You’ve probably come across many digital marketing articles interjecting that SEO is one of the most vital elements in your online strategy, or that you can’t possibly skip this in your process, whether you’re a small business or established brand. Well, these blogs are right—but if you’re new to SEO, you might be wondering what precisely this tactic entails and how it can help you.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of enhancing your website so that it can rank higher on search engines like Google and Bing, thus getting higher organic traffic. This “enhancement” can be done via a six-stage process, together with learning the most influential search ranking signals and applying these on your site. It’s also worthy to note that you can’t just do SEO once; it’s a continuous process that you have to polish every six months or less if there are significant search engine algorithm updates.
The practice of SEO dates back to more than 20 years ago, near the time the internet launched. Back then, there was no way to know if you were getting the best or most relevant result to your search query—as long as you typed in a relevant keyword present in a webpage, it would appear. This is the reason why in the early 2000s, it was easy to apply black hat SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing and work your way to the top without much effort.
Over the last couple of decades, Google slowly but surely became a household name and eventually created policies to catch these cheats—and the proper practice of “clean” SEO began. This forced the practitioners to prioritize users and create accurate posts that would entice users to click, creating a much more relevant search experience.
What Factors Affect Search Rankings?
Search engines can understand the kind of content that you publish for your readers. Specific signals will let them know if this is worth presenting at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), such as word count/length, keywords used, internal and external links, readability, and image optimization if applicable. It still pays to produce expert articles for your users, regardless if your business isn’t in digital publishing. Writing quality content also includes your landing pages, services pages, and any other webpage on your site. For instance, this lets Google know that you’ve put a lot of thought in your branding and you care about the experience your users will have when they browse through your site.
Mobile devices have been successfully outpacing desktop usage over the past couple of years, and this will continue to be the trend. Mobile search also owns 52.2% of the internet’s search traffic, which already indicates the majority. If you haven’t transformed your website to something more responsive on mobile devices, Google is ranking you lower on search engines. It makes sense to adopt since there are a lot of people who own smartphones now and searching via mobile is one of the most intuitive things to do when your potential customers are out and about.
Volume of backlinks
Gaining inbound links are a signal to search engines that you are putting out content that’s valuable enough to merit a citation. Link building is a common SEO tactic to boost the number of your backlinks, but it doesn’t take overnight to accomplish. You have to start with publishing great content that’s worthy of linking out to in the first place before you even think of executing guest posting and other forms of link building outreach. Racking up backlinks will also boost your website’s domain authority, another ranking signal, and tell Google to prioritize your site at the top of search results.
Your domain authority (DA) is a “grade” assigned to your website, assessing its age, relevance, credibility, activity, and overall perceived value by search engines. The higher your domain authority is, the more your webpages will appear at the top of search engines. Besides gaining backlinks, you get to increase your DA by consistently satisfying Google’s guidelines and updating your other on-page and off-page optimization tactics.
The amount of time it takes for your webpages to load can also affect your search rankings! Page speed is a mobile search ranking factor now, in line with Google’s priority over mobile-friendliness, known as the mobile-first index. The average webpage on mobile devices takes 15.3 seconds to load vs. 3 seconds on the desktop. Your goal is to make your site load as fast as its desktop counterpart or even quicker. Think about it: First-time visitors will exit your page if it takes too long to load, translating to lost business as well!
Social shares aren’t so much a popularity contest or a desire to go viral, but rather, it’s a way for search engines to recognize content that seems to be getting extra attention from users on social media and community websites. This clues in Google that you probably shared something worth the time and effort of users to read, which is a good thing. In a nutshell, they would want to bump your ranking higher so that more people can see this great piece of content that they’ve observed many people are talking about.
97% of people expect to see location information from a brand, and Google knows this. They’ve created Google My Business and Google Maps to help users find establishments like yours easily, and if you’re not taking advantage of this, you’re missing out. These searches turn to in-store visits and most of the time purchases as well. Optimizing your local SEO strategy will quickly put you at the top of Google’s priority list when someone in your area searches for “fitness store near me.”
The Importance of SEO for Modern Businesses
While some argue the importance of SEO, there are also the naysayers. You might have heard that SEO is dead or that it’s an outdated strategy that your business doesn’t need. The following points will prove non-believers otherwise.
- Improves user experience
Planning and executing a strong SEO strategy forces you to do a full audit of your website. This means fixing errors, replacing broken links, deleting duplicate content, and fortifying existing content. Not only will this reflect professionalism and show Google that you care about your readers, but you’re also continuously giving your visitors a better experience since their last visit. In turn, your users will be more pleased and will be more inclined to do business with you.
- Boosts your brand visibility
93% of online activities begin with a search. Everyone hops on to Google, Bing, etc. to look up for information—and all your potential customers will too. Search engines allow brands to market themselves for free, as long as they show that they’re worthy of being at the top spot. Consider this free marketing with a great bonus of being able to maintain your website in the process.
- Gains more web traffic
Users want information quickly. This is why 75% of users don’t click beyond the first page of search engine results. If you take any of the top three spots on Google, you naturally increase your chances of attracting people to click on your website. Those visits can turn into desirable actions, such as newsletter sign-ups, online purchases, and more.
- It complements other strategies
SEO results take a while to manifest, but it’s still paving the way to rack up organic traffic without the use of an excessive amount of budget for ads. It’s essential to invest in different tactics, both paid and organic, to elevate the performance of your business. If you skip SEO and focus on social media or perhaps only SEM, you won’t be able to optimize the other parts of your site.
- Opens your business to global opportunities
If your brand consistently shows up at the top of search engine results, the brand recall will be stronger. This will inevitably open the possibility of expanding your operations, perhaps to areas outside your geographical territory. This can open up exciting avenues for you—and you may not even have to move your HQ to those new cities or countries you will be working in. Growth is a vital aspect in business, and SEO can help you achieve that.
How to Improve Your Company’s SEO
Now that you’re realizing the value that SEO can bring to your business, you might be wondering what you can do to implement this strategy. Generally speaking, you have two options to beef up your SEO performance: hiring SEO experts or outsourcing from an SEO company.
Before you conclude, reevaluate which path will benefit your business. Below are a few questions to ask:
- How much control do you want over your SEO team?
- What’s your budget range for this?
- Do you want to lead a team or gain new partners?
- How many people would you need to implement your vision?
- Is your industry already in digital marketing or not?
- Will it be easy or difficult to recruit a team?
- How much knowledge do you have on SEO?
Build an in-house team of SEO practitioners
One of the most significant advantages of having an in-house team will focus all of their time to the SEO performance of your business. Since they will be a part of your business for the long haul, they get familiar with your company’s goals and mission. This is the option to take if you’re comfortable that you can manage an SEO team so that they can follow the direction you want to set for the company. Having a considerable amount of knowledge about SEO will come in handy here as well.
It’s worthy to note that building a team will take time. You need to ensure that the dynamics of the group are great and that they’re a culture fit. This may also cost more in terms of recruitment, onboarding and training, and office space accommodation. If you’re a startup, this option may not be one of the best choices if you’re working with a limited budget.
Keep in mind that you’ll be responsible for further training and certifications if you want them to keep up with the trends.
Outsource SEO services from experts
Outsourced SEO practitioners are more like partners. This is a recommended option to take if you don’t have much knowledge of SEO and would like a group of experts to work on this with you.
Outsourcing can be a more cost-effective option for you than hiring in-house. Since they won’t have to take up space in your HQ and the nature of their jobs are digital, it’s doable to discuss strategies online. You won’t have difficulty with the recruitment process either, which is another plus.
Usually, SEO companies are more in touch with the latest trends in the business, such as algorithm updates and search engine guidelines. There are plenty of SEO agencies who have outstanding portfolios with companies they’ve previously worked with, meaning they’ve been exposed to plenty of industries and have a broader knowledge of SEO.
The result of the selection process will boil down to your company’s needs.
Invest in SEO Today!
There you have it: the complete low down on SEO. It’s simple and straightforward, yet also meticulous and demanding. It’s a universal strategy that applies to any business you have, whether it’s a startup or a huge corporation, purely digital or a brick-and-mortar shop.
SEO may have been born in the 90s, but that doesn’t strike out its relevance in modern marketing practices. It’s not enough to rely on SEO plug-ins on your CMS either—instead, it’s better to dig deep and examine where you can be doing better so Google will up your ranking and expose you to a broader, international audience. Getting experts who know what they’re doing will ensure long-term success will elevate your brand and help you achieve your marketing goals that much faster.
Plenty of smart companies have been doing SEO for years. It’s time to follow suit and take advantage of this marketing strategy. Every second you’re not practicing SEO is lost business, and once your competitors realize this too, they can beat you at the game.