Without SEO, your website is invisible.
Well, not invisible to everyone; you can still see it. But I’m sure you didn’t build your beautiful website just for yourself. You want visitors, and an estimated 64% of site visits come from searches on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines. However, without SEO, your site won’t show up in the top results when people search for services you provide, so they won’t get a chance to visit your website or do business with you — no matter how great your services are.
So what exactly is SEO? SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It is a process of optimizing your site based on search engine ranking criteria so you can show up among top search results and have more people visit your site. It sounds easy enough, except search engine ranking is tremendously complex. There are numerous factors and layers involved in the ranking criteria and people still don’t understand some of them. What’s worse, the criteria change at the whim of the search engines and they frequently don’t explain what has changed. Don’t be discouraged though. In this article, we’ll try to explain how SEO works in an approachable manner and give you some actionable advice.
Google has 70% of global search engine market share so we’ll just use Google as an example of search engines here. Google aims to bring the most relevant content when people search for information. They send out virtual visitors called “spiders” to “crawl” websites, which check over 100 indicators to rank how valuable each site is. When someone Googles a phrase, all the websites related to the phrase will be in search results and the ones that spiders ranked highly will show up among the top, getting more visibility and more visits.
SEO is likely the most cost-effective way to show up on the first page of search results. Think of SEO as the process of feeding the spiders. You optimize your site based on Google’s criteria, so the spiders like what they find on your site and give you a high ranking. Spiders prefer valuable original content and comprehensive lists of keywords people usually search for when they try to find someone like you. Spiders also appreciate skillful website architecture that provides clues within your content so they can crawl easily — they are smart, but they can’t understand all the content like humans yet. Many other factors affect how much the spiders will like your site, and they are frequently changing. You can take a look at a detailed list of factors here. The key takeaway for SEO is that you don’t have to try to game the system — if you have a site that’s easy to navigate and has content that’s engaging and relevant to your clients, you’re well on your way.
SEO can take a lot of effort but also yields great improvement in findability and conversion rate when done right. Investing in SEO is worthwhile because search drives the most traffic to content sites, 10 times more than social media, and has 10-15 times higher conversion rate than social media. Ranking high in local search also has a direct impact on in-store traffic — Google’s research finds “50% of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day, and 34% who searched on computer/tablet did the same.” Since 75% of users never scroll past the first page, being among top search results means you get most of these visits, both online and offline.
So what can you do to get started? Google says creating useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors. Think about the words that people search for to find you and create original content around those keywords. For example, you may want to write about new popular services that can help you stand out from your competitors. You can also distribute your content to reputable websites and encourage customers to review your business on review sites — just be sure that those 3rd party sites link back to your site. The key is to keep improving your online presence with fresh valuable information.
It is also important that your site is mobile-optimized for SEO. In 2015, Google announced that more searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in the US and that they are now giving mobile-friendly sites higher rankings. You should make sure that your site looks as great on a smartphone as it does on a computer.
Ultimately, achieving SEO doesn’t just make your site appear worthy in Google’s eyes; your prospective customers will also appreciate your content and do more business with you.
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