SEO—What It Is, How It Works and Why You Need It
Search Engine Optimization—A Key to the Success of Your Online Marketing Plan
Whether you’re business is just getting off the ground and you’re just establishing your web presences or you’ve decided it’s time to upgrade your digital marketing, one of the essential components you’ll want to pay significant attention to is SEO/SEM, or search engine optimization/search engine marketing (SEO). Because of the unique way that potential consumers find your goods and services on the Internet, an effective SEO strategy will often make the difference between a positive return on investment and a failed opportunity.
What Is SEO?
The success of your online marketing generally relies on two components—how many visitors (traffic) come to your digital marketing, and how many of those prospective customers become actual customers (conversion). SEO is critical to succeeding in the first step—maximizing the qualified traffic to your site. SEO is customarily applied to what is known as “organic,” or unpaid, rankings on a search engine results page. The ultimate goal of SEO is to have your website appear at or as close to the top of the rankings on the search engine results page as possible.
How Does Search Engine Optimization Work?
All search engines use programs called “bots” or “spiders,” which are constantly “crawling” content on the Internet. During the “crawling” process, the Googlebots are constantly scanning content on the Internet, looking for new and updated pages. Those pages will then be added to Google’s index of web pages. With massive computing resources, Google can literally crawl billions of pages every day.
When a web visitor enters search terms in the search box on Google or any other search engine, the search engine accesses its database of indexed pages, looking for those that offer content most relevant to the terms used in the search. The search engines have established complex “algorithms” to determine what components of a website offer more relevant search value. The algorithm essentially gives each page a score, and links to websites will appear on the search engine results page accordingly.
Search engines naturally look at the words used on a website, both in terms of frequency and proximity to each other. Certain terms are identified as “keywords,” which increase the likelihood that the site will be responsive to the query entered in the search engine. However, search engines also consider other factors when ranking a site, including ease of navigation, quality of inbound and outbound links, and mobile responsiveness.
The Most Important Components of an Effective SEO Strategy
While the algorithms are a well-kept secret, what SEO consultants almost universally agree upon is that content is one of the most important factors. It’s important to understand, though, that the ways the search engines value content has evolved over the past quarter of a century. In the early days of the Internet, search engines gave more weight to the specific words themselves. That led to some abuse, including keyword stuffing and hiding text. The current approach to content gives value to content that’s written in a natural style and that effectively answers user questions.
Other important considerations in an effective overall SEO campaign include:
- How well your website performs on a mobile device—page load speed is critical
- Linking strategies—this includes links into your website, as well as links from your website. Links suggest relevancy and authority-typically, the more, the better. However, the search engines have become quite effective at distinguishing good links from bad ones—quantity is still important, but quality is equally so.
- Including local information—As more and more people turn to desktops and mobile devices to find local goods and services, it becomes increasingly important to include local information on your website.
Why You Want to Implement an Effective SEO Campaign
Without a well-thought out search engine optimization strategy, the success of your digital marketing will be completely hit or miss. By incorporating accepted SEO practices, you’ll be able to target those customers who can benefit most from the goods or services you offer. Research shows that, for lead generation online, there’s nothing that compares to a strong SEO campaign. Consider, for example, research that shows that 70% of web users pay little or no attention to paid advertising on a search engine results page. Research by Conductor found that nearly two-thirds of all web visitors reach their destination through SEO-generated organic search.
In addition, ad blockers have become increasingly common on both mobile and desktop devices. A recent study by Hubspot concluded that more than 90% of businesses that used SEO saw a return on investment.
It’s also important to understand that properly optimizing your website will do more than boost your rankings with the search engines—it will typically create a better experience for the web visitor and improve the chances that they will contact you. That’s because effective SEO includes more than just content—it also incorporates mobile-friendly design, low bounce rates and engaging integration of videos and pictures. In essence, it improves the user experience and that typically leads to higher conversion of prospects to customers, as well as greater brand loyalty.
Speaking of conversion, there’s also evidence that SEO-generated leads are more likely to become customers. In an article published in the Search Engine Journal, search engine optimization leads were found to have a 14.6% average close rate, whereas outbound leads (where sales associates initiated the contact) closed only 1.7% of the time.
A successful SEO strategy can enhance the credibility of your company. If your website continually appears when web users enter relevant search terms, you’ll quickly develop name recognition. Conversely, if your site never appears above the second or third page in the search engine results, there’s a good chance you’ll almost never be seen. If you are, the perception will typically be that you’re a new enterprise or that you don’t have much of an advertising budget.
Another benefit to search engine optimization—it’s far less labor-intensive than other web-based inbound lead strategies, such as social marketing or e-mail campaigns. With those strategies, you need to be constantly creating new content/posts, so that you remain in front of your social media followers or mailing list. With a solid SEO program, though, most of your work is done once the page is initially optimized. If you’ve done it right, your pages will keep climbing in the rankings as more people find you in an organic search. You may need to tweak keywords and other components occasionally, but it’s nothing like a social media or e-mail campaign.
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