Search engine optimization (SEO) is the ability to reach your target audience at the exact moment they need you. That sounds extremely useful and not at all scary right?
It’s often easy to overcomplicate the process of improving your visibility in the search engine rankings (a more technical definition of SEO). Sure, there are some technical aspects, but in the main, it boils down to simple business principles.
When you’re starting up a new business, and wondering “what is SEO,” it’s important to know that:
- It’s one of your most powerful tools
- It’s not as complicated as you may think
Here, we talk you through the “what is SEO” stage and look at some simple ways you can get started.
How Does SEO Work?
Let’s look at Google’s job in its most basic form. It’s to send people to the pages that best answer their questions.
To do this, Google first has to understand your question, and then it’s got to understand the content of all the world’s web pages, put two and two together and see how they relate. Google and the other search engines are constantly perfecting the way they do this, and this results in regular changes in their algorithms.
These algorithms are the basis of where SEO stems from.
The search engines send out bots, which click through all the links on your website to understand the content. Naturally, lots of different web pages discuss the same subjects though, so how does Google decide which ones get the top rankings?
The answer is in algorithms that take into account hundreds of factors to ascertain the value of a page. While the exact details of these algorithms are closely guarded secrets, there’s a lot we do know about them. Search engine optimization is the way we maximize the aspects we know to be positive ranking signals and minimize the aspects we know to be negative ranking signals.
For your business, this can mean the difference between a thriving online presence and search engine obscurity.
How Can You Use SEO to Grow Your Business?
We have incredible access to information in the modern world. For the most part, the search engines, and Google, in particular, are the gatekeepers of that information.
3.5 billion searches are typed into Google every day – that’s 3.5 billion opportunities for businesses to reach their target audience exactly when they’re looking for their services.
Yes, there are other ways to reach your audience in these moments (paid search ads feature at the top of virtually every search engine results page), but there are few that are as effective as an organic listing.
Google may seamlessly place ads into your search results, but the average click-through rate for a paid ad is just 3%. Compare this to an average 43.32% click-through rate for the top organic listing and the difference is clear to see.
SEO can grow your business by driving targeted, engaged traffic to your website.
Throw in the fact that you’re not paying for every click and it has the potential to earn you an excellent return on investment.
Three Key Elements to Make SEO Work for You
Good SEO can bring a massive boost to your revenues. However, taking someone from that initial interaction all the way to becoming a customer is a complicated process.
The goal of your SEO should be to attract your target audience to your website and to start to move them through your buyer journey. To do this, it should focus on three key elements:
These three concepts are all linked, and the better you do in one area, the better you’re likely to do in the other ones, boosting your SEO as you go.
The first part is your reach – your ability to rank for your target keywords. Once you start doing this, then you will bring visitors to your pages, and from here, you can engage your audience. Google understands that the best pages engage users, so the more engaging your content is, the more you’re likely to grow your reach.
Bringing people to your website and getting them to engage with your content is only part of the puzzle though. If you’re to see a return from SEO, then you’ve got to be able to get people to take action.
It’s easy to focus on traffic, but the big question is what you do with that traffic? Can you get people to explore more of your website, sign up to your email list, or make a purchase?
If you can effectively do these three things, then it’s going to have a snowball effect and your business is going to continue to grow.
What Areas of SEO Can You Focus On?
If you’re just starting out with SEO as a small business then it can seem incredibly complicated. Don’t worry though, at the heart of all SEO is the ability to answer your target audience’s questions and help them solve their problems.
You’ve got the knowledge, it’s just about putting it into your content in the right way.
Three areas where you can quickly start to do this are:
- Content: So many search queries are people looking for answers to their questions and pain points. If you can understand what your audience is searching for and answer their questions with amazing content, then you’re building assets that give you the ability to rank.
- User Experience: People want answers to their questions but they also want convenience. If your site is slow to load (a one-second delay can reduce customer satisfaction by 16%), elements don’t work, or bombards people with unnecessary distractions, then they will go elsewhere for their information. Make sure your site is optimized for mobile, loads quickly, and is easy to navigate.
- Backlinks: When someone links to your content from their own website it’s like a vote of confidence. When high-quality websites link back to your pages, Google sees it as a good sign that you’re producing quality content and this gives you greater ranking potential.
Google’s algorithms take into account hundreds of ranking factors, but we know these are some of the most important. Although it takes time to build your rankings, you can start working on these aspects immediately.
Conclusion: What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the process of improving your website’s visibility in the search engines, but it’s much deeper than that.
This makes it seem like a technical endeavor of ticking boxes to please an algorithm.
SEO is innately human though.
It’s about understanding what your target audience wants and giving it to them in the best possible format. If you do this, then you help the search engines do their job (sending people to content that answers their questions) and they will reward you for it.
Yes, there are some technical aspects too, but really, it’s just giving the people what they’re looking for.
What’s stopping you from getting started with SEO?