Why is SEO important for businesses?
(and what the heck is it anyway)
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process by which your website is fine-tuned so search engines can connect your solutions to people's questions. How is SEO important to your business?
Think about how you use a search engine. You have a question. ("I need someone to fix my washing machine.") You may ask your friends and family for someone they recommend, but it's likely you'll open up your smart phone or laptop and ask Google (or Bing, or Yahoo, or Duck Duck Go). Have you ever noticed that when you type your question (known as a "query"), Google responds with "about 5.75 million answers in .0007 seconds"? (Not that they're bragging or anything.)
How does Google find all those answers so fast? And how does it know which ones are most relevant to me? (Otherwise known as SERP—Search Engine Results Page. A fancy term that basically means what page you show up on and what position on that page.)
SEO. That's how.
Let's look at the elements that make up this magical formula. (As best we understand it today. Because Google does change it.)
When you submit your query, the google bots (technical term here, I know) search the entire internet for your exact search term (known as long-tail keywords) and the search terms that closely. That's where you get the gagillion matches.
The search engine also looks at how recently your site was updated. If you just built a brand-new site or massively updated your current one, you'll rank higher for the next month or two naturally (provided you've implemented all the SEO best practices). After a while, you start to notice that you drop in ranking. Does that mean you need to build an entirely new site again? No way! (That's too exhausting to think about!)
You need to update your site regularly. And that can be easily achieved through a blog. (More on that below.) Your site doesn't have to be overhauled to be considered relevant from a time standpoint. Just keep it current.
How many people visit your website? How often do they visit? The more popular you are, the more authoritative Google will assume your site is. Because why would people keep coming back if it was useless and didn't have the information they needed?
There are two parts to backlinks. First, these include the links you have embedded in the page. These can be links to other articles or sections on your site, and they can be links to content on other websites. Google looks at who you're linking to and who's linking to you. Both are extremely important to SEO.
How does SEO help my business?
So now that we've looked at how SEO works let's talk about how SEO can help your business. To do that,
1. SEO is the primary source for organic search.
Let's talk a little about the customer journey. There are five stages to the customer's journey in terms of their awareness. Where SEO fits in is in the fourth stage, also known as "Problem Aware." In this stage, customers are aware they have a problem, but they have no idea how to solve it. So, they turn to the internet and ask Mr. Google how to solve the problem. (Sound familiar? If it doesn't, re-read paragraph two.)
As we've talked about often on this site, no matter what you do, you solve problems for people. Whether it's needing an outfit for date night, needing to find a new dog bed, or needing to buy a new house, you are the solution your customer seeks. As such, your website's content (words and images) need to be geared to helping your customer find you.
Google, the great inventor of the search algorithm, is the major player by owning more than 80 percent of all searches. YouTube, which is owned by Google (and technically a social media channel), is the second largest search engine.
2. SEO helps you build trust and credibility with your audience.
All of these reasons are important but think about this one for a minute. If you win on the SERP (your ranking on the search page), but your website is confusing, out-of-date, and slow-to-load, that customer is never coming back. Your website is really part of your brand promise or even your word. A couple of ways you build trust and credibility is through:
- Quality backlinks. You link to authorities in the field and not to sites that are outdated or not an authority (or even worse, a hacked site).
- Content and page elements. Is your content optimized for search engines? Are your images? Make sure your images are tagged appropriately (don't just say "IMG_5405.jpg). The words you use on each page or article need to focus on just a few keywords (no stuffing!), and it needs to be readable by a large majority of people. That means you need to keep your sentences and your words simple. Aim for a fourth-grade reading level. (Even if your audience is highly educated. Trust me on this one.)
3. SEO can help with local SEO.
You don't (necessarily) have to compete nationally. A growing number of search queries include a qualifying phrase like "near me" or "near here." This tells the search engine to look at where you are and give you local results. You won't see results for Dallas, Texas, if you're in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Side note: A great way to help raise your local SEO is with your Google My Business listing. Make sure you have yours up-to-date and share your social posts to your listing as well.
4. SEO is a long-term strategy.
SEO is not a quick-fix solution. It takes time (sometimes months) for you to see the effects of search engine optimization. But that's okay. Once these wheels are spinning in your direction, they will keep spinning for a long time. This is where you breathe in and realize you're playing for keeps. You may need immediate help to solve an advertising problem, but you need to keep SEO in mind. It's the bread and butter that will keep working for you long after the ad campaign is over.
5. SEO is relatively inexpensive.
As we mentioned earlier, one of the easiest ways to stay relevant is to implement a blog. A blog (or Resources section) is a great way to capture content and start ranking for a variety of keyword phrases. Even if you do only one thing, there are many questions a customer can ask about your product or service. And each one of them could be a keyword phrase you should be ranking for.
You can choose to write these blogs yourself or hire a writer who has SEO expertise to write them for you. I often hear these are too expensive to produce. So, let's look at it this way:
You have $500 to spend on an ad campaign. You choose to run a social media ad campaign for one month. You may generate a few leads, but the campaign is over at the end of the month. If you want to run a similar campaign next month, you have to spend another $500.
You have $500, and you spend it on a blog post. You've done your research, and you know what keyword phrase you want to rank for. You hire a writer with a background in SEO to write the article. The article goes live, and it may take a couple of weeks to start seeing traction, but it starts going up the search page, and shortly, you're on page 1. And you stay on page 1 for months. When you're ready to spend the $500 again, you use that money for a new article. Now, you're ranking for two keyword phrases for months (or longer) at a time.
Yes, there is an initial outlay with hiring an SEO-focused writer, but you'll get longevity and many, many miles out of that investment.
Google has changed how we search for resources and ask questions online. And SEO is an easy way to help make those search engines work for you instead of against you. SEO is not a one-off or one-and-done tool. When used correctly, SEO is a powerful tool in your overall marketing strategy.