Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing a website so that it performs well in organic search. Ranking high for search terms - keywords - increases the visibility of a website and leads to a higher number of visitors. Put more simply, SEO will allow you to connect with those searching for your product or service and help turn them into customers.

SEO is a combination of factors that help search engines find and trust you, organize the information you’re publishing, and present it to users searching for it. SEO isn’t a single tool or process, nor a series of tricks (like keyword stuffing) or secrets (like link trading) you can use to fool search engines. It’s also not a series of shortcuts that allow you to buy your way to the top of the search results.

 

Since search engines return results to users who are actively searching for a particular term or phrase, getting to the top of that stack means you’re providing information to the people who want it most, when they want it.

The important thing to remember is that all these engines use specific criteria for returning results. They look at factors like keyword density and meta tags to understand what your pages are about. Also, they keep track of which pages have linked to your content, and they use that information (along with other factors) to determine what page has the most authority. For a full look and training on what it is all about, check out this MOZ SEO guide.

Tip: It’s important to know how and why users and searching - check out these Hubspot statistics.

Why You Need It

Cost and Time Effective
SEO is one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies because it targets users who are actively looking for your products and services online. And since SEO also targets these users, the traffic resulting from SEO is more qualified than many other marketing strategies, resulting in cost-savings for companies.

Social media and email marketing are both highly effective channels for generating leads, but both require some degree of continual effort. To remain top of mind for your customers and prospects, you have to be continually pushing out new content to your list and social media followers. However, once a page is SEO-optimized, you can often sit back, relax, and let it climb the rankings on its own merit. This, of course, largely depends on certain factors such as the competitiveness of the keyword(s) you’re targeting, and the quality of the content on the page, among others. But in general, once you lay the foundation of proper SEO-optimization for any given page, most of the hard work is already done.

Drive Traffic and Leads
If you provide valuable information and make it easy for search engines to find and organize it, they will reward you with higher rankings. This increased exposure means more visitors to your pages - more visitors means more customers. A study by Conductor of over 310 million visits to 30 different websites showed that organic search accounted for 64% of all referral traffic.

According to the 2014-2015 State of Inbound Marketing report, B2B, B2C and non-profit companies all report inbound practices as being their primary source of leads. This same report found that among marketing professionals, SEO had become the #1 source of leads over the previous 6 month period. One question to ask yourself is: if you’re not generating leads through search, who is capturing these valuable leads?

Local Search Advantage
Did you know that 50% of all mobile searches are conducted for local businesses looking to visit a store that day? If you’re adhering to a good local SEO strategy, you’ll have consistent listings and business information across the web that includes your business name, hours of operation, address, and phone number – all information that makes it easy for a searcher to visit your location and become a customer.

Internet users rely on search to answer questions, to learn more about products and services, and to find companies. If your focus is local, potential customers still use search engines to look for reviews and directions. Even if a customer is already familiar with your business name, they are likely to type that into a search engine rather than trying to remember your domain. At the very least, then, you’ll want to make sure searchers can find your site when they’re looking for you.

Credibility and Awareness
Since top position rankings result in significant impressions, having your website in these top positions on the result pages translates to more exposure for your website. The more your pages and content rank in high positions in the search engines, the more chances you have for users to see your content and associate with your brand.

Ranking highly in the search results signals to searchers that you’re a key player in your industry. Conversely, ranking on the 2nd or 3rd page may lead to unwanted assumptions: that you’re a new business, that you’re not as well known or that you don’t have the budget (and thus sales) to afford to boost your rankings.

Simple Steps

Before you can optimize your website, you have to know what you are optimizing it for. The terms people use to search for what you offer are known as keywords. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great (and free) tool to do just that. It allows you to discover keywords used to search for products and services similar to yours.

Create page titles.
Keyword-based titles help establish page theme and direction for your keywords.

Create meta tags.
Meta description tags can influence click-throughs but aren't directly used for rankings. (Google doesn't use the keywords tag any­more.)

Place strategic search phrases on pages.
Integrate selected keywords into your website source code and existing content on designated pages. Make sure to apply a sug­gested guideline of one to three keywords/phrases per content page and add more pages to complete the list. Ensure that related words are used as a natural inclu­sion of your keywords. It helps the search engines quickly determine what the page is about. A natural approach to this works best. In the past, 100 to 300 words on a page was recommended. Many tests show that pages with 800 to 2,000 words can outperform shorter ones. In the end, the users, the marketplace, content and links will determine the popularity and ranking numbers.

Develop new sitemaps for Google.
Make it easier for search engines to index your website. Create both XML and HTML versions. An HTML version is the first step. XML sitemaps can easily be submitted via Google webmaster tools.

Submit website to directories.
Professional search marketers don’t sub­mit the URL to the major search engines, but it’s possible to do so. A better and faster way is to get links back to your site naturally. Links get your site indexed by the search engines. However, you should submit your URL to directories such as MOZ (free and paid), Yahoo! (paid), Business.com (paid) and DMOZ (free).

Test and measure.
Analyze search engine rankings and web traffic to determine the effectiveness of the programs you’ve implemented, including assessment of individual keyword performance. Check out this list of tools to use.

Maintenance.
Ongoing addition and modification of keywords and website con­tent are necessary to continually improve search engine rankings so growth doesn’t stall or decline from neglect. You also want to review your link strategy and ensure that your inbound and outbound links are relevant to your business. A blog can provide you the necessary structure and ease of content addition that you need.

Tip: Blogging is a leading source of leads and traffic for businesses when they are properly optimized for search. SEO will make sure you blog posts get found and drive traffic.

Bringing It All Together

Unlike advertising, you aren’t trying to push information in front of people who might not be interested at the time. So, you have an active audience, and you don’t have to pay to get the message to them.

Overall, search engine optimization is one of the most effective and sustainable ways to build your online presence. Rather than seeing it as something to “fix” after you’ve created content, keep SEO top of mind from the beginning. To see how effective something is, sometimes it’s best to go directly to the source. According to the 2015 State of Marketing report, of the marketers who are using SEO and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) as part of their marketing strategy, 66% find it “very effective or effective”. Only 7% stated that their SEO efforts were “not very effective or not at all effective”. These seem like reasonable odds to me!

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