What is SEO?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a set of web marketing techniques aimed at making a website appear in the search results, also called SERP, of a search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo etc. …) according to the requests of Internet users.
Example: Imagine that you have a website on which you sell sports shoes. SEO then allows your site to appear in Google search results when people type in queries like “buy athletic shoes” or “running shoes”.
Some figures to better understand the interest of a good natural referencing:
- 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine query
- 55% of clicks on search engines are on position 1 to 3
- Barely 25% of Internet users get past page 2
To gain visibility, notoriety or directly generate leads, it is therefore essential to position yourself correctly.
SEO vs SEA
SEA (Search Engine Advertising) is also a web marketing technique aiming at placing an advertisement in the paid part of the search results of a search engine. If at first sight the difference with SEO is not obvious, it is above all at the level of the speed of implementation: If making a SEA advertisement appear is immediate, the display in SEO of a website in the top of the search results can be long and tedious.
In 2005, to position your website strategically in the SERP, you only needed to respect a minimum number of keywords in the body of the text. Today, with the numerous updates, Google wants to highlight the interest of its search engine and especially to become a tool that perfectly meets the expectations of Internet users. To do this, it has set up an algorithm capable of analyzing the relevance of a website’s content thanks to its semantic field.
For example, the word “verre” can refer to wine glass, water glass, tempered glass, glass materials, eyeglass glass, etc. When a merchant who sells glasses wants to write the content of his e-commerce site, he must exploit the right semantic field to contextualize his content and not appear in Google queries that do not concern him. Thus, to be relevant in the eyes of Google, the content of our website must be natural and strategically defined. To resume our example above, the product page of the website selling glasses will have to talk about glasses but also about vision, correction, etc. in order to provide all the information that a user would need. When Google’s robot (called the Indexing Bot) analyzes the page in question, it will assign it a semantic field and a quality score. Contextualizing your content is essential in the eyes of Google: a content whose semantic field is under-optimized may never appear on the first pages of the SERP.
To summarize, writing content for the web is like putting yourself in the shoes of Internet users to match exactly what they are looking for. The choice of words therefore goes beyond a desire for expertise: there is no point in using scientific content if no one understands it and therefore does not seek it out. To use our example, it is better for the merchant to use terms like “buy glasses” that the vast majority of his customers will search on Google rather than “buy quartz silica glasses” which is probably the scientific term but that no one will search.
The netlinking strategy
In short, if the content is King, the link is Queen. Semantic writing allows you to place your site as a reference for questions from Internet users. Netlinking is used to prove to Google that your website is a reference for other websites or internet users: the more your website is talked about, the more your website is appreciated and therefore the more Google should show it. Let’s not forget that the objective of a search engine is to answer the questions and needs of Internet users. To take the example of eyeglasses, Google will position the merchant’s website in the Top 3 of Google search results on the query “eyeglasses” if it believes that this website best meets the user’s query but also if many other sites or people have defined it as a “reference site” by having talked about it.
In technical terms, the netlinking strategy is implemented by creating backlinks. A backlink is a link that points to your website. But for this backlink to be effective, it must respect 3 essential criteria:
- The website from which the link comes must be of good quality.
- The semantic context of the website from which the link comes and of the anchor of this link (the text on which one clicks which is not a simple URL) must be in adequacy with that of the destination page. Indeed, if the site where the link comes from talks about cooking recipes for example and has a backlink to our site selling glasses with an anchor like “click here to know our ingredients”, the semantic context of the two sites will be different and will therefore not be relevant in the eyes of Google.
- The content of the link’s origin and destination pages must be of high quality.
In this context, the acquisition of backlinks is a delicate operation which is carried out in 2 ways: the natural way and the manual way.
In the first method, an Internet user who has appreciated your products, for example, will talk about you on his website. This natural approach does not require any quid pro quo.
The second method is much more complex and requires the development of a strategy: exchange of backlinks with partners or customers, purchase of backlinks (the cost can sometimes exceed 5000 euros per backlink), writing blog articles with a backlink to offer free of charge to a website that addresses a common theme, etc. There are many ways to create backlinks as long as you are patient and respect a “human” rhythm in order not to be seen as a spam in the eyes of Google.
The technical part
If semantic writing and netlinking represent the biggest part of the SEO strategy in the eyes of search engines, Google regularly adds other criteria.
To list just a few, several other technical criteria come into play:
- management of HTTP status codes (301 error, 404 error, 500 error…) which correspond to redirection errors, non-existent page, server errors, etc.
- duplicate content: the content on your site must not be duplicated within your site or be copy/paste from other sites
- the speed of loading of the site must be optimal
- the website must be responsive (its content must be able to adapt to all types of screens)
- the defined keywords must be in the titles and subtitles (Hn) of the pages of the site
What is the INSEEC Bordeaux SEO competition?
In order to apply all these techniques seen in class, the students of MSc 2 Digital Marketing and E-Business and MSc 2 Digital Communication and Social Media of the class of 2021/2022 participate in a natural SEO competition. Set up by Eric Garletti, Digital Marketing SEO/SEA Expert and lecturer at INSEEC, this contest is a fun way for students to be tested on their knowledge.
The objective of the contest is simple: to position your website as high as possible in Google search results based on a unique and non-existent query: “boinmadig“. This abbreviation of Bordeaux INSEEC Marketing Digital did not exist on Google before the competition, the objective being also not to compete with existing websites.
This contest is the final grade for the SEO course of the 2 digital trainings. The evaluation works on 2 levels: personal and collective. If the student’s grade depends mainly on the final positioning of his website on the SERP at the end of the contest, the latter is also collective: to earn more points, students will have to work together. Thus, if 3 people from the same group manage to position their site in the top 5 of the SERP, all the students in this group will receive a bonus of 2 points on their final score. By this additional rule, the students of the same group will have all interest to create an identical semantic context for each of their site in order to exchange quality backlinks.
For equity reasons, the 50 students in the Digital Marketing and E-Business class were divided into 2 groups of 25 so that the 3 groups would have about 25 students each.
The following are the rules and instructions for the competition that the students received:
- Each student will have to create their own website using WordPress
- All students will receive their WordPress logins on the same day: March 21, 2022
- The domain name of the website must not include the keyword “boinmadig”.
- At the end of June, Mr. Garletti will type only one query on the Google search engine: boinmadig
- At the end of the contest, the group that manages to position 3 of their sites in the Top 5 of the SERP will get a bonus of 2 points
- Being referenced (visible) on Google will ensure a minimum score of 10/20
- Your personal score will depend on the positioning of your website in the SERP but also on the set of SEO techniques implemented
The city of Boinmadig in New Aquitaine
A very concrete example of what a group of students from the INSEEC business school have started to do is the creation of a whole ecosystem around Boinmadig. Having the will to create websites around the same semantic context, the students chose to give the same meaning to the imposed keyword. For them, Boinmadig is a city of 25,000 inhabitants, located 30 km west of Bordeaux, in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region. Each of the students in the group has taken on the mission of turning Boinmadig into a real tourist town where you can find bars, restaurants, parks and ponds, but also monuments, hotels and sports clubs. One of the students thus undertook to create the official website of the city of Boinmadig thanks to which the Internet users can get information about the news of the city, the IBSOB business school or discover all the recreational and cultural activities offered.
See you at the end of June for the final results of the competition. Good luck to them!