Much has been said about SEO, which is short for search engine optimization.
People claim that it is one of the most cost-efficient and sustainable strategies to increase sales of your online business. For that reason, SEO has also become one of the most popular ways for businesses to increase their online reach.
According to a study conducted at MediaPost last year, US companies will have spent over $65 billion dollars for their yearly SEO campaigns. The figure will only grow in the coming years with $72 B on 2018 and $79 B the year after.
Simply put, there is money to be made with SEO, which explains why people are throwing money on SEO campaigns for their businesses. Therefore, if you want to understand how this strategy can help your online business achieve greater heights, then read on and determine for yourself if you want to jump into the SEO pit.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the process of getting your website to rank in search results for your target keyword.
“Target keyword” refers to search queries you enter on the search engine bar. For example, if you have a nail salon business in Dallas, TX, you want to be seen in search results when someone enters “nail salon Dallas” or “nail spa texas.”
“Search results” are pages that rank for your target keyword. This is where search rankings come into place. Search engines reward web pages with content that is most relevant to the search query. If our hypothetical nail salon ranks on the fourth of fifth page of Google search result (there are ten results for every page) for “nail salon Dallas,” then it means that there are over 40-50 sites that provide more relevant and useful data than yours about the search query.
The higher the ranking of a page in search results, the more relevant it is about the target keyword. The methods on how to rank your site on the first result on organic search will be discussed later.
The whole idea of SEO, therefore, is to rank your website on the top spot of search results, if not on the first three spots.
According to the April 2017 data of Advanced Web Ranking, the top search result generated just below 30% user clicks on desktop and a shy of 25% on mobile devices. The second and third results received a click-through rate of an average of 15% and 10%, respectively, on desktop and mobile. The other results only garnered single digits, which gives you all the more reason to rank your site not lower than the third place in search results.
When it comes to SEO, there is only search engine that you want to focus all your energies on. I’m talking about Google. With over 3.5 billion searches per day according to InternetLiveStats.com, there is no question that Google is the top search engine in the market for the time being.
Next to Google is Bing, a Microsoft-owned search engine company that is slow climbing the ranks. It currently sits at 21.6% shares of desktop searches with over 63% for Google according to comScore. Much of its strengths lie in its voice search feature available in Windows 10 with the “Hey Cortana” command.
Voice is making a strong case for the future of search and Bing is well-positioned in that regard. However, in the meantime, if you want to drive organic traffic to your site from the old-fashioned desktop search (or even mobile), then Google is all you need to rank for at the moment.
Why should you do SEO?
The goal of every business is to make a sale, plain and simple. If the strategy they’re currently implementing isn’t earning them a lick, then there’s no reason why they should keep doing it.
SEO has proven time and again that it is not only a great way to attract organic traffic to your site, but also leverage those visitors into becoming customers and clients of your business.
One of the biggest advantages of SEO that explain its popularity among startups and small businesses is its ability to level the playing field. Big companies have deep pockets to launch a media campaigns that consist of TV and radio ads, as well as other sophisticated campaigns that cost a fortune. Since startups don’t have that financial luxury, many turn to SEO instead with great results.
Take this example of a small financial advisory firm that was able to raise its traffic high enough for some important keyword that its value on AdWords skyrocketed to $1,500 a month.
A much better example of an SEO success can be seen in this case study of the Skyscraper Technique popularized by Brian Dean of Backlinko.
Using this method, a brand new blog about startups with zero social followers published a post that listed down sites that offer free stock photos.
The results were remarkable – the post allows generated exactly 17,548 visitors in a single day!
These are just some of the results that effective SEO can do for your business. It only proves that you don’t need loads of cash to be seen by your target audience. All you need is creativity and ingenuity, both of which can be done through SEO, to compete in your market.
How to do SEO?
First thing first – keyword research
At the very heart of every successful SEO campaign is your ability to choose the best keywords for your site. Researching for the right keywords can be a painstaking process.
Ideally, you want to find keywords with the most search volume and the least competition. However, both are almost exclusive of each other – keywords with the most search volume have the most competition while the least competition has little to no search volume at all.
Eventually, you need to choose keywords and run SEO campaigns to test and see which among the keywords produce the best results.
On-page SEO refers to variables that you can control and optimize your site pages to boost your search rankings.
Keywords and relevant phrases in the right place
This includes placing your keywords and other relevant phrases in your page title, URL, and content sub headings (<h2>, <h3>, etc).
Creating a well-defined hierarchy for your site pages allows search engine spiders to crawl your site faster. Also, from a user experience standpoint, you present your content in a clear manner that makes navigating on your site much easier.
There are two reasons why your site mobile-friendliness is important to your site rankings.
1- In April 2015, Google has stated clearly that they are boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results. So if your competitors’ sites are mobile friendly and yours are not; then very likely they will overtake your search positions.
2- Google is now running on a mobile-first index. This means Google will create and rank its search listings based on the mobile version of content, even for listings that are shown to desktop users.
To check if your site is mobile-friendly, you can examine individual pages with the Mobile-Friendly Test or check the status of your entire site through the Mobile Usability report in Webmaster Tools.
Google has stated it clearly that site speed is one of its many ranking factors. This means your site may rank higher if it’s loading quick.
Also – the faster you deliver your pages to users, the more likely they will stay on your site to view your content. This in turn, generates good user engagement date (low bounce rates), which will further improve your Google rankings (studies show that lower bounce rates often equals to higher rankings at Google).
If your current site speed is slow – here are 14 tips to speed up your site.
- HTTP status codes – Determine if the pages can be viewed by users, are redirected, or have errors regarding the client or server side.
- Broken links – Find out if your pages are linking to broken pages, whether within your site or to other site pages.
- Meta tags – Check and see if you have unique meta tags (title and description) on all your pages. Also, sees if you have duplicate meta tags that need to be resolved.
- Image sizes – Analyzes all the file sizes of the pictures in your server. Ideally, all images should not go over the 100k limit.
- Duplicate content – Find out if your site has more than one page with the same content so you can either remove the duplicate page, redirect one to the other, or label rel=canonical on the correct link.
Once you are familiar with the most crucial on-page SEO factors, you need to worry about off-page SEO next. In fact, off-page SEO can be deduced to a single activity: link building.
A backlink to your site is similar to a recommendation in real life. If you are applying for jobs, a recommendation from a colleague or a manager can go well with your potential employers. By having someone else speak of the value you bring to the table, it could have a more positive impact on others. Corollary, a link from another tells search engines that your site is trustworthy. The fact that the site owner took the initiative to link to your page or post can be interpreted that your page is indeed useful in the eyes of others.
The idea of link building is to generate and acquire backlinks from reputable websites. Acquiring backlinks from thousands of sites with mediocre reputation isn’t as powerful as getting a backlink from a site like Forbes, Entrepreneur, or CNN. The process of building links puts a premium on quality over quantity. The onus should be on generating backlinks from authoritative sites, no matter how few they are online, as much as possible.
SEO has proven time and again that it is one of the best tactics that startups and small businesses should implement if they want to compete against the big players online. SEO gives the smallest of sites a fighting chance in targeting their audience for their keywords and drive organic traffic their way.