Search Engine Optimization (SEO): What Is It?


The first thing to learn about search engine optimization is that it exists. Many people are under the impression that Google is scouring the internet looking for the best websites to put on top of the search results. There is a belief that the top result for “dui attorney chicago” is the best attorney in Chicago. Google is scouring the internet, but they aren’t looking for the best attorney. They’re looking for the website that they think has the best chance of answering the searcher’s question. Google clearly has a vested interest in you starting with google.com whenever you are looking for anything. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is doing the things to your website that will help convince Google you can successfully serve its searchers.

Are you interested in getting more customers calling you? Over half of the clicks from a Google search goes to one of the top three results (with ~30% going to #1). Spots 4 through 10 get another 25% of the traffic, with the other 25% going elsewhere. Simply, if you’re the #1 result, you’re getting twice as much traffic as the #2 result and so on down the list.

There isn’t any magic to SEO, even if a lot of my competitors would have you believe there is. Getting ranked on Google is, just like so many other things, a matter of consistent, ongoing effort and work. There’s no magic formula. Google has its algorithms, and SEO experts like me try to play by their rules. Before we go too far, understand that when I say Google, I mean all search engines. Google has about a 75% market share of search so I’ll continue to just use its name as a proxy for all search engines.

That DUI attorney website is paying a search engine optimization firm to be there. How much they’re paying is based on how competitive the market is, but for “dui attorney chicago”, it’s very competitive. One way to quickly estimate a market’s competitiveness is by checking the price to buy your way to the top of Google search results with AdWords.

Google makes most of its money by using AdWords. It places ads at the top of search results and businesses bid on specific words. The business pays their bid price each time someone clicks on the ad. The ad position is improved as the bid price goes up. The most businesses that want to show ads, the higher the bid price , just like an auction.

To give an example, Google would suggest a bid of $40 per click for the term “dui attorney” in Chicago, IL. That means that each time someone clicks on your ad, you owe Google $40 even if that person doesn’t contact you. The same term “dui attorney” where I live in Gulfport, MS will only cost you $7. Perhaps we should not be surprised that Chicago is more competitive than Gulfport, MS. Consider how many more people live in Chicago than Gulfport (3 million versus 70 thousand) and then imagine how many more searches there are in Chicago. The Chicago law firm will get more calls, and can pay SEO firms more, than the Gulfport law firm. So with more SEO firms trying for those top spots, it gets very competitive.

The top search result for “dui attorney chicago” gets a lot of free traffic from their top spot. So how can we estimate how much it’s costing that law firm to stay on top? We can look at how many people click on the search armed with the knowledge that law firms in Chicago are willing to pay $40 for each visitor.

That top website gets nearly $10,000 per month in visitors. They’re probably paying a search engine optimization firm at least half of that, if not more, to maintain that top ranked position.

So what is that SEO firm doing for $5,000 per month or more?

The same thing that we do.


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