Updated: Jun 15, 2019
If you see SEO as a mystery, an enigma that only seriously techie folks with inside knowledge understand, you are not alone. The truth is that SEO should be an important part of any good marketing strategy, and it doesn’t have to be all that complicated.
One of the most common questions I get asked by potential clients is "what is SEO and do I need it?" Here's some info on what it is and why you need it ...
What Does SEO Stand For?
At its most simple, SEO is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization. So let’s start by taking a look at each component more closely:
One of the most common ways to find information on the internet is to use a search engine. On a site like Google or Bing, users enter a search term or question. Then, using a complicated algorithm, these sites return what they think are the most appropriate and useful results.
This is different than browsing a news site or scrolling through social media looking for information. Users are actively looking for a specific answer, which you should keep in mind when creating effective content.
The search “engines” that we use to find information are essential because they return prioritized results to our inquiries. They first use "crawlers" to explore the web and then they record everything they find in databases (or indexes). When you perform a search, the engine is actually returning results from its index rather than the live internet.
The important thing to remember here is that all these engines use specific criteria for returning results. They look at factors like keyword density and meta tags to understand what your pages are about. Also, they keep track of which pages have linked to your content, and they use that information (along with some other factors) to determine what page has the most authority.
In order for users to find you via search, you need to show up on the first few results pages (ideally the first) for their search terms. That’s why you need to optimize your content for the search engines. This doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does require some attention. If you want to rank highly in search engines, you need to make sure:
• The search engines can find you • They can tell what your web pages are about • They believe your page/site has authority and credibility for the content you’re promoting
How Does SEO Work?
Ultimately, SEO is about working with the search engines. You both have the same goal: providing valuable information to visitors when they need it. In order to do that, you have to understand SEO and how it works.
What SEO is Not
SEO isn’t a single tool or process. It’s not a series of tricks (like keyword stuffing) or secrets (like link trading) you can use to fool search engines. It’s also not a series of shortcuts that allow you to buy your way to the top of the search results. All of these tactics have been used in the past by businesses and search engine “professionals” trying to game the system. Many of them achieved results, but only temporarily.
As search engines have become more sophisticated, they are now better at returning real results instead of low-quality articles stuffed with keywords or supported by cheap backlinks. The engines now actually penalize these techniques and reward authentic content that is truly optimized for search engines.
What SEO Is
SEO is a combination of activities that help search engines find and trust you, organize the information you’re publishing and present it to users searching for it. More and more today, SEO content is really about writing for humans. It involves doing keyword research to first determine what your audience is looking for and how (based a clear understanding of who they are and buyer behavior research). Your content should incorporate those keywords in a natural and useful way. In addition, you should promote your content so it gets shared and linked to by others, thereby increasing your authority.
When SEO Is Working
When your SEO strategy works, it means good things for you and your visitors. It also creates a cycle that reinforces itself.
For one, your website rank improves, which means more visitors will find your pages in search results. With wider exposure and traffic to your high-value content, more sites will link to your pages. This increases your authority and credibility, which leads to improvement in your website rank. Ongoing content strategies will help the process build on itself over time.
Why Does My Business Need SEO?
Many businesses believe that SEO strategies do not apply to them or are only for big corporations with big marketing budgets. They often see it as too complicated, or think their personal brand or small business doesn’t see any benefit from search engines. Both are false. SEO helps your business in many ways and should be an essential tool in your marketing and outreach efforts. Here's why:
Everyone Uses Search Engines
Internet users rely on search to answer questions, to learn more about products and services and to find companies that offer them. Even if your focus is local, potential customers still use search engines to look for reviews, directions and to learn more about you.
Often a customer may already be familiar with your business name, yet they are still most likely to type that into a search engine rather than trying to remember your domain. So at the very least then, you want to make sure searchers can find your site when they’re looking for you.
I want to note here that there is not a "one size fits all" SEO strategy. That's why hiring a qualified, experienced professional to create a custom marketing strategy designed specifically for your business is a wise investment of your resources.
SEO Increases Traffic
If you provide valuable information and make it easy for search engines to find and organize it, they will reward you with higher rankings. This increased exposure means more visitors to your pages. As with most marketing plans, the goal is to get what you have to offer in front of as many eyeballs as you can. Especially when your audience wants what you have, and SEO is a great tool for targeting.
SEO Brings You Qualified Leads (For Free!)
Since search engines return results to users who are actively searching for a particular term or phrase, getting to the top of that stack means you’re providing information to the people who want it most, when they want it.
Unlike most other forms of advertising, you aren’t trying to push information in front of people who might not be interested at the time. You have an active audience, and you don’t have to pay to get your message to them.
Search Engine Optimization is one of the most effective and sustainable ways to build your online presence. Rather than seeing it as something to “fix” after you’ve already created content, keep SEO top of mind from the beginning. By following best practices at the start, you’ll create interesting, useful content that potential customers want (or need) to read. And the "engines" will be happy to put you in front of a larger audience!
Have questions or need help with your online marketing endeavors? I offer a free one-hour consultation for new clients. Please contact me to schedule yours today!
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