This article will give people a basic understanding of SEO (search engine optimization) — what it is, why you should invest in it, and how it can help your business. Buckle your seatbelts; let’s go.
Basic Definition of SEO
SEO is a set of techniques used to make your website content more organically visible to search engine users. Organic visibility is distinguished from paid search engine visibility, which businesses acquire by purchasing ads on Google and the other main search engines.
Strategically, an SEO campaign is based on the keyword research— that is, a set of words by search engine users when conducting a search, such as “French restaurants in Chicago.” “French restaurants in Chicago” is a keyword.
The idea is to identify a set of keywords (anywhere from a handful to hundreds, depending on budget) that are popular, relevant to your business, and — here’s the tricky part — have a high likelihood of leading to an order or inquiry.
Once the keywords have been identified, an SEO specialist/agency will then optimize your website for those keywords, so that when search engine users search for one of those terms, your website page optimized for that term will appear prominently in the SERP (search engine results page).
Optimization is accomplished over time by executing various activities that can be separated into two parts:
- Onsite SEO, which involves making your website content easy for Google to understand, match with search queries, and position highly because it is so relevant, authoritative and useful.
- Off-site SEO, which primarily involves link building — the creation of links to your website from relevant and authoritative websites. (Google’s logic here is, if a lot of such websites link to your website, then your website must have great content. If your content is great, they want their search engine users to find it easily.)
Why You Should Invest in SEO
SEO is a popular online marketing approach. These are three important reasons why.
- Google processes more than 3.5 billion searches every day, and many of those searches are conducted by people doing product research or making a purchase. This is a vast market for entrepreneurs to tap into.
- SEO is great for businesses with low brand recognition. Because SEO is keyword-driven, it enables people to find your business when they are looking for the products or services you sell — but don’t know who you are.
- SEO can make small businesses look big. When people see your content ranking highly on Google, they are impressed. This credibility helps you attract inquiries and orders.
Here are four important caveats about SEO.
- Even though Google and other search engines don’t charge for SEO, it isn’t free. An SEO agency or freelancer invests a lot of time and talent into a campaign. The cost can range from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars a month, depending mainly on the number of keywords in your campaign, the competitiveness of those keywords — and, of course, your budget.
- SEO is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It usually takes many months for Google to recognize improvements generated by your campaign and reflect them in your organic search visibility. SEO requires patience and a sustainable budget.
- SEO is popular and widely effective, but for some businesses is not the answer. In some cases, the market is just too competitive, or there is not enough search volume for strategic keywords, or (most common) there is not enough in the budget to launch a campaign robust enough to get meaningful results. This is why every SEO campaign should start with a thorough competitive analysis.
- SEO has its fair share of snake oil salesmen — agencies and freelancers that use shady tactics and/or promise incredible results. Thoroughly vet your SEO partner before spending a dime.
How SEO Can Help Your Business
The important thing to remember when deciding whether to get into SEO: The goal is to generate sales leads or online orders. Some businesses get hung up on secondary goals, such as organic traffic to the website, high rankings (which don’t mean much anymore), or ranking highly for terms they think are important but don’t generate conversions.
In the end, it’s sales leads or orders that determine whether an SEO campaign is a good investment.
- An SEO campaign that generates a lot of traffic but no leads not a good investment.
- An SEO campaign that boasts high rankings but doesn’t bring in leads or revenue: not a good investment.
This sounds incredibly obvious, I know, but you’d be amazed by how many companies get distracted from the key purpose of SEO!
In addition to generating sales leads or direct revenue, SEO has other important benefits. I mentioned credibility and brand awareness earlier; in addition, SEO drives companies to develop relevant, useful and persuasive content that in and of itself generates leads/revenue; it is scalable and can grow with your business; and it is flexible, allowing you to change keyword focus if your business moves in another direction.
Is SEO for you? Probably. Even if it’s not, many of your competitors are most likely knee-deep in it, making SEO something of which every small business should be aware. I hope this article helped!