What is SEO and Who Needs it?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engines are comprised of a seemingly infinite directory of websites with various subjects and information. The search engine’s job is to help users find the information they need, based on each website’s subject and relevancy to the user’s search terms. When someone searches online, they will be given a list of the top sites that have information or product offers that relate to that search term.

Search engines “rank” sites based on their relevancy to the user’s search terms based on a number of factors. Search engines take into account a site’s age, it’s speed and design, the keywords found on each page, and how many other site’s refer to it with backlinks. The search engines can scan a site for all of this information, and put it in a ranking system based on keywords a user searches for.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization is the process of making your website user-optimized so it will rank well in the search engines (like Google and Bing). Marketers use SEO to help their sites make impressions with more online searchers. It can also be used to convert users to leads through integrative SEO and content marketing techniques. It is meant to improve the website’s user experience, and by proxy helps sites reach a larger audience.

To improve a site’s rankings in the search engines, you need to tailor it to your target audience. Your content should include keywords that your customers would use to find products and services similar to yours. You also want to make sure your site is easy to use and navigate. The better experience you create for visitors, the better your site will rank.

When you’re optimizing a site, you have to think about both the user’s experience and the search engine’s ability to recognize your content as relevant to them. In the past, this caused some dissonance, because search engines weren’t able to recognize certain human elements of content, such as linguistic relevance and readability. This caused many SEO specialists to write in a way that pleased the search engines, but wasn’t helpful to the consumer.

Now, search engines have improved to think more like consumers, and SEO tactics have shifted focus to creating a user-friendly experience. Sites that give the user easy-to-read and engaging content are ranked higher, even if they have a lower keyword density. But as search engines continue to change and develop around user preferences, the techniques in search engine optimization will too evolve.

Reasons Why You Need an SEO Strategy

SEO is one of the fastest growing specialties in the marketing industry. The list of SEO strategies keeps growing, and companies can do most of their optimization for free. Studies on websites with professional SEO campaigns have showed direct relation to profits, giving companies enough incentive to learn the practice or hire professionals to assist.

SEO is primarily a marketing tactic used to increase site traffic. A search engine can only display a limited number of search results per page. Their ranking systems put the top sites on the first page, and lower ranking sites on subsequent pages. For competitive keywords, there can be thousands of search engine results pages (SERPs). Consumers rarely look past the first SERP, so the higher your site ranks, the more likely you are to reach that first page and be seen. Increased visibility leads to more site traffic for less money.

Over 80% users research companies online before they make a purchase or inquiry. They may compare prices, look for online deals or ecommerce sites versus sites with only product information. If consumers cannot find your site online, it’s unlikely they will choose you over the competition. SEO puts your name out there without having to pay for ads. And, because your site is at the top of the organic (unpaid) search results, consumers may trust you more. They know your content is ranked well because you’ve earned it.

SEO optimizes for better lead conversions. One study on SEO campaigns for ecommerce showed that SEO-generated traffic converts to sales at a 15% rate, as compared to 3% of outbound leads. SEO-generated traffic is more qualified traffic than outbound traffic. When someone uses a search engine, they’re already interested in the information you provide. You aren’t taking a gamble when you solicit the user because they’ve expressed interest and, depending on what they searched for, intent to buy.

According to a Hubspot study, 91% of surveyed businesses said they saw a definitive ROI on SEO activity or paid services. SEO services are never more expensive than their worth. Because you’re generating more qualified traffic, you can almost guarantee a high percentage of that traffic will lead to sales, or at the least engagement with your brand. Plus, you can easily measure traffic gained from organic search results and calculate your cost-per-lead using SEO tracking tools.

Optimized websites build trust with your consumers. The more content they see about you online and on social media, the more credible your brand image is.  Think about it: would you prefer to purchase from a one-page site with little to no product information, or a well-developed site that has plenty of information and features to educate you on the product or service? SEO incentivizes businesses to update their sites with user-engaging content.

There are over 1 billion websites on the internet now, and more and more created everyday. That’s approximately one website for every three internet users worldwide. Every website faces steep competition, not only within their industry but with all other websites selling to consumers in similar target markets. SEO helps you climb to the upper echelon of websites for your target market. In a day and age where internet use is at an all-time high, you can’t afford not to utilize online marketing and SEO strategies to build your business.

Different Approaches to SEO

Like any other marketing discipline, SEO is a mix of creative and technical tactics working together to create a comprehensive, effective campaign. That’s why SEO strategists don’t all use the same techniques to build their campaigns. Some focus on perfecting the technical aspects, while others prefer to use a creative campaign approach. Neither approach is wrong, and both are needed to fully optimize a site.

Search engine marketing campaigns revolve around keywords. Almost every SEO campaign will start with a site audit and keyword research phase. The analyst discovers the site’s strengths and weaknesses, in design, technical aspects and content. Then they research keywords and competitive sites relevant to the target audience. SEO strategists often use a Keyword Plan to develop site content and subsequent social media campaigns.

There’s two different categories to SEO strategy: on-page and off-page. On-page SEO refers to the content, structure, and technical aspects of your website and its individual pages. Off-page SEO refers to your site’s popularity, quantified by backlinks (links from other sites to your site) and social signals. Both are equally important to your overall SEO strategy.

Onsite SEO includes both the technical and content-related changes you can make to your site. Some of the most important elements of any onsite SEO include:

  • Optimizing and updating content Search engines look for sites that are updated regularly and contain keywords that relate to their user’s search. You want to update your site regularly with content, including blogs, articles and pages that have keywords related to your target market.
  • Load speed A site that loads faster will give users a better overall experience. This is especially important for mobile optimization. You can improve load speed of your site by simplifying design elements and optimizing your files and code.
  • Image optimizationImages are also factored into a site’s rankings. Add images to your site that have keywords included in the alt text. This helps the search engines understand what the image is, and how it relates to the content. Reduce image size to increase load speed of your individual pages.
  • Titles, Headers and URL structure Search engines consider headers to be signals of the subject matter of your pages. They also use the keywords in the URLs to determine the topic of your website. Include keywords in your headers, titles and URLs when possible.

Linkbuilding and social media management are the core activities for offsite SEO. However, search engines have begun to recognize which links are earned, and which are bought from infamous “link farms.” You can build links the right way by sharing your content on social media and building relationships with other site owners and bloggers in your same niche.

Both onsite and offsite SEO can be used to improve rankings and generate leads. A Healthy SEO campaign uses both strategies, gaining maximum results. Let’s take a look at several SEO campaigns that use these tactics for their online marketing campaigns.

Examples of Websites with Strong SEO Campaigns:

  • Buzzfeed is a top news and entertainment site for millennials. They attract approximately 2 million users a month, and have accumulated over 10,000 backlinks from 877 referring domains. Buzzfeed is a true testimony to the effectiveness of content marketing and SEO. They upload blog content everyday, have a great site design, and engage followers on social media. They dominate the entertainment news space for young audiences and social media users across the globe.
  • Reddit is a site who’s SEO strategy focuses on user-generated content. Members of the site can post questions and opinions of a wide variety of forums. The site often indexes in the search engines for specific questions that the site has “subreddits” with frequently updated content. User-generated content, though not considered as trustworthy, can lead to stunning results. Reddit ranks well especially for controversial subjects that other sites don’t cover, and has succeeded with their user-generated content strategy.
  • The Florida Dairy Farmers is an example of a small-scale but equally powerful SEO campaign. They have 770 approximate monthly traffic and 360 backlinks from 100 referring domains. It won a Webby Award for Best Association Website. The Florida Dairy Farmers website has strong onsite optimization as well. They update their blog with sharable content such as recipes and farm-life articles.

How to Measure Results:

SEO effectiveness is measured by your website’s SERP rankings, number of backlinks, and traffic increase from organic clicks. You can use a number of tools to track these changes over time. Ask yourself these questions to determine of your SEO strategy is working or if it needs improvement:

  • Is there increased traffic to my website? Is it from organic or paid link clicks?
  • For which keywords is my site ranking well? Is my site on the first or second SERP for these keywords? What other competitors are also ranking for these words?
  • How many other sites link back to my content? How often do they link to my site? Has this increased or decreased since I launched this SEO campaign?
  • How many likes, shares, and comments am I receiving on social media or on my blog?

You can find much of this information with tools like Google Alerts, SEMRush and SERPWoo. You can also talk to an SEO specialist for help understanding where you stand with your current SEO strategy, and how to make improvements on your results. Talk to a specialist at Rank K.O. for more information on SEO strategy and how to get the best results. If you have any questions please feel free to email info@rankko.com or give us a call (813) 203-2621.