Every business understands the importance of having a website, but even the greatest website is of little value if people can’t find it. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a long term strategy of improving the quality and quantity of traffic to a website from search engines. There are two ways to drive traffic to a website from search engines, one is pay per click (PPC) ads, the other is organic (free) traffic from search results. SEO focuses on this latter approach.
The purpose of a search engine is to provide quality results to the person searching based on a keyword or phrase. If the search engine doesn’t provide the results that the person is seeking, the searcher may go somewhere else to find the answer. Search engines are aware of this fact, so they use complex algorithms and machine learning to continuously improve the process.
Anatomy of a Search Result Page:
As you can see, there are 4 sections of the Google search results page. PPC are paid ads, local search is covered in this blog post, and organic search results. Google is 90+% of all search traffic and over 60% of all clicks occur on the first page of search results. If your business doesn’t have a presence on the first page of Google search results, you are losing out on these clicks.
Savvy marketers have been using SEO techniques for years to help get their websites in front of people searching online. According to this blog, 17 marketing experts have SEO as their top marketing channel for 2020. So what makes SEO such an important marketing strategy.
- Credibility and trust – People searching on the internet trust organic results. Many people skip over the PPC ads much like TV viewers skipping commercials on a DVR.
- Branding – Having organic results associates a brand to certain keywords and phrases.
- Cost per click – Organic traffic is free, although there is an upfront and ongoing cost and effort of SEO.
- Better traffic quality – Organic traffic typically converts to customers at a higher rate than PPC or any other advertising.
- Sustainability – Using PPC requires a budget and ads quit showing in search results when the money runs out. Organic results are not based on an ad budget.
Since SEO is a long term strategy (6 months to years), a good approach is a combination of SEO, local search optimization, and PPC ads. The PPC ads get your business noticed until the SEO and local search optimization begins to show your website on the first page of Google. PPC ads also help speed up the optimization process by letting Google know what keywords searchers are using to find your website.
Tips for getting started on SEO:
- Use a website analytics tool to measure website performance and track where visitors are coming from. It is impossible to tell if your efforts are working without measuring.
- Make sure website content is using text that explains exactly what your business is all about.
- Use videos and photos in website content and make sure the file names of the media describes the content of the media. Use keywords in captions and descriptions of the media. This will help get this content to show up in image and video searches.
- Use meta tags and descriptions on each website page. Make sure this information accurately describes what the page is about. This sends signals to the search engines as well as tells searchers about the content of the page.
- Regularly update content. Fresh content tells the search engines that your website is active and not stale. Active sites are ranked higher by the search engines. Add new products, services, media, company newsletter, or a blog to keep new content flowing.
- Make sure your website is mobile friendly. Check your website on a smart phone. Does the content load quickly and automatically resize to fit the smaller screen? Since over 60% of all searches occur on a mobile device, search engines rank mobile friendly websites higher. Test your site here.
- Use keywords in your URLs (website address). Be strategic in the use of keywords in your page URLs that describe not just the name of the page or site, but describes what it is about. By using keywords in URLs, a strong signal is sent to the search engines about the subject of the page or website.
- Make sure your website has a site map. Search engines will use the site map to navigate the site pages, check for keywords, and check for new content.
- Index your website on the major search engines. This information will tell the search engines that your site exists and will speed up the SEO process. Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools will get the process started on the two largest search engines.
- Use website links. Back links are links to your website from other websites. Create business listings on sites such as Yelp!, Yellowpages.com, Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, Yahoo!, Localpages.com, and all of your social media pages with links to your website. On the same subject, add external links to your website to social media accounts and authoritative content. This practice is called link building and broadens your online presence and helps with search engine rankings.
- Speed up site loading. If your site takes more than 3 seconds to load, consider using less graphics and media. Site loading speed is a major factor in the search engine rankings and most consumers will abandon a site that takes too long to load. Use this tool to test your website speed.
- Secure your website communication using HTTPS. HTTPS is a secure protocol that encrypts communications and enhances privacy from attackers. Look at your websites address, if address starts with http://, then your site communications are not secure and open to attackers. Search engines rank secure websites higher in search results.
- Don’t abuse keywords. A past SEO practice was to put tens or even hundreds of keywords into every description, tag, or at the bottom of each page. Search engines got wise to this practice called “keyword stuffing” and now punish websites that use this strategy. As a rule of thumb, if the content reads or looks awkward, don’t do it.
SEO is a great strategy to get more website visitors that turn into customers. As with other digital marketing strategies, activity and content are the key components to making SEO successful. By following these tips and daily or weekly putting in the effort, you will see the results follow. If you need assistance, let us know, we are here to help.