When you search for anything on Google, Bing or Yahoo, no matter how broad your search is, you’ll receive a full SERP (search engine results page) of links to articles or website pages eerily relevant to your topic. Search engines consider every single word you enter in the search bar to refine your results and display only the most relevant websites to match your topic.
How do search engines do that? With countless web pages out there to choose from, how do search engines find the exact pages you need when you search for a topic, product, service, or an answer to your question?
The answer: SEO.
What is search engine optimization (SEO) and why is it important?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s how you optimize your website (specifically your content) for search engines to feature your website on the first page when a user searches for your product or niche.
On the consumer side of a search, SEO is what enables users to find answers to their questions, to see a list of businesses near them, to survey a list of related products they’re seeking—or whatever it may be that meets the goal of their search.
On the business side of a search, SEO is how you get your website to show up on a SERP (search engine results page). It’s how you ensure that your website is ranked higher than your competitor’s website when a user is searching for your product, service, or topic.
SEO is how your website is found on major search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo—but especially Google. (Google comprises over 75% of the search market share!)
Without effective SEO, your website pages, blogs or articles are simply existing with no way for searchers to find them. Your website floats aimlessly in the expansive search void until you indicate to Google that your website is relevant to users’ searches.
Implementing proper SEO practices throughout your site tells Google that your website is worthy of being displayed when a user searches for a related category, topic, or service in the infinite Google search bar.
Why SEO is Important in Business?
Think about it.. how often do you hunt past the first page of Google when you’re searching for a topic, idea, or an answer to your question? Probably not often..
Only 6% of users will continue to page 2 when they’re searching for something. That’s why SEO is so important. If your website isn’t showing up on the first page of a SERP, you’ve limited your audience and potential customers to a measly 6%.
Now more than ever, users want answers and they want them quickly. SEO is a major part of the user experience. Google (and other search engines) want to display the most relevant information to meet the user’s request. Search engines are constantly refining their algorithms and adding new features that make the search experience more user-friendly to align users with the answers they need.
If you’re a local business owner or you run a small business, your local SEO efforts are essential to attracting new clients, customers, or patients. Word-of-mouth referrals only go so far. Nowadays, people take to the internet to find a business near them.
The thing is, your prospective customers are already looking for you! Whether they find you or your competition first is a matter of SEO.
Studies have shown that 72% of customers who do a local search will visit a store within 5 miles of them.
Your location alone already makes you a candidate for attracting new customers. Your SEO efforts are how you close the deal by showing up in the local pack (the top three results on the map of a Google search) and telling your customers that you have what they need.
How does SEO work?
There are millions of blogs, posts, and landing pages published each day—and no, that’s not an exaggeration. (If anything, it’s an under-exaggeration.) With so many different posts dedicated to a single topic on the internet, how can your website stand out from the rest? What can you do to make sure your website pages are found over your competitors’ pages?
Search engines take into account several ranking factors, including the site’s mobile-friendliness, page speed, the quality of content, the number of internal links and backlinks, the domain (URL) authority, and technical SEO usage.
Your website content plays a huge role in your search engine rankings. Quality content that includes specific keywords and key phrases, internal links that encourage users to navigate through the site instead of bouncing off to another site, and backlinks that indicate the content is valid and authoritative will always rank higher than content that lacks these fundamental SEO elements.
Keyword research is a critical part of optimizing content. Google’s search algorithm uses specific keywords and phrases to determine whether your content meets the user’s needs. That’s because people are using key phrases to search for your website.
Your website content needs to be relevant to your prospective customer’s search. When doing keyword research, it’s valuable to think like your customer. If you’re the customer, what words and phrases would you use to search for a business?
Keyword research tools, like SEM rush, Google keyword planner, Google Analytics, Moz and Spyfu, come in handy during this planning phase to gain insight into accurate consumer search queries and relevant keywords.
Inbound Links, Outbound Links, and Internal Links
When another website links to your site, this is called a backlink, or an “inbound link”. If another site links back to your website, this tells Google that your website is authoritative and provides valuable information.
You want as many backlinks from reputable, relevant websites as possible. Not only is it ideal to have your website promoted on multiple sites for brand awareness and visibility, but when Google deems your content authoritative, it rewards you with higher search rankings.
Similar to inbound links, outbound links are another ranking factor Google uses to determine your site’s authority. An outbound link is a link to another reputable, authoritative website. Link building through inbound and outbound links to and from high-authority domains is an important (yet simple) SEO tactic in digital marketing.
Internal links are hyperlinks in your content that link to other pages on your own site. Internal linking can successfully decrease bounce rates (the rate of users leaving your site for another site), because it highlights other relevant content that exists on your site and makes those pages easily accessible to users.
On-page optimization primarily serves as a way to mark up your content leveraging your target keywords to tell Google exactly what your content is about, so they can rank it for relevant search queries.
Your on-page optimization elements include your metadata, such as meta descriptions, title tags and headings throughout each page of your website. The short description you see under each search result on Google or other major search engines is the meta description. The meta description gives users a compelling snippet of the type of content they can expect to see on a given web page.
The title tag is essentially the page title that appears as the clickable link on a SERP. Both the title tag and meta description for each page on your site should include relevant keywords that tell Google your content is pertinent to a user’s search.
When a website is initially coded, H1 headings, along with H2, H3 and H4 subheadings, are included as key components of on-page SEO. The H1 is typically featured at the top of the page, while the H2, H3 and H4 subheadings are located throughout the page content to separate different sections.
These headings should include relevant search queries, based on keyword research, to align with the information users are seeking.
Every house needs a sound foundation, and websites are no different. The functional build of a website needs to be as Google-compliant as possible so that its crawlers can easily navigate and crawl the website in order to rank it for relevant queries.
Technical SEO includes optimizing elements of the website like redirects, 404 errors, page load speed, mobile-friendliness, breadcrumbs, schema markup, and more. Addressing technical SEO issues often requires development support, where the SEO advises specific fixes to optimize a website and the developer implements them.
SEO experts determine that it takes about 4 to 6 months after implementing these SEO practices for your newly-optimized site to see an increase in website traffic.
While you wait for Google’s search crawlers to factor in your new optimizations and index your web pages, it’s a good idea to promote your content on social media. Sharing quality content on social media should be a part of your SEO strategy, but also a part of your online presence and virtual branding strategy.
Why social media? Well, more than one billion people actively use Facebook alone. Chances are very likely that the majority of your prospective customers are using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or other popular social media platforms.
Posting relevant content from your website to your social media accounts can increase brand recognition as users become familiar with your logo and brand messaging.
Social media posting is also an effective digital marketing strategy for bolstering organic search traffic. (Organic traffic is considered free search traffic gained through content marketing, relevant keywords, or social media posting, whereas traffic from social media ads, PPC or Google AdWords is considered paid search traffic.)
If you’re ready to increase your conversion rates, then you must start maximizing your SEO efforts. Effective SEO can do wonders for your ROI and profitability. Whether you’re a small business owner or the marketing director of a large-scale company, SEO can ensure that your website is visible when users are searching for it.
The benefit of a powerful SEO strategy is far too valuable to neglect. But how do you know if a full-scale SEO campaign is right for your company? Take this quiz to find out!