What’s Search Engine Optimization? If you are an entrepreneur and you are planning to use the web as part of your digital marketing strategies, you must know the answer to that question. But, more importantly, you will need to understand how SEO can improve your online presence and help your business reach new customers.
SEO: A Definition
If you have ever searched for something online using a search engine like Google, you know a little bit about SEO Optimization. After typing your inquiry into the search bar, you were redirected to a search engine results page (SERP). On that page, you likely saw some ads at the very top and then, below that, your results. You might have wondered how some results made it to that very first page and even to the top of that first page. The answer to that question has to do with SEO.
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization. This is the practice of optimizing web pages to reach the highest possible position on the search engine results page. As mentioned above, often at the top of the page, you will see ads that businesses can pay for. The rest of the page is what is called “organic” search results. This is what SEO focuses on. You may want to, at some point, supplement your marketing with paid ads, but the best results and most significant return on investment come from organic results.
Why is Search Engine Optimization Important?
Many entrepreneurs make the same mistake. They create a website, add great content, and then sit back and wait for people to find it. Unless you have another plan to get people to your website, such as external advertising, no one is going to visit. Why?
Let’s go back to that theoretical search mentioned at the beginning of this post. Unless you were searching for something exceptionally specific, you probably saw a whole page of results. There is a pretty good chance that you found what you were looking for without even having to scroll. If you scrolled to the bottom of the page, you might have seen navigation to go to the next page. If you kept scrolling and clicking, you could eventually navigate through all the results. But most people won’t get that far.
According to a recent study, the first organic search result on a Google search results page has an average clickthrough rate of 28.5%. By the second result, that rate is down to 15.7%, and it is down to 11% by the third position. By the time you get down to the tenth position, the clickthrough rate is down to 2.5%. Keep in mind, these are all on the first page.
Let’s look at an example based on the topic of this post. If you type “Search Engine Optimization” into Google, the search engine will return about 17 pages of results. The fact is, most people aren’t looking past the tenth listing, let alone the 16 pages that follow. This means, if you want people to find your website and your business, you will want to appear as close to the top of that first page as possible when people search for terms related to what you offer. That will require a focus on SEO.
What Are People Looking For?
Before creating a Search Engine Optimization strategy, you need to consider what your potential customers are searching for. Think of it this way: If you were searching online for the product or service offered by your business, what would you type into the search engine? This may take a little research to make sure you are using the right word or words.
These will become what is referred to in the SEO space as keywords. In many cases, you may need to refine your keywords a bit to cut through the clutter. Many keywords already have a lot of competition so you may need to narrow things down using “long-tail keywords.” These longer phrases may help you get better results when users are searching for precisely what you offer.
Search Engine Optimization Factors
Once you know the keywords you will use, it is time to start thinking about what you can do, on your website and beyond, to optimize your site so that search engines will display it as high as possible on the results page. This is a mix of art and science. For the world’s biggest search engine, Google, those results are determined by an often-changing computer algorithm. Google will never tell you exactly how it works.
This is because they don’t want users to try to game the system by offering the algorithm precisely what it is looking for. However, Google does share many things that can impact how the algorithm may list your site. These factors are: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
On-Page Search Engine Optimization
On-page Search Engine Optimization refers to the factors on your webpage that Google’s algorithm will look at when determining where your page will appear in the search results. Some of these are technical, like site loading speed, the structure of your site, and the code behind your pages. Others are content-related. The issue most people think of when they talk about on-page SEO is keywords.
Once you have decided on the keywords your potential customers may use, you want to ensure that they are well represented on the page, in the plain text and also in headings, tags and image descriptions. However, don’t get caught in the outdated thinking that led many websites to stuff their pages with keywords to rank higher. That simply no longer works. Google’s algorithm has gotten much more sophisticated and it’s looking for content that is relevant, thorough, unique and clear.
Off-Page Search Engine Optimization
There are also some factors impacting your search ranking that happen beyond your website and sometimes beyond your control. The thing most likely to influence your search ranking is other websites that link to yours. Search engines like Google consider these “backlinks” a sort of vote of confidence for your website. However, it is not just an issue of how many sites link to yours. It is also a matter of quality. Links to your site will have more value if they appear to have a high “domain authority”.
Building backlinks may be the most challenging part of Search Engine Optimization services. Some businesses fall for offers to buy backlinks. This is rarely effective. The best way to get links to your site is to create content that is relevant and valuable. Other sites will want to link to this type of content. There are also other methods like registering your site with relevant guides and directories. Offering to write guest posts for other sites is also a great way to get links back to your site.
How to Start with SEO Optimization
For entrepreneurs, SEO Optimization (On page, Off page, In page) can seem a bit overwhelming at first. The good news is that there is plenty of help available. There are professionals that can help improve your website’s ranking. There are also SEO tools available that can help with nearly every aspect of Search Engine Optimization services, from finding the right keywords to evaluating pages and even determining domain authority for your site and others. Also, remember, you don’t necessarily get everything exactly right. However, even minor improvements on a site can lead to significant changes that will move your up on results pages.