Why Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Matters
You’ve probably heard of search engine optimization or SEO, but aren’t actually sure what it is or how it can help you.
SEO is setting up your website in a way that allows search engines to easily decipher the site. This can include optimizing your website’s title tags, header tags, and inbound links; important signals that search engines use when ranking a site.
The goal of SEO is to have your website appear in search results pages for keywords that your consumers are looking for.
Table of Contents
- Understanding SEO
- Maximizing Online Visibility
- Securing Your Online Reputation
- Capturing Organic Leads
- Investing in SEO
The goal of search engines is to connect searchers with the information they’re looking for. If you’re searching for a plumber in NYC, the search engines have to identify which sites are relevant and display them on the search results page.
When determining relevance, search engines look at a number of signals. Since the system is automated and controlled by a computer, we can identify which signals are important and help search engines return your website for relevant searches.
Let’s go back to the “plumber in NYC” example. If you searched that in Google, the search engine would try to return websites from plumbing business in NYC.
It would look for clues from the websites to first identify if it’s about plumbing. The search engine would try to look for the term plumber (or a synonym) in the title tag or content throughout the site.
Once it’s identified websites that are relevant for plumbing, it needs to figure out where the business is located. Google would be doing a bad job if it returned businesses located in California if you’re looking for businesses in NYC.
To determine location, Google would use signals such as your office’s address or phone number (if included on the site). It might also use clues from maps, such as the embeddable Google map.
Optimizing your website means configuring your websites in a way that ensures that search engines return your website when consumers are looking for your services.
Maximizing Online Visibility
One of the best tools available for optimizing your website is launching a blog. Blogs allow a small business to continually expand their website and create new pages for search engines and consumers.
Imagine if you were the a plumber in NYC and had just launched a website. You want to maximize your online visibility, so you launch a blog.
On the blog, you might publish how-to guides for fixing and maintaining plumbing around the house.
It would seem counter-intuitive to give away information that makes you money, but the truth is that writing these guides can lead to new clients. Consumers that read your guides might realize that it’s just too much work and instead hire you to fix their plumbing.
Not only do these information resources position you as an expert in the plumbing industry, but search engines love these types of guides. Search engines use these guides as the content displayed to consumers with questions.
Although the local NYC plumber may not directly gain new NYC clients from these guides, the reputation the plumber gains (as an industry expert) will help the site gain relevance for key terms like “nyc plumber”. Google and other search engines reward those that are industry experts.
With a blog and well optimized site, your business can increase its online visibility. Each page published acts as a new entry point for the website and can increase the business’ relevance for high volume search terms.
Imagine if you were a plumber with a website that was on the first page for the term “NYC plumber” – you would suddenly be reaching 12,100 potential consumers every month (that’s the number of people that search for “NYC plumbers”!).
Securing Your Online Reputation
What happens if you Google your business name right now? What comes up? Is there a negative article? Is it all about your business or is there information from your competitors?
The search results page based around your brand name is your online reputation, it’s what consumers see when they look for your business. Ensuring your business is always being displayed in the best light is called online reputation management and can be influenced with SEO.
If the first result for your business name isn’t your website, then building your online authority through SEO can help increase the website’s ranking.
However, if there are websites that you don’t have to appear on your business’ search results page you can use social media profiles to change the page. (KnowEm is a great application for quickly securing social profile.) Building social media profiles with your business’ name can push other websites off the search results page.
Optimizing your website and your social media profiles for search engines can ensure that negative reviews have a difficult time impacting your online reputation.
Capturing Organic Leads
The most important benefit of SEO is that it can change your website from a simple online presence to a vehicle for lead generation.
We already outlined, above, how that could work with the example of the NYC plumber. But let’s say your industry is really competitive and you aren’t able to rank for a generic keyword like “NYC plumber”.
Search engine optimization techniques generally don’t only focus on major keywords. Optimally, a website with a blog will target the “long-tail” of keywords.
This strategy is based on the idea that the majority of searches are actually longer variations on the shorter term.
Let’s use the term “NYC plumber” as an example again. This short tail keyword gets 12,000+ searches per month. But, the related (lower competition) terms “discount plumbing”, “water heating plumbing”, and “plumbing emergency services” each get over 4,000 local searches.
If you were able to win these lower competition terms, you could end up with as much traffic as the term “NYC plumber”.
Not only does the long tail have the ability to equal or exceed the amount of traffic driven by a short tail keyword, it tends to be more specific and relevant.
Smart SEO experts will advice businesses to make very specific service pages so that the website is able to target these long tail terms. It’s one of the best ways to drive targeted traffic to your website for the specific services that you offer.
Investing in SEO
Investing in SEO is no different than any other marketing channel. The more you invest in the strategy, the more you’ll get out of it.
As a minimum, all small businesses should invest in making sure their website is optimized and all the on-site configurations are done correctly.
If you have the resources available, I highly recommend launching a blog and investing in keeping it up to date with content. This investment could be time (if you’re writing the posts), or money (if you’re outsourcing the content).
Launching a blog allows you to use each article published as an entry point for new consumers. It also allows you to increase your visibility in your industry and authority as an expert in your niche.
Those that want to fully commit to SEO as a marketing strategy will have to invest in link building. Search engines look at the number of links from other sites pointing to yours, to determine authority (imagine each link to your website as a thumbs up or a vote for your business).
Link building is an SEO service that many firms offer, where they identify relevant sites and either request a link or write content specifically for the site. Be wary and do your homework, finding a good link building consultant is difficult and there are many that will happily take your money and offer you less-than-reputable service.
Just employing the basics of SEO will put you ahead of your competitors. It’s not a magic bullet for your marketing woes, but it’s definitely a necessary marketing channel.
Consumers are searching for your business and your services online. Is your website there? Don’t miss another opportunity, focus on SEO today.
How did you get started with SEO for your business website? What have you done? What confuses you? Leave a comment and let us know!
Image Credit: Kexino