The Basics of SEO, and Why Your Business Needs It
For any small business that wants to make the most of its online presence, SEO is an absolute must. While SEO is not a marketing strategy that yields lightning-quick results, over time it is the most dependable and sustainable way to increase revenues and boost your bottom line.
If you are relatively new to the world of eCommerce and/or digital marketing, you may have a number of questions about SEO. For instance: “What is it? How does it work? What benefits can it bring to my business?”
This article will discuss the answers to those and other questions. In order to find out what SEO is all about, let’s first begin with a simple definition.
What Is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. Put simply, SEO is a way to rank higher on Google’s results pages. Why is that so important?
Think of it this way: in the old days, before the Internet and smartphones and computers and all of these cool technological gadgets that we enjoy were available, how did businesses increase their visibility? Perhaps they would use print advertisements in a widely circulated newspaper. So, if all of the residents in a certain town only read one newspaper, the companies that regularly published large, colorful advertisements in that paper would become much more well-known than their competitors that didn’t do so.
What’s the point? In today’s digital marketplace, Google is like that one newspaper; except it has a monopoly not on a single town, city, or country, but on the entire world! And the companies that land on its first results page for any given search have the “largest” and “most colorful” advertisements. In short, they are more visible than their competitors.
The bottom line is, whether you want to beat out local competition in Anytown, USA, or want to strengthen your brand on a global level, you need to get on Google’s good side. And the only way to do that is through SEO.
How Does SEO Work?
The details of how SEO works can quickly get complicated. However, we’ll discuss two basic concepts that you should understand, and three principles that will help your SEO-driven content to be most effective.
Two Key Concepts
The two concepts are relevance and authority. Relevance is all about what’s important to your prospective customers; in other words, what are they looking for when they enter a search phrase into Google? When you publish a blog or article to your company’s website, you want to include important words and phrases (known as keywords) that will signal to Google which topic that post is covering. In many situations, the more specific your keywords are, the better.
As an example, a footwear company may upload a blog post about track running in 90 degree weather. Such a specific topic will likely help that post to rank higher than a more generic focus like “running when it is hot.”
Authority is a measure of how trusted and valuable a particular blog post (and by extension, the business itself) is. The more “authoritative” your site, the more likely it will rank high in Google’s results.
How do you build authority for your site? It’s not an overnight process. Basically, you’ll need to consistently provide helpful and insightful content for your audience. Over time, your readers will like, share, and link back to your original articles; and Google views each legitimate back link as a “vote of confidence” for your content. Eventually, enough of those “votes” will catapult your blogs and articles to the top of Google’s results pages!
Three Important Principles
We could mention dozens of helpful principles for generating good SEO-driven content, but here are three big ones:
- Write for humans, not Google. The days of “keyword stuffing” (overusing keywords in a poorly written article to rank higher on Google) are long gone. It is important to publish content first and foremost for human readers, not Google’s little robot crawlers. Remember, your site will only build authority through providing real value.
- Be niche-specific. If you are running a smaller operation, then publishing generic posts about your product or industry may put you in direct competition with the big boys of your industry. Think local hardware store competing with Home Depot or Lowe’s. However, if you publish content directed towards a specific niche, like our footwear company mentioned above, then it will be easier to rank near the top of Google’s results pages, since there will be less direct competition on that hyper-specific topic.
- Do your research. How can you figure out which keywords need to be included in a certain article? There are many keyword generation and keyword analysis tools out there that can help. Leverage those tools to create highly focused and tactical pieces of content.
The Benefits of SEO for Small Businesses
The benefits of SEO may start out slow at first, but make no mistake: that trickle will soon turn into a raging torrent! Here are some key benefits that SEO will bring to your business:
- It generates momentum for your company. As you become more established in your niche, the volume of traffic coming to your site will grow larger and larger, through both Google searches and “word of mouth” advertising from satisfied customers. The great thing about SEO is its relative permanence: high quality content will keep generating momentum for your company by adding value to new readers throughout its lifetime.
- It bolsters credibility. As your company’s website grows in authority, your brand’s reputation will grow along with it. People tend to trust companies that are listed on the first page or two of Google’s results; and if they trust you, they’ll be more willing to buy from you.
- It increases revenue through organic traffic. It’s just common sense that you can’t convert leads into customers unless they first engage with your brand somewhere, somehow, at some point. Think of how an ideally executed SEO strategy could help: with Google “funneling” Internet traffic towards your website, your volume of leads will increase exponentially, your conversion rate will explode, and the final result will be a massive increase in revenue. What business owner doesn’t dream of that scenario?
- It is highly cost-effective. Sure, SEO takes some work. But unlike many other marketing strategies, like pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, SEO doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, the beauty of SEO is that you can use it whether your budget is tight or a bit more flexible.
An effective SEO strategy is one of the fundamental building blocks for creating a sustainable online business. It takes a little time and effort, but it’s all but guaranteed that the investment will eventually yield a high return for your company.
That being said, small business owners and startup executives may not have a ton of experience in leveraging SEO to drive business and boost conversion rates. Other managers simply don’t have the time and resources to focus on SEO best practices like they should.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, then some help from digital marketing experts may be just what you need. At Ashford Creative, our team offers a range of services so that each of our clients can continue to grow. These services include:
- World-class web design
- eCommerce-oriented business solutions
- Comprehensive SEO implementation and continued analysis
- Assistance with online advertising
- Turnkey site management
If you’d like to learn more about the advantages that you could gain from partnering with us, reach out to Ashford Creative today.