Before we dive into SEO and dissect what makes it so crucial, we firstly must to define what it is. In a nut shell, it’s the process of optimizing a website to ensure it is as search engine friendly as possible, and ensuring that search engine recognizes that. SEO has become a well-known web process and if you want your business to succeed, it is undoubtedly a necessity. At its simplest function SEO is how you gain traffic from free search results via search engines – often referred to as organic traffic. If you plan on having a successful business, not only must you have a great website that is both aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate but it must be searchable. Having a fantastic website that no one can find via search engines is like kitting out a shop and leaving the shutters closed.
The industry’s capacity for competition is at an all-time high with anyone having the ability to create a website from their own home, using web development platforms such as Wix. This has resulted in the digital world being completely saturated with everything from big companies through to individual blogs. It’s inevitable that as the crowd continues to grow it is now harder than ever for your business to be found, and SEO is the only way to make sure you’re seen. SEO is habitually overlooked by being seen as a lengthy and non-rewarding and whilst it is true that it is a long term strategy, when done right it’s definitely worth the investment.
An example that highlights the potential that SEO possesses is the Reston Limo case study.The limousine company invested in an SEO strategy that would enable them to stand out within their competitive Washington DC market. Their efforts resulted in an 85% monthly increase in leads from the previous year, and a total whopping 107% increase in total traffic for 2015 – 89% of which was organic search traffic1. This strategy proved the rule of return of investment, escalating the company into one of the top ranking spots and into the reach of paying customers.
Small businesses are the companies who are in the position to gain the most from SEO, however this can be an unrecognized factor. SEO when done properly can propel a relatively unknown starter business into top ranking search results for target clients to see. With 93% of online experiences beginning with a search engine2 it’s a business strategy that cannot be overlooked. Imagine putting the business on a plate and handing it to the customer, that’s what SEO can do.
A recent study showed that 60% of clicks from a search engine page go to the top three results2; if you didn’t realize how important search engine rankings are, hopefully you’re getting a pretty good idea. Investing your time and resources into planning and executing a successful SEO strategy will get you the results you want but it’s important to know it’s not a quick fix and will always will be a constant process.
I’d like it yesterday.
SEO is notoriously a long game, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying to cheat the system and skip to the top. Black hat SEO is the term given for people who use underhand practices to get ahead in the search rankings – but ultimately end up paying a high price. Black hat SEO ranges from strategies that sometimes aren’t intentionally carried out to tactics that blatantly breach the search engine guidelines. Keyword stuffing, doorway pages, and adding unrelated keywords just to rank are examples of aggressive black hat SEO techniques. Although effective, these unethical tactics can get your website banned from Google and other search engines. With users easily able to report a spam website and Google penalties growing more sophisticated, it is inevitable that any site carrying these techniques will be penalized. So why do people use it and risk falling of the Google planet into the realms of the unsearchable? There are those who are simply looking for a quick financial return, and don’t see the threat of a permanent search engine ban that much of a risk.
The alternative and ethical approach is known as white hat SEO, the methods and tactics used abide by the search engine rules and policies. For those who wish to invest in a long-term strategy for their website this is the best and most rewarding approach to take. White hat status is achieved through including and optimizing written content, meta information and images for example. SEO can seem like a minefield, but is simply a list of tasks (albeit a long list!) carefully combined and executed to achieve maximum recognition from Google. It’s not a secret formula but a carefully constructed formula nonetheless. Additionally, to maintain a white SEO approach site owners should to consider the competition within their chosen industry, monitoring your competitors allows you to tailor your SEO approach in accordance to the data you accumulate.
When search engine optimization was first introduced it followed a much simpler process based around the use of ‘backlinks’; however due to developing web technology the practice now focuses on several key algorithms. Google have become synonymous with SEO algorithms, having created numerous series of algorithms for websites to follow. Each series is subject to frequent updates or a ‘refresh’, making small but important adjustments. Google’s Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird series of algorithms have become infamous within the SEO industry and aid Google in their mission to improve the relevancy of results users receive. It is important to understand that you cannot always be prepared for an impending algorithm because whilst some updates come with a forewarning, Google has been known to make updates without announcements, and only reveal later on when the update is already live and active within the algorithm. Therefore, site owners need to be aware that changes in results could be a derivative of new algorithm.
SEO today is constantly changing and making sure users are being provided with what they are looking for through the algorithms and additional practices such as long-tail keywords. Choosing SEO in the modern day means committing to the repetitive process of optimizing the site and then reviewing, again and again and again and again…
So, how long?
SEO is not a strategy that will get you quick results, but in the long run has been proven to deliver a better return of investment than any other form of online marketing. For instance, businesses may be enticed by social media as they initially gain more traffic and attention to the website, which is critical for brand awareness and plays a large role for business’ who can provide customer service via a social media platform. When it comes to getting organic traffic to your website however, it is search engine optimization that remains the king of tools and is the best director of organic traffic to the site. SEO surpasses the effectiveness of social media by more than 300% making it undeniable that it is an essential for a successful business3.
The first 3 months are crucial and preparation really is key. With to-do lists the length of an arm it is during the first 12 weeks that SEO set up and a platform is created from which all future work underpins. Noticeable results tend to kick in around 6 months with fully successful SEO taking roughly a year to come into its full power. A year sounds like a long time but when it is in place, and with the regular optimizations and reviews, it will become a driver of non-stop organic traffic to your site. When done properly, there is no way to skip the wait as building a trusting relationship with your audience simply takes time. There is however, one way you can help encourage this and that is to make sure your business is producing content.
Content really is king.
Content gives your business the opportunity to provide more information to the customer, which ultimately is helping the customer carry out their research – which in turn helps builds trust. Publishing blog content is great way to do this as the average UK person spends 22 hours and 15 minutes on the internet each month with 22.7% of that time being spent on social networks and blogs. Meaning that people are spending a huge 1.25 hours per week looking for information – it’s down to you to present them with it2.
SEO recognition is affected by the quantity, quality and frequency of the content. So invest in creating content that is of high quality, and relevant for both today and tomorrow, this means your content won’t be risk seeming outdated.
The benefits of content speak for itself, however in order to use it across your website it first needs to be created. A working day is packed full of tasks as it is, so finding time to create content can be harder than it sounds. To ensure read-worthy content time and effort is required to achieve this; a spare twenty minutes to whack out a couple of paragraphs isn’t going to cut it.
You first need to schedule in time for writing; if creating content is new for you this means re-evaluating your current work tasks, and cutting some time from them. Content comes at high priority and making time for it can’t be forgone. Having created the necessary time, before you start writing make sure you’ve set yourself up for a winning piece. Do this by setting yourself better goals, instead of your task title being to ‘create content’ schedule in ‘marketing blog post 500 words’. This allows you to not only have more focus but enables you track your progress on the task, with a physical finish line in sight.
Invest some time in building a content calendar; by creating some categories for your content to cover, and brainstorm to fill them with ideas, you can then plan these into your calendar to ensure you stay on track for producing regular and relevant content.
A great piece of content is no use with a poor title, 80% of people will read your headlines, but only 20% of these will go onto read the rest of your content4. So don’t overlook the importance of a strong headline, as these are vital to give a good first impression. Brainstorm to come up with a few possible headlines before deciding on one.
Furthermore, delegate some time to reusable content. Whilst initially it requires sacrificing more time to create this goldmine content, the finished product will reward you later on. Choose big topics that require plenty of discussion with lots of detail, this makes breaking it down easier further down the line. Overtime you will begin to build up a library of raw, original content. This content can be repurposed with minor tweaking’s to transform it into a new piece. For instance, an article on social media for businesses can quickly be turned into a blog post for how small businesses can benefit from social media.
When your content isn’t restricted to a narrow topic, it becomes adaptable into multiple formats with plenty of motives. You need to realize that content has the potential to communicate beyond a post, and when used correctly can propose value to customers, business prospects and others in the market. Content can be flexible; you just have to make it that way.
This overview of search engine optimization has identified the key components of the process, and what can effect it. What is undeniable is that the power of SEO cannot be compared, as its ability to project and escalate a websites status is unparalleled. Any business would be foolish to opt against this strategy; all good businesses should invest in a good SEO strategy (including your competitors) to make sure your business isn’t alienating itself from potential clients and standing tall against your competitors.
Along with a great SEO plan a website that looks good is useless if it doesn’t work right, it is imperative that your site is of the same high standard – regardless of how good your SEO strategy is, it can only go as far as the website allows it. So invest time and resources into making sure it functions smoothly, loads fast and is easy to navigate. All of this criteria will have an effect on how successful you SEO is.
Additionally, with algorithms that are subject to more frequent updates and refresh’s’ than ever before, the level of dedication and emphasis suggests that the future of SEO is only set to improve. Do not mistake the constant changes to algorithms as a sign of them being faulty, it is simply a case of them working towards perfection; with experts working round the clock to improve SEO’s reliability and success rate.