What Is SEO & Why Is It Important?
You’ve probably heard a hundred times that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a vital digital marketing tool. But do you really know how SEO works? Even if you have a basic understanding of what it entails, you may still not have a solid grasp on this complex and multifaceted process.
SEO is made up of multiple elements, and knowing what they are and how they work is key to understanding why SEO is so important. In short, SEO is crucial because it makes your website more visible, and that means more traffic and more opportunities to convert prospects into customers.
It’s also a valuable tool for brand awareness, building relationships with prospects, and positioning yourself as an authoritative and trustworthy expert in your field. So, here’s everything you need to know about SEO and why it’s vital to succeed in today’s digital world.
The Crucial Elements of SEO Marketing
Long gone are the days when keywords were the only SEO technique that mattered, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still crucial. The difference is that today, keywords must be well-researched, carefully chosen, and judiciously used in your content in order to be effective.
But what are keywords, exactly? Keywords are words and phrases that prospects use to find online content, and that brands can then use to connect with prospects who are looking for their products and services.
When undertaking the key steps of keyword research, it’s important to look for ones that have high search rates and low competition and to choose short-tail keywords (such as dog), long-tail keywords (such as terrier puppies for sale), and local keywords (such as puppies for sale in Boston) to work into your content. Along with a primary or seed keyword, you should also have secondary and tertiary keywords as they will still offer value to your business. Finally, use keywords to optimize all your titles, URLs, and other on-page SEO elements (more on that later…)
Content is a vital part of SEO because it’s the vehicle you use to reach and engage audiences. Knowing your angle and crafting content that fits is essential.
For instance, if you owned a nursery and wanted to increase your visibility, you might publish a series of blogs about gardening, choosing the right species of plants, growing tips, and more. When a person who wanted to know about gardening went looking for that information, your blog would come up, and you’d be able to build a relationship with that prospect by providing valuable information. The idea is that when the time came for that prospect to buy a plant, for instance, you’d be the first nursery that came to mind.
Off-page SEO involves external optimization practices that happen away from your site rather than on it.
The main technique used for off-page SEO is backlink building since quality backlinks to your site from external sites tell search engines that your site is valuable and high-quality which helps to build authority.
There are many tactics to backlink building, and some of the current best practices include guest blogging, creating lots of infographics that will be highly shared, and using influencer marketing in your content.
Local SEO is becoming increasingly important as more and more people use mobile devices for search. These days, 60% of all searches are performed on a mobile device , and nearly half of those searches have local intent.
So, let’s say you own a restaurant, then local SEO would ensure that when people in your area went looking for the best restaurants in town, they’ll come across your site.
Along with using local keywords, other local SEO best practices include claiming directory listings, creating location-specific pages for your site, and creating pages for your business (also called doorway pages) on Google My Business local directories and Google Maps.
Search Engine Marketing
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) refers to paid marketing efforts, and it includes things like native ads, Google AdWords, social media ads, pay-per-click (PPC), Google shopping ads, display ads, and more.
Although SEM isn’t always a major component of a comprehensive SEO strategy, it does have its place as it can help you reach new and highly targeted audiences. You can also make your SEO and SEM work together.
Examples of SEM advertising activities include:
- Paid and targeted campaigns
- Keyword based copy that specifically relates to your business or product
- Performance indicators such as click-through-rates (CTR) and cost-per-click (CPC)
Understanding the Importance of SEO for Modern Businesses
Visibility and Rankings
One of the most important functions of SEO is increasing visibility, which means making it easier for prospects to find you when they search for something you have to offer. Visibility is directly related to your ranking.
The higher you rank on a search engine result page (SERP), the more likely prospects will see you and click through to your site, so it’s key to increase your organic page ranking. The more effective your SEO efforts, the higher your ranking and the better your visibility, which is especially important when you consider that a quarter of web users never click past the first SERP.
Increased web traffic is one of the main goals of SEO, and you increase traffic when you increase visibility and rankings. Consider this for a moment: the #1 spot on a Google search gets nearly 32% of clicks and moving up just one spot in search results can increase CTR by an amazing 30.8%.
The golden grail for many marketers is the ‘Featured Snippet’ which is often referred to as position #0 as it appears above the first ranked URL. This is usually content that’s taken from a landing page on a blog that answers a question people are searching for and can give your organic click-through a huge boost.
So, if you want more people to find your website through a search engine, then you need to use SEO practices that will help you rank among the top five positions, and ideally number one.
Page Authority (PA) is increasingly important to search engines as it’s becoming more important to web users. Essentially, authority means that your website is trustworthy, high quality, relevant, and has something to offer.
Scores range from 1 to 100 and the higher your number, the more authority your site has. You can find your PA rating by using tools such as Moz and while it’s difficult to influence it, many SEO experts believe it’s to do with link profile – getting external links from credible and well visited sources.
Creating a Better Visitor Experience
Another reason SEO is critical is because all the time you put into generating great content and on-page SEO optimization improves the usability of your site. This creates a seamless and positive customer experience.
For instance, when you take steps to make your site responsive, it will make it usable for all your mobile visitors as well as people who visit from a laptop or desktop. Similarly, by increasing your page load speed, you’ll reduce your bounce rate and encourage visitors to spend longer on your site. Consumers expect a page to load as quickly as possible with a limit on loading to not creep past three seconds! The longer the load time, the higher the bounce rate and the lower your conversions.
Remember, Search Engines Are Fallible
SEO is important because search engines aren’t perfect. If you don’t take steps to counter their failings, then your website will pay the price.
For example, if a site doesn’t have a proper link structure, then search engines may not crawl and index the site properly which can lower rankings. Coding errors can block search engines entirely, making it impossible for your site to rank, no matter how much time you put into other SEO efforts. Other common areas where search engines can run into problems include:
- Duplicate pages
- Images, flash, audio files, video, and other non-textual content
- Language and Semantics