What the Heck Is SEO and Is It a Big Deal for My Business?
We'll cut right to the chase: yes, it is a really BIG deal. That’s why we’re here to spill the tea on what exactly SEO is, and how you can use it to benefit your business.
What the heck is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. Search engines (like Google) exist to serve the user – they take whatever the user types or dictates into the search bar, and scour the internet to produce the most accurate, relevant results for that particular query.
SEO refers to the techniques that can be employed to increase visibility within search engines, with the ultimate goal of earning more organic (a.k.a unpaid) traffic. It’s a set of processes that businesses can use so that Google (or any search engine) considers their website to be a valuable search result when users search for target keywords in their industry.
To earn one of those top spots, it’s essential that your website produces relevant, high-quality content and provides the best possible user experience.
Why Bother with SEO?
Think about the sort of things you type into Google (or if you’re brave, take a stroll through your browser history). We can make the most niche, outlandish, barely comprehensible requests and yet somehow, Google always delivers. Its ability to determine what a user is looking for and then serve it up on a silver platter is remarkable, and it all comes down to SEO.
Billions (yes, billions) of searches are conducted every single day as users seek products and information. Knowing this, it’s no surprise that successful websites receive large volumes of organic traffic! The key to achieving that success and harnessing the potential of this abundant traffic source lies in SEO practices, which in turn propels your website to the top search results for your specific keywords.
At its core, it’s very simple: higher rankings correlate directly to more traffic.
Those top three organic search result spots, (affectionately known as the Map Pack, 3 Pack or Local Pack – more on this in next month’s blog!) hold the most power by a substantial margin, receiving over half of all clicks. This makes sense – when you’re searching for something on Google, how often do you make it to the bottom of the page before you find what you’re looking for?
SEO plays an integral role in a website’s ranking.
Strong SEO practices result in better rankings, and those improved rankings result in higher traffic, and that traffic ultimately leads to new customers and increased brand awareness.
To put it bluntly, SEO is not something to be ignored. It is the most direct and reliable route to one of the most important traffic channels for a business, and to neglect SEO leaves that space wide open for competitors to swoop in and take that traffic for themselves.
How the Heck Do Search Engines Work?
While there is a range of search engines for users to choose from, Google is by far the most popular choice (but all search engines function in generally the same way).
To effectively locate and rank content, Google employs the following technique:
Crawling: Using advanced computer programs (commonly referred to as “bots” or “spiders”), Google scans the web and looks for web pages.
Indexing: After crawling and locating those pages, Google then uses analysis tools to determine what each page’s content is about. This information is stored in Google’s database, the Google Index.
Serving Results: When producing results to respond to a user’s query, Google considers both the quality of a page and the relevance of its content to determine which results are best for that particular query. Those results are then ranked in Google’s search engine results pages (SERP).
SEO Best Practices
At The Brand Brew™, one of our jobs as your website strategist is to help search engines crawl and index all the pages on your site that you want them to, and none that you don’t.
We can ensure the ‘crawlability’ and ‘indexability’ of your pages through several actions and best practices that are commonly referred to as technical SEO.
1. Keyword Strategy
Any strong SEO strategy hinges on keywords. They help you identify the topics your audience is searching for so you can then target those topics with relevant content. Determining the relevant keywords for your business is a crucial first step, but it’s just that - a first step.
Here at The Brand Brew™, we offer an SEO Keyword Strategy Report so that not only do you have the right keywords in hand, but you also have the strategy necessary to leverage those keywords and place your website, blog, social media or entire online presence in front of your target audience.
2. Content Creation
Once you know your keywords, the next step is to craft unique content that both engages your reader and contributes to your rankings for those keywords. Both the creation and optimization of strong website content are integral to an effective SEO strategy!
When Google produces results to a user’s search query, they display ten results per page. Consider the last time that you searched through the second or third pages of Google results… if ever.
That’s why when it comes to SEO and driving organic traffic, ranking amongst the top ten results is crucial. Essentially, your content needs to be among the top ten very best pieces of content on a particular topic.
When you think about the immense quantity of content on the internet, creating something that’s within the top ten pieces sounds daunting. That’s why it’s recommended to invest in professional copywriting from experienced website strategists (like The Brand Brew!), to ensure that your SEO efforts are producing the results that you deserve.
Interested in learning more about content creation for SEO? Stay tuned for next month’s blog, all about how to create copy that converts.
Usability plays a role in a website’s ranking as well. Building a user-friendly site comes down to a few key considerations:
Is your site secure?: Ensure that your website meets standard security criteria, including secure cookies (if it applies to your region) and a site-wide SSL certificate.
How quickly do your pages load?: The quicker your pages load, the more user-friendly they are. The more user-friendly they are, the higher Google ranks them!
Does your site function on mobile devices?: An element of Google’s ranking criteria includes “mobile-first indexing.” If mobile users can view your pages and consume your content without issue, Google will reward you with a higher ranking.
Is your website generally easy to use?: A website that’s easy to navigate and intuitive by design will not only improve your SEO ranking, but it will also hugely impact your ability to connect with your consumers and turn browsers into buyers.
4. Link Building
A website’s link-building strategy has a direct impact on how that website will rank.
Link building includes both backlinking and internal linking.
Backlinks are links from other websites that bring users to your site, and internal links are links within your content that bring users to another page on your site.
When other websites point toward your site, you gain authority (both within your industry and Google’s rankings).
Backlinks are essentially the act of other (reputable) websites pointing toward your website and saying, “Hey look, this stuff is good too!”
When Google sees that other high-quality sites are lending a vote of confidence toward your website, you gain authority in the eyes of the search engine.
Think of it as word-of-mouth referrals from trustworthy sources. If your circle of trusted confidants all recommend the same business, you’re more likely to choose that business versus one that you’ve never heard of before, right?
Note that the key here is high-quality links. Just like you’d trust recommendations from respectable friends, you might disregard recommendations from those who don’t share your taste or worldview.
Backlinks which come from spam sites or generally low-quality websites don’t hold nearly as much authority as those coming from high-quality and relevant sites in (or related to) your industry.
Think about it this way: if your website is about health and wellness, would you trust a link from your neighbour’s hobby blog more than from the Canadian Institute for Health Information? Probably not.
Be sure to take a look at the domains of the sites linking to yours, too. Backlinks coming from a range of sources do wonders for proving your credibility! High-quality backlinks can help Google find new pages, and send referral traffic to your site.
In the same way that links from external pages can pass authority to your site, the same is true when you link from one page of your website to another. Keep in mind your business’s main goals as you set out to create internal links, and add links in a way that is conducive to those objectives.
For example, if your website’s main goal is to generate more leads for your business, you want to have multiple internal links pointing toward your “contact” page. This will bring more users to the “contact” page and signal to Google that it's important, both of which contribute to helping you to reach your goal of generating more leads.
What About Paid Ads?
A common question surrounding SEO efforts is, “Why not just pay for ads, and appear above the organic search results?” The answer is simply that the vast majority of users scroll past those ads and instead choose organic results.
This isn’t to say that paid advertising isn’t worthwhile – it is, and it should be used in tandem with SEO practices.
Search engines produce two kinds of results: organic results where you must earn your ranking through SEO, and paid results where you have to purchase your place through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
Those paid results are valuable to a business, and PPC advertising is an important channel. It’s just different!
PPC and SEO should not be competing efforts, but rather two elements of an overarching strategy which work together to produce the best overall results.
SEO takes time and effort to produce results, it’s true. However, once you get the ball rolling and start to rank for your target keywords, you’ll see your traffic soar. Not to mention the fact that traffic is passive, and it won’t disappear if you choose to stop paying!
The Brand Brew™ is a full-service strategic branding studio for small to mid-sized businesses. We’re all about getting your business in front of your target audience, so it’s only natural that SEO is our cup of tea! Reach out to us today to discuss how we can help.