SEO is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted terms in the world of marketing. SEO’s characterization as a kind of alchemy over the past decade has caused many otherwise savvy business people to devalue its importance as part of a good, solid marketing plan for small, mid-sized, and even large businesses. Many continue to ask why SEO is important for businesses.
I find this extremely unfortunate because SEO is a very viable marketing outlet that can bring your business more qualified leads and customers. Moreover, studies have shown that SEO can have a better ROI than traditional forms of marketing like TV and print ads. Like any other marketing method, SEO isn’t magic, but it provides a business visibility, branding, web traffic, a high ROI, credibility, and insight into customer behavior. Let’s discuss each of these in turn.
Why SEO Is Important For Businesses
SEO is Good for Business Visibility and Branding
When people search for your products and services, you obviously want to appear as high in the search engine rankings as possible, but the reasons for this are more than just because you want them to click through to your website. In fact, there is a certain amount of value in simply appearing in search results for terms directly related to your business. For instance, most searchers don’t just simply search once, click on some websites, and be done with it. Instead, they search, click on some websites, edit their search terms, search again, click on some websites, further hone their search terms, search again, and so on.
So what does this mean for your business? It means that if you can continually show in all these search results that you are gaining more and more mindshare with each potential customer. Chances are very good that they will eventually click through to your website, and since you continually displayed in all their search results, they will trust you that much more. Which brings us to the next reason why SEO is important for your business.
SEO Provides Your Business Credibility
Searchers make mental notes of the rankings for the terms they enter into Google and other search engines. They may not consciously realize it, but they do. And in the minds of consumers, your ranking is a vote of confidence: “Google says this business is relevant, so that must be the case.” This may sound a bit far-fetched, but let’s look at it like this: back in the golden age of the yellow pages, if you were looking for a plumber, did you feel more confident in calling the guy on the seventh page of the listings, or did you, like most people, start from the first page and work your way through? Your customers may not realize it, but high search rankings make you more credible in their eyes.
SEO Brings Your Business Traffic
Sure, by itself, traffic is not going to make you any money. But would you rather set up your storefront on a backstreet in Davenport, Iowa or right in the middle of Times Square? All those people walking around in Times Square day and night by themselves aren’t going to make you any money, but chances are that quite a few of them will eventually become your customers. Just like Times Square, you still have to make your best effort to sell to your customers once they are on your website, but it’s better to do business on a crowded street corner than it is to set up shop on a deserted island. What’s better is that SEO is usually a good deal more affordable than store leases in Times Square. More importantly, the people coming to your site are almost all qualified leads – they were searching for businesses like yours when they found you, so they already have a need or interest in your products or services. Which brings me to the next point.
at are the main stages of the Search Engine Optimization process?
As I mentioned above, SEO is not a static process but rather a framework with rules and processes.
For simplicity though, SEO can be broken down into 3 main stages:
Technical SEO: With technical SEO you can ensure that search engines can crawl and index your website with out any issues.
On-site SEO: Rules to apply on your site and content to make it search engine friendly.
Off-site SEO: Ways to promote your website or blog so that it can rank higher in search results.
The first stage in the SEO process is called technical SEO. As the name implies, technical SEO has nothing to do with the actual content of a website or with website promotion methods.
It has to do with settings you need to configure to make the job of search engine crawlers easier. Usually, once you get your technical SEO correct, you may not have to deal with it again.
On the other hand, if you have problems with crawling and indexing, it can negatively impact on your rankings.
To perform a technical SEO audit review and ensure that everything is working as expected, read our Technical SEO Guide.
The second stage is On-Page SEO. On-Page SEO has to do primarily with the content and other elements found on a page.
Unlike technical and off-page SEO, the main focus of on-page SEO is to provide search engine crawlers enough signals so that they can understand the meaning and context of your content.
Remember that search engines don’t read a page like a human so they are looking for signals to figure out what a page is all about.
It is at this stage that you will deal with website structure, keywords, title optimizations, headings, internal links, image SEO, structured data markup and other techniques that can send the right signals to search engines.
If followed correctly, on-page SEO will also improve the usability and credibility of a website or blog.
Note that content optimization is part of on-page SEO but sometimes this is referred to as Content SEO.
Our On-Page SEO Guide explains the different on-page SEO techniques in detail.
The third stage is Off-Page SEO.
Besides the changes you can do to your website (on-site SEO) so that it ranks higher in the SERPs, the other way to improve your website’s ranking position is by using off-site SEO techniques.
Off-site SEO is generally known as link building but I prefer to use the term web site promotion since a proper way to promote a website involves much more methods and techniques than building links.
Why is off-page SEO important?
In general, when a user types a search query, search engine algorithms look into their index and try to find the best pages that can satisfy the intent of the user.
Pages that are good candidates appear to the first positions of the search results.
One of the factors to determine the position a webpage in the results, is the number of incoming links (backlinks).
Backlinks are a signal of trust and depending from where the links are coming, they can greatly affect your ranking position.
If the links are coming from well-known and trusted sites, your ranking will be positively affected.
If they are paid links, links in article directories, link farms or a result of an exchange, your ranking will be negatively affected.
Getting links this way, is a violation of Google guidelines and most probably it will also result in a Google Penalty.
What can you do to get more links?
That’s a very good question and I am sure that if you search the Internet for that phrase you will get hundreds of different answers.
You can read this article on how to approach link building but your primary focus not be how to get links but how to create good quality content for your web site.
Good content will get you natural links which in turn will give you high rankings and traffic.
If you try to buy links or get them the easy way, you may have temporary success and then see your website disappearing from the top pages after the next Google update.
What is the best way to start learning SEO?
The best way to learn SEO is to practice SEO.
Besides learning the different concepts and theories, the only way to find out if what you’ve learned works, it to apply the various techniques on a website and monitor your rankings.
The following resources can help you get started:
SEO Starters Guide – Perfect for beginners to SEO.
The Complete SEO Course – Our own SEO Course which covers all aspects of SEO with step-by-step examples and case studies.
How to become an SEO Expert – A guide with a list of resources to stay informed about new developments in the SEO World.
DIY SEO Tutorial – A tutorial on how to do SEO on your own. It covers both basic and advanced SEO Concepts.
SEO Checklist – A handy checklist to check that you have optimized all elements.
What is the difference of SEO and Internet marketing?
Some people often ask me “Is SEO the same as Internet Marketing?” The simplest answer I can give is that SEO is one of the tools available in your Internet Marketing arsenal.
It is not Internet Marketing as such but it can be part of your overall Internet Marketing campaign which normally includes other things like social media promotion, content strategy etc.
Good content is still the most important success factor with or without SEO
Before closing this introduction to search engine optimization you must have very clear in your mind that SEO cannot help you if you don’t have good content.
In other words, if you try to SEO a website with not very good content your chances of succeeding (in the long term) are minimum.
On the other hand, a website with good content can do well with or without SEO. SEO will just give the web site an extra boost.
SEO Has One of the Best ROI’s in Advertising
SEO rewards your business for its efforts at a higher rate than pretty much all traditional forms of offline advertising — the same can be said for almost all types of internet marketing. The reason for this is because SEO is an inbound marketing strategy; that is, it allows you to market to people when they are looking for the products and services your business provides. You don’t have to interrupt their favorite TV show, you don’t have to take up space on a page where they are reading a news article. You just show up when they are looking for businesses like yours. You don’t have to convince them they need your product or service; you just have to convince them that you are the right business to purchase from. In other words, with SEO, half the battle is won before it even starts.
SEO Gives You Unmatched Insight Into Your Customers
As I already stated, SEO generates valuable traffic. Google Analytics tracks this traffic. Google Analytics is an amazing tool. The data and metrics are valuable because they give you insight into your customers: how they search, how they browse, the language they use, the technology they use, the region they live in, the days they are most active, the times of day they are most active, you name it. This is extremely valuable because it can help you make more informed decisions regarding your business and its strategies, both online and offline.