Common reactions to the words, Search Engine Optimization, could be a stare, yawn, or obvious glazing over. What is it? Should I care about it - is it important? What work is involved? How do I get started? I think one reason for these reactions is there are many activities performed that collectively make up an SEO program - most of which are generally unknown to business owners, and therefore unassigned to anyone. Another reason is that a good amount of companies don’t know SEO is even “a thing.”
It may sound complex, but it can be very simple and powerful for business growth.
What is it?
SEO is the ongoing work required to:
- Build credibility for your website with search engines.
- Ensure you are connecting with the appropriate seekers for your products/services – with search engine support.
- Leverage your website to be an efficient marketing and lead generation tool.
- Attract the best potential customers to your website.
Is it Important?
In order to use a website to generate interest in your company - ultimately leads - SEO is something at a fundamental level that needs some serious consideration. Static websites will sink in search results over time, falling out of favor with the search engines. An SEO program will allow you to maximize a website’s value by bringing qualified and interested traffic to it, which is typically the objective of a website.
SEO should be considered a cost of doing business and is one of the most quantifiable, cost-effective marketing initiatives available.
Effective SEO = Increased qualified website traffic.
What work is involved?
SEO requires regular work to be done on the website, as well as beyond it, to get the attention from search engines to ultimately rise up in search rankings (the end goal).
The point of SEO is to accurately attract quality visitors to a website who are seeking specific types of products and services. Essentially, the idea is to strategically focus on the best types of customers, creating content that really speaks to them, their everyday pains and frustrations, and helps to provide a solution through your products and services. This seems to cause a bit of frustration for some, but when you think about it, Google and other search engines are merely trying to bring your most relevant and interested prospects to your website.
However, most of the manufacturers I have spoken with over the past several years are busy running the business, and have precious little time to learn the ins and outs of how to make sure their website bubbles to the top when a customer or prospect searches for their products and services online.
Like so many aspects of doing business, technology has changed the face of Search Engine Optimization drastically in a few short years. There was a time when regularly updating your website with a new photo or content would indicate to search engines that your site was active and being maintained. This was a necessary activity to increase in search rankings – back in the day.
Today, there is “on page” and “off page” work that must be completed on a consistent basis in order to maintain your site’s reputation, and rise in the search rankings. On page work, such as ensuring your content resonates with customers, is critical in showing search engines that you are credible and worthy of having relevant traffic sent to your website. This is critical in attracting “warm” visitors, and not those who bounce right off the home page, wondering how they landed there in the first place. There are some other initial structural checks and balances to be made as well, ensuring the site is in proper form to be indexed by search engines, meaning on the list to check regularly with their own technology.
Off page work includes creating content using your specific keywords and keyword phrases solely for the purpose of search engines to source. There are many web sites that search engines use to provide an indication as to whether a website is credible. Humans are not the audience for this content, and it is to be created and written to connect with robots and crawlers. Those creative writing skills learned in school will not be exercised on this piece of SEO work. There is also other off page work to be accomplished, such as backlinks from other websites to yours. This is kind of like a vote of confidence from an objective source – also something search engines value highly in serving up your website to those seeking your products and services.
While technology has led to new SEO expectations, technology is also available to assist in the work to achieve higher SEO rankings, providing some efficiency for companies who do this type of work on a larger scale. One critical aspect of executing an SEO program is being knowledgeable of changes in what Google expects of websites. Some larger changes are well publicized, such as mobility a few years ago. But there is also continuous tweaking to the algorithm that is not publicized, leaving the person or firm responsible for doing this work to make continuous adjustments in the SEO program as a result.
The good news is SEO doesn’t have to be overwhelming at all. Technology has provided some great tools for experts who do this work to be more efficient, measureable and scalable. In fact, SEO has become a very affordable part of a marketing program that can be outsourced to these professionals, so business owners can focus on running the business.
How to Get Started?
It is wise to compare two to three vendors. Some important criteria to use would be:
- Years of SEO experience
- Success stories
- SEO accreditations
- Normally, quotes will be based on a certain number of keywords or keyword phrases, and the work that will be completed initially and in an ongoing fashion. So ensure you request the same information from each vendor for an accurate comparison.
- Ask for a list of the specific work/tasks each vendor performs initially and ongoing.
- Ask how you will be updated on the progress of the program. A suggestion would be a report and meeting or call once a month to review results, plus a quarterly review relating back to the starting benchmarks. Seeing keywords and keyword phrases moving up in ranking over time will help reassure you that results are being achieved.
- Know the Opt-out time frame for each vendor if you are not satisfied with the program.
Companies have 2 “front doors” to welcome customers today; the physical front door, and a website – the virtual front door. Just like the physical front door, a website can be attractive, inviting and easy to navigate, or not. And it can be open or closed. SEO is important in terms of attracting prospects and customers, making the website a powerful marketing tool and lead generator. And, it works behind the scene 24/7. Considering about 70% of the buying process takes place on the internet today, if a website is not optimized, it is not as visible to be considered in this process.
Whether resources are slim or robust for marketing, Search Engine Optimization is the hands down one of the most fundamental, affordable, measureable and impactful choices available today to help grow business.