These days, it seems like search engine optimization, or SEO, can be overlooked in lieu of catchy social media or diligent branding. In reality, organic search traffic accounts for the majority of organic web traffic. That means SEO is essential to ensuring your site is found by prospective customers. For smaller businesses especially, proper SEO is the difference between growth and stagnation. Let’s examine what it really is, why it matters, and how you can start using it to your advantage!
What Really is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your site for search engines. That means making it easily read, including pertinent keywords, and importantly, presenting it professionally. While we’ve established that customers find your site through search engines, how do the search engines themselves find your site?
Search engines like Google scale billions of web pages to find the “best” possible results for your query. The more specific, the more likely your results will be satisfying. They look at things like geotags, keywords, links, images, user engagement, freshness, and the content itself to connect customers with the things they’re looking for.
Does that mean SEO is exclusively a behind-the-scenes tool reserved for webmasters? Not necessarily. Part of SEO strategy is inherently tied to your content strategy, which means the more quality content you produce, the more search engines will pick up on those tendencies. However, you have to take care of your page keywords, H1 tags, and alt text. SEO is a comprehensive, integrated effort that requires constant upkeep. It’s not a one-time thing.
Why SEO Really Matters
Part of a winning SEO strategy involves regular upkeep. Because Google and other search engines weigh how often a page is updated, stale pages go to the back of the queue. Obviously, that means poorly constructed or poorly maintained websites will have poor visibility. If customers can’t find you on Google, they might not be able to find you in real life. More than 80% of people research a business online before buying, so if they can’t find anything to support their buying decision, they might go elsewhere.
Google has brokered over 300 Billion searches this year and counting. Even when it’s not being used in the discovery phase, Google helps folks with things like directions, store hours, contact information, and reviews. Not to mention, it helps with credibility; if a site ranks highly on search engines, the search engines have identified the site as having high-quality, relevant content. It also means the search engine has identified the site as trustworthy.
It’s not enough for your customers to simply find your site. They have to trust it. Part of earning that trust involves working with the search engines to boost not only your visibility but your credibility. Be sure to remember to include backlinks and contact information to ensure folks have no trouble finding-or trusting-your business.
How to Make it Count
Believe it or not, there’s such a thing as trying to over-optimize your page. Google even penalizes pages that overuse keywords. Stick to a handful of the most relevant, most driving keywords to steer folks your way. Additionally, ensure your meta descriptions and page titles well-organized and reflective of your business. While the meta description doesn’t show up on search engines, the search engines use them for retrieval. That means that just like the copy on your site, meta descriptions should be written professionally and include relevant keywords.
Another way to make your SEO strategy count is to remember to include alt text. Interestingly, while alt text improves accessibility to your site, it also helps with SEO. As such, including alt text lets visually impaired visitors enjoy your website and helps screen crawlers more quickly and accurately capture the contents of your pages. Remember to include your alt text!
There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to SEO. Much like your business itself, it requires regular upkeep, constant commitment, and the ability to adapt quickly. That means it’s important to check your website health regularly, test your links, and make sure your site is always in tip-top shape. After all, one mistake and you could be missing out on customers.