“What is SEO, and why does my site need it?”
This is a question I hear on a daily basis and one I myself asked a few years ago. Before I worked here at Boostability and learned about search engine optimization or SEO, I did the marketing for a few local businesses. Online marketing was something that I hadn’t really done before; it was new territory that I wasn’t familiar with. People say that hindsight is 20/20, and they’re right. Back then, I wish I had known a little bit more about how the search engines worked, what SEO actually meant, and why it was important.
Many business owners will find themselves in a similar position. Don’t panic: it isn’t as complicated as you may think.
First off, let’s talk about what the search engines do. Search engines essentially have two jobs. First, they crawl the Internet looking for information. Second, using the information that they have cached, they try to provide the best answers for whatever questions people search for.
So how does SEO fit into this? SEO is the art of making you and your company the best possible answer to someone’s search query so that your website will show up at the top of the search results.
Here are some reasons why SEO practices will be pivotal to your website’s success:
#1: More people are using Google and the other search engines to find what they need
According to statisticbrain.com, there were almost two trillion searches performed on Google in 2011. That’s about 400 billion more than 2010 and almost 800 billion more than 2009. And that’s just on Google!
One of the best things about the search engines is that, if I am a consumer looking to buy a particular product, I know exactly where to go to find it. I no longer have to spend time digging through a phone book or wait for an ad or coupon mailer, hoping that I’ll find the product or service I need. If I need to buy something, all I have to do is open up a Google search bar and type in the product I need.
The trouble for your business is that most people will look at the first few results and find what they are looking for. If your site is stuck on the 12th page of results, there is a small likelihood of your company being found. This is why you need search engine optimization. You can target specific keywords that are pertinent to your site and work to achieve higher rankings on those keywords.
#2: Your competitors are doing it
If you are a small business owner trying to decide if SEO is right for you, then simply search for your product online. If some of your competitors show up before you, then it’s a safe bet that you could be selling more of your product if you ranked there as well. This is a simple test that works whether you sell customized iPad cases or local plumbing services.
One of my first companies I worked with in marketing was a heating and air conditioning company. I had a hard time believing that people were searching for our service online. I did a couple of Google searches and, sure enough, one of my biggest competitors showed up over and over. I wanted to beat this company in every way. I knew we had a better product; I knew our service was better. The search engines just hadn’t been informed. I started implementing SEO techniques that day. More and more people use the search engines to find what they need: you can bet your competition already has a presence online and that potential clients of yours are using their services.
#3: Unlike most advertising, SEO is an asset for your company that becomes more valuable over time
Let me give you an example: If I purchased space on a billboard for my small business, as long as I have a good product in the right area, I can expect a reasonable return. However, as soon as the billboard goes down, most of those calls will stop coming.
Quality SEO will impact your site month after month. As you continue to optimize your site, you will rank higher and higher for more keyword terms. As you start to rank for the terms you’ve targeted, it will be easier for the search engines to recognize you as a trusted source and subsequent terms won’t be as hard to rank for. Whatever you’re planning to do with your business, how great will it be to have multiple keywords that rank at the top of the search engines as a company asset?
#4: It is a great way to grow your business and sell more of your product or service
This may be the most important reason for all. Almost everyone I talk to wants to grow his or her business. With SEO, you get to optimize your site for the type of clients you’re looking for. How often have you wanted more clients that are in need of your service?
If there is an area of your business that you want to grow, get optimized for those keywords. You can send 10,000 flyers hoping that a few people might respond back. Or you can optimize your site for the terms that you want so that the people actually looking for your product can find you. It all comes down to the numbers. SEOmoz posted a great article about how to calculate your ROI (return on investment). Compare your potential return on SEO services with what you get using traditional marketing, and I think you’ll be surprised with how effective SEO can be at raising your bottom line.
Every year, more and more people buy products online and use the search engines to find the local business whose service they need. With SEO, everyone has to start somewhere. Decide if it makes sense for your business and make the commitment to get started. If you have already started, then continue with your efforts and keep learning.