Consumers use search engines more than 3 billion times a day, so if you’re running a business, search engine optimization (SEO) is vital to your success.
Learning all the terms and tactics used in SEO can be overwhelming, but don’t worry. The good news is that you don’t need to “speak geek” to understand SEO and reap its rewards. Read on to get a quick, simple crash course in SEO. You’ll learn how you can use it to boost your traffic from search engines and, ultimately, increase your revenue.
What Is SEO?
SEO is a process that helps attract non-paid (also known as “organic”) search engine traffic to your website and content. The biggest search engine is, of course, Google, so we’ll be referring to it throughout this post for simplicity’s sake. However, there are many other popular options, including Yahoo, Bing, Baidu and others. Many of the same SEO principles apply to all search engines.
There are two primary objectives of SEO:
1) To deliver content in a way that search engines can understand.
2) To create content that satisfies user intent. Search engines only thrive if they deliver content that’s valuable to users — and it’s your job to provide that content.
To understand the first objective, let’s take a deeper look at how search engines operate.
How Search Engines Work
Google is often referred to as a “crawler” because it reads or “crawls” webpages and then stores the information. When a user enters a search term (or “keyword”) into Google, the search engine compares each webpage that it has crawled with that keyword to decide which ones to display in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
To put it simply, Google says, “Which one’s the best?” It considers quite a few factors to make this determination and rank web content. It’s easiest to divide these factors into two main groups:
- On-page SEO refers to the elements that you alter on your site itself. These include things such as the keywords used and the page titles.
- Off-page SEO refers to actions that you take outside of your own website to impact your rankings. These include things such as backlinks, which occur when one website links to another.
Both on-page and off-page SEO affect how Google understands your content, and our SEO Guide for Beginners covers these factors in greater depth.
While many people covet a position on the first page of search engine results, that really should not be your primary focus; it’s more important to deliver content that appeals to your audience and satisfies the user’s search intent.
Satisfying Search Intent
The sites featured first on SERPs are chosen because they best match the user’s search intent. Google has determined that the pages it shows first have a high click-through rate; educational and valuable content determined by a low bounce rate; and an overall good user experience (measured by a high average time spent on the page and/or high conversion rate).
But how do you create content that satisfies user intent and drives traffic back to your site? A good place to start is by performing keyword research. Keyword research is an SEO tactic that helps you determine which search terms people are using to find websites and content like yours.
The first step is to come up with topics for which you want your website to rank well. There are a number of different tools (both premium and free) that you can use to determine which keywords to target. Some of our favorites include Ahrefs, SEMrush and even SERPs themselves.
Use these tools to narrow down your list of keywords and get a good sense of what types of content are performing well. One of the most effective ways to improve your ranking is to emulate sites that rank on the first page for your target keywords.
Create content — such as blog posts, videos, infographics, whitepapers and webpages — that not only satisfies the user’s search intent but also surpasses the competition when it comes to quality. The effort you put in will show, so make sure to deliver valuable, educational and entertaining content.
Why Is SEO Important?
Today’s consumers use search engines to discover everything from recipes and restaurant recommendations to product reviews and software tutorials. If your content isn’t optimized for search, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Here are a few reasons why SEO is important:
SEO Drives Website Traffic
SEO is responsible for 51% of website traffic and generates 40% of revenue — easily eclipsing paid search, social and other traffic sources. You already know that your ideal buyers are using search engines, but if you don’t invest in SEO, they may never know your brand exists.
SEO Keeps Working
Unlike pay-per-click (PPC), a form of online advertising that charges advertisers each time their ads are clicked, and other marketing tactics — whose benefits disappear overnight if you stop investing time and money — SEO keeps working, even if you take a short break. SEO is a long-term strategy. While you may not see results as quickly as you would with PPC, SEO offers results that will last longer and are completely scalable.
SEO Nurtures Buyers
At each stage in the buyer’s journey, there’s an opportunity for you to write content that addresses prospects’ questions and concerns. For example, let’s say you own a printing business.
Prospects in the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey might initially search for “how to make business cards.” They know that they need business cards, but they are still exploring ways to make it happen.
After doing a little research, they discover that they’re better off consulting with a professional to create their business cards. In the consideration stage, they’ve clearly identified the problem and have started researching options to solve it. These prospects might next search for “order business cards online.”
The final stage, the decision stage, is when the buyer decides to make a purchase to solve the problem. They might next search for a term such as “best business card printers.”
If your website had content that satisfied user intent for each of the searches in our example, you’d easily be able to capture and nurture the prospects as they navigate the buyer’s journey.
SEO for Beginners
Getting started with SEO can feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to be an expert to harness its power. Continuously experimenting and analyzing results is key to success. Staying on top of the latest trends and search engine updates will also help ensure that your website remains optimized for search. Most importantly, don’t forget that search engines are used by real people (your potential customers!). SEO is all about creating a stellar user experience by providing content that resonates with your audience and delivers value. For more tips and tricks, be sure to check out our SEO Guide for Beginners.