each keyword.

From the previous results, we found out that following keywords have the highest potential: Bratislava airport, Bratislava weather, Slovakia Bratislava, Bratislava Castle, Bratislava to Prague, Bratislava to Vienna.  We skipped keywords not directly related to Bratislava (i.e. Vienna, Slovakia) and merged terms, which were very similar (i.e. Bratislava Vienna and Vienna to Bratislava). For each keyword we analyzed competition and number of monthly searches. We also skipped general phrases like “Bratislava flights” and “Bratislava hotel” where the competition is strong. A new web site, which is not directly focused on selling flight tickets or offering accommodation (exactly as our web site), cannot compete with big portals. In this stage it does not have a potential for SEO.

Google Keywords tool suggested other phrases, which were not included in Google Trends, yet have low competition and relatively high number of local searches. Keywords are rather long-tailed than too general. The final set of keywords we focused on in our web site is presented in the list below.

  • Bratislava – Where is Bratislava, Bratislava weather, Bratislava currency, Bratislava nightlife, What to do in Bratislava
  • Bratislava Vienna  – Bratislava to Vienna, Vienna to Bratislava, Bratislava to Wien, Wien to Bratislava, Bratislava to Vienna by train, Bratislava to Vienna by boat, Bratislava to Vienna by bus
  • Bratislava Budapest – Bratislava to Budapest, Budapest to Bratislava, Bratislava to Budapest by train, Bratislava to Budapest by bus
  • Bratislava Prague – Bratislava to Prague, Prague to Bratislava, Bratislava to Prague by train, Bratislava to Prague by bus
  • Places – Bratislava airport, Bratislava train station, Bratislava castle, Bratislava old town

3.2      On-page SEO

Titles, as one of the strongest search ranking factors, were designed to contain phrases that have the highest possibility to exactly match user’s query. In this case they would be bolded and would attract users in SERP.

URL addresses of our pages contain only full-meaning keywords. If it is needed, we use hyphens to separate phrases; we use hyphens instead of any other character or even merging words, however, we try to use as few hyphens as possible. Keyword rich URL is a good signal for search engine, that a page is about specific topic, and (if not replaced by Rich Snippets Breadcrumbs) bolded if matches user’s query.

We used also meta tags, even though meta description and meta keywords tags are not used as search ranking factor anymore. However, meta description could still be shown in the search result’s snippets. Thus it provides a great place where to put key phrases. Those are then bolded, if matching user’s query, and signalize that the web site is about the topic he or she is looking for.

We avoided the duplicate content by using canonicalization. This means directing search engines to one and only content per one URL. In case that URL changed over time we used 301 Moved Permanently header to redirect users and search engines to primary page.

Numerous headings were also used to separate content and provide clear navigational structure. H1, as the most important heading tag, has been placed on top of the HTML code and contains main key phrase. H2 tags were also placed in the article to contain the names of sections to help search engine understand content better.

Pictures on the page were used to illustrate the topic and make a web site more user-friendly. In terms of SEO, images might also have an influence on boosting traffic. Some pictures appear directly in the search results and the others might be found in Image search. Every image’s file name has been changed to contain keywords.  Keywords were also used in picture’s EXIF information and image titles.  Watermark with URL has been printed to the image to prevent copyright abuse, however, this does not have any effect on SEO.

We took advantage of structured data to pass as much additional information as possible to search engines. This is our big competitive advantage compared to other web sites, which still do not use rich snippets or other schema.org structured data. We use following rich snippets to ensure that our web site will be visible in SERP and will “take” as much space as possible: breadcrumbs (to show the path to the article instead of URL), reviews (to show stars rating), author (to show author’s credentials), publisher (to associate a web site with Google+ profile).

In terms of page speed, we try to load as much content from static sources as possible. We enabled gzip compression and minified source codes.

For Google, we have created a sitemap, which includes all the links to articles published on a web site. This will help Google to discover even the newest articles relatively fast. Other than links sitemap, we have created also a sitemap of images. Both sitemaps have been successfully uploaded to Google Webmaster Tools.

3.3      Off-page SEO

Things that we cannot directly influence, as they depend on third parties, are called off-page optimization. Following paragraphs describe techniques that have been used in terms of off-page SEO.

First and one of the most important parts was the activity on social networks. We analyzed the most used and most influential social media web sites and created profiles there. As mention in the first chapter, Google uses links from Google+ as ranking factor. We filled every possible field to describe our web site with strong keywords. Wherever possible, we used links to our specific pages, not just homepage. Afterwards, we started publishing engaging content and building community. To simplify sharing, we enabled “social buttons”, which publish web site link on a specific social network.

To customize the look of the shared content, we used: OpenGraph tags (to design Facebook links), Meta itemprop tags (to design Google+ links). Using these tags enables social networks display specific title, description, link and even an image in the “news feed”.

Afterwards we started linking to our content from external web sites. Link building is the most essential part of whole off-page SEO. We analyzed potential web sites, which could link to our web site based on criteria as content relevancy, domain age and authority, popularity and trustworthiness, or PageRank. Finally we have selected 5 main web sites, which met the criteria: TripAdvisor.com, LonelyPlanet.com, WikiTravel.org, Wikipedia.org and Quora.com. It is possible to post user generated content to these web sites, hence we were able to publish links to our web site.

As these web sites provide information for tourists, we started answering questions published in the threads. We published long and quality posts, which fully answered the question. If available, we attached even links directing to our web site with descriptive anchor texts to provide “read more” opportunity.

Even though all of these web sites automatically append rel=”nofollow” tag to any posted link, which prevents search engines from passing Link Juice, we have seen a significant increase in traffic, mainly in traffic from referrals.

In terms of media sharing, we needed to publish as many quality unique pictures as possible, as they could be also found in Google Image search. And not only have that – in some cases, they even provided a space to write meaningful descriptions full of links. Following list describes web sites, which have been used and how they have been used: Google+ Photos, Flickr, Pinterest, Google maps.

Every image has been watermarked by web site name. Even though this does not have any effect on link building, as this watermark is not a link, it is a great way of “branding”.

 

4      Results

After fully launching the website in May 2012 we started to see almost immediate increase of traffic.

Acceleration during first three months was caused mainly by increasing number of visitors from referral websites. At that time, referrals were the most important source of traffic bringing ~50% of all visitors.

However, August 2012 was the last month when we could have seen equal numbers between referral and organic search traffic. In September, organic traffic started to gather it’s importance and a month after, visitors from organic search accounted for ~70% of all traffic (Figure 2). Therefore, we can assume, that it took us 5 months to “persuade” Google about the importance and quality of our web site. Within this time, our website started to occur higher and higher in search results, occasionally even reaching the top 1 position.

Figure 2. Percentage of visitors from various traffic sources – Aug’12 vs. Sep’12 (own illustration according to internal data);
Legend: Organic search traffic, Referral traffic, Other traffic sources

Number of visitors was growing at a satisfactory rate of ~30% month over month. This only confirms, that keeping website fresh with new content is a clear signal to Google to rank your website higher.

In April 2013, thirteen months after full launch, for the first time we have hit 10,000 visitors per month. At that moment, referral traffic accounted only for 5% of our traffic sources. Three out of four visitors would come from organic search. But started to observe another important source of traffic in our statistics – the direct traffic.

Surprisingly, 18% of people already knew our website and were able to write the address directly to browser, without performing any search or click from another web site. Vast majority of these people already visited our web site some time ago, thus we assume that they bookmarked our articles for later reading. This fact only proves that a well-organized and easy-to-read text is important not only for Google, but mainly for a user.

Figure 3. Evolution of traffic by month (own illustration according to internal data)

Year 2013 was unexpectedly successful. During these 12 months, unbelievable 132,500 unique visitors came to our website and spent in average two and a half minutes by reading our articles. Not only reading, but also surfing our web site for more information.  In total, 325,000 pages have been displayed to our visitors and we were able to increase the monthly traffic by ~15x over the past 2 years (Figure 3).

We are convinced, that this success is due to search engine optimization. Since the launch of our website, search engines brought ~80% of all visitors to our website. Right mix of on-page and off-page optimization techniques, described in previous chapters, were essential while building our search strategy. However, there is one more important step in the whole process of SEO – keywords planning.

Figure 4. Performance of core keywords – 02/2013 (own illustration according to internal data)

As we can see in the Figure 4, keywords on average positions between 1 and 5 get significant number of clicks (CTR mainly between 25 – 45%). Exactly matched web site title with search phrase could be a possible reason why that is so. However, there are three phrases, which do not gather high CTR despite relatively high position:

  • “Where is Bratislava” – Users probably prefer Wikipedia, which ranks on the first positions. Google displays Bratislava on map and gives a direct answer to users preventing them from further surfing.
  • “Bratislava train station” – Google displays Bratislava train station on map and gives a direct answer to users preventing them from further surfing.
  • “Bratislava currency” – Page description displayed in search results gives direct answer to users what probably prevents them from further surfing.

 

To test the saturation of the market, we have selected all keywords with more than 100 search impressions. This would reduce very long-tailed and niche keywords searched only couple of times during last three months.

From the total of 201 keywords, which led to our web site since January to March 2013, up to 104 of keywords had average position in Google better than 10. In other words, 51.7% of keywords, which were searched and led to our web site, were placed in the first search result page. This ratio, however, has changed dramatically nowadays. Since August to October 2014 we displayed on 280 keywords with more than 100 impressions in Google search. Nearly 95% of these keywords ranked in a first Google search page and 45% ranked even in the first position.

From these results we can assume that Bratislava travel guide websites are operating in low saturated market with weak competition. In this market it is easy to own near half of the top positions of selected keywords. Our hypotheses are thus confirmed.

 

5      Conclusion and Suggestions for Further Research

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a long-term strategy which should lead to a higher rank in search results page and subsequently bring a traffic to a website. Despite the result of optimization is not guaranteed, the right mix of off-page and on-page optimization techniques is vital.

Creating a unique and interesting website content is an absolute necessity. User-friendly URL structure, clear domain name, relevant titles, descriptive headings and structured source code with quickly loading interface are another suggestions in terms of on-page SEO. Publishers cannot forget about the off-page world, too, and must focus on building quality links with relevant partners.

As a part of an experiment, we have implemented all of the main SEO techniques to a website, which offers tourist information about Bratislava in English. We have prepared a list of keywords with high volume of searches and low competition, upon which we have performed the optimization steps.

The results were surprising. We assume, that 5 months after the initial launch of website (March 2012), Google started to recognize our content and push it higher in the results page. Thanks to SEO, 95% of the keywords we were focusing on are nowadays displayed in the first search result page (rank<10) and 45% rank even in the first position. These high ranks lead to a significant increase of traffic reaching 325,000 page-views in 2013 and predicted to exceed 500,000 page-views in 2014.

Further research should be focused on estimating the importance of each SEO technique and finding the right mix for another industries. SEO, as a long-term strategy, should be accompanied by a short-term strategy (i.e. advertising in AdWords) to gain quicker results. Researchers thus should provide a tutorial, how to proceed while creating a complex digital marketing strategy.

 

References

1.  Burnes, R.: Inbound Marketing & the Next Phase of Marketing. HubSpot. (2008) http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/4416/inbound-marketing-the-next-phase-of-marketing-on-the-web.aspx [Accessed 01-27-2013]

2.  Nakano, C.: The Decline of Outbound Marketing. CMSWire. (2011) http://www.cmswire.com/cms/customer-experience/infographic-the-decline-of-outbound-marketing-013308.php [Accessed 01-27-2013]

3.  Vetvik, O..J., Mulder, S., et al.: The consumer decision journey. McKinsey&Company (2009) http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/marketing_sales/the_consumer_decision_journey [Accessed 10-23-2014].

4.  Maynes, R.: Eye tracking in 2014: How Users View and Interact with Today’s Google SERP. Moz Blog. (2014) http://moz.com/blog/eye-tracking-in-2014-how-users-view-and-interact-with-todays-google-serps [Accessed 10-23-2014]

5.  Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/www.google.com/sk//webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf [Accessed 01-27-23]

6.  Top 5 search engines worldwide. (2013) http://gs.statcounter.com/#search_engine-ww-monthly-201202-201302 [Accessed 03-24-2013]

7.  Berger, J., Milkman, K.L.: What Makes online Content Viral. Journal of Marketing Research. 49, 2, 192—205 (2012)

8.  Ward, C.: Why Content Goes Viral: the Theory and Proof. Moz Blog. (2013) http://www.seomoz.org/blog/why-content-goes-viral-the-scientific-theory-and-proof [Accessed 01-27-2013]

9.  Porter, L., Golan, G..J.: From subservient chicken to brawny men. Journal of Interactive Advertising. 6, 2, 26—33 (2006)

10.    Search Engine Ranking Factors. Moz Blog. (2013) http://moz.com/search-ranking-factors#metrics [Accessed 01-29-2013]

11.    Steps to a Google-friendly site. Google help. http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=40349&topic=2370419&ctx=topic [Accessed 01-27-2013]

12.Whalley, B.: How to Use Internal Linking to Improve Your Website’s SEO. HubSpot. (2012) http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/31388/How-to-Use-Internal-Linking-to-Improve-Your-Website-s-SEO.aspx [Accessed 01-30-2013]

13.    Google does not use the keyword meta tag in web ranking. Google Webmaster Blog. (2009) http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.sk/2009/09/google-does-not-use-keywords-meta-tag.html [Accessed 01-29-2013]

14.    Using site speed in web search ranking. Google Webmaster Blog. (2010) http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.sk/2010/04/using-site-speed-in-web-search-ranking.html [Accessed 01-29-2013]

15.    What is schema.org. Schema.org. http://schema.org [Accessed 01-31-2013]

16.    Sullivan, D.: What social signals do Google & Bing Really count. Search Engine Land. (2010) http://searchengineland.com/what-social-signals-do-google-bing-really-count-55389 [Accessed 02-01-2013]

17.    Slegg, J.: Matt Cuts: Facebook, Twitter Social Signals Not Part of Google Search Ranking Algorithms. Search Engine Watch. (2014) http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2325343/Matt-Cutts-Facebook-Twitter-Social-Signals-Not-Part-of-Google-Search-Ranking-Algorithms [Accessed 11-16-2014]

18.    Horling, B., Kulick, M.: Personalized Search for everyone. Google Blog. (2009) http://googleblog.blogspot.sk/2009/12/personalized-search-for-everyone.html [Accessed 02-01-2013]

 

Autor:
Mgr. Peter Komorník

Pracovisko:
Department of Information Systems
Faculty of Management
Comenius University in Bratislava
Odbojárov 10
820 05 Bratislava

Recenzenti:

Ing. Jaroslav Vojtechovský, PhD.
Pracovisko: Fakulta managementu UK, Odbojárov 10, Bratislava

prof. RNDr. Michal Greguš, PhD.
Pracovisko: Fakulta managementu UK, Odbojárov 10, Bratislava

Vydanie:
Digital Science Magazine, Číslo 1, Ročník IV.