Updated January 12, 2018
You may have heard that “SEO is dead.”
Don’t believe it.
Although the latest search algorithms have reduced the impact of “old fashioned” search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, like using keywords and link exchanges, good SEO still makes a huge difference.
Meta data, including the title, headings and description, affect your ranking and how your page appears on the search engine results page (SERP).
Content and, more importantly, the context in which that content appears, impacts your search results – including whether your website even shows up on the Google SERPs.
Done correctly, SEO can greatly increase traffic to your website (although what happens when people land on your website is another matter entirely).
So many businesses invest thousands in creating a beautiful website with the expectation that “if you build it, they will come.” It’s like throwing a party but forgetting to send out invitations – you’re simply hoping that people will somehow hear about it and decide to come.
But they don’t come.
And you’re stuck with left-over party favors, hors d’oeuvres, and warm beer…
So it’s easy to see why people would jump on the SEO bandwagon.
But, before you get carried away on a journey to nowhere, here are 7 things you should know.
#1 - Know the Facts
Be clear about why you’re investing in search engine optimization -
- 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine.
- 90+% of searches are done on Google, Yahoo, or Bing, with Google getting 70+% of all searches.
- The first 5 listings on page 1 of search engine results is the “hot zone” – about 95% of searchers click in this area ONLY as it’s considered the most relevant and trusted of all results. If you're not in the top 5, your listing is unlikely to get clicked.
- 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results – if they don’t find what they want there, they refine their search and try again.
In other words, if your website isn’t optimized for search, you basically don’t exist in the online world.
#2 - It Won’t Happen Overnight
Search engine optimization is an ongoing process. Like most things in life, it takes time before you start to see the benefits – 4 to 6 months is pretty typical. It takes ongoing maintenance, fine-tuning, and continuous testing and monitoring to get it right. And if you stop your SEO efforts too soon, you won’t see results. Think of it as an investment in your business that, over time, will generate a good ROI.
#3 - Content is King
All the links and meta data in the world won’t get you to the first page in the search engine result pages unless you have unique and engaging website content that people actually want to read.
“Content” doesn’t refer to fancy graphics and website layout – it’s what you write about and how you write it that matters. What you say on your website has to be well-written, using simple, everyday language that’s easily understood and “speaks” to your (potential) customers.
#4 - A First Page Guarantee is Worthless
Ranking matters but it’s not the primary measure of success. If you show up on the first page in search results but no one clicks through to your website, or if those who click don’t call you or request an estimate, then you might as well not rank at all.
If an SEO company promises to get your website onto the first page of the SERPs, run. You could find your site using “black hat” SEO techniques to get links quickly. The problem? The search engines will “ban” your site, essentially sending it into a black hole from which you may not recover – and where it will never be found by potential customers.
No one doing legitimate SEO that gets results will make a first page guarantee.
#5 - Don’t Put All Your Eggs in the SEO Basket
Many business leads are still generated through networking, word of mouth and offline marketing. While SEO will broaden your reach exponentially and at relatively low cost, click-throughs are no substitute for good old-fashioned cold calling, hand shaking, direct mail, and talking up your business to everyone you meet. But, taken together, your online and offline efforts will generate more business than either one alone.
#6 - Local Matters
If you're a local business, your customers will come from within a specific geographic area so make sure your website is optimized for local search.
- Use local keywords in your URLs, headings, titles and content.
- Write about issues that are relevant to a local audience.
- Use local business schema markup so Google can show your address in the search results.
- Make sure your company name, address and phone number (NAP) is exactly the same on all online listings.
- Claim, verify and optimize your Google My Business page so you can appear in the local 3-pack.
- Understand what does and does not work for local search.
#7 - Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
On April 21, 2015, Google introduced a new factor in their search algorithm – it now looks at whether or not your website is mobile-friendly. If it’s not, it won’t show your website in the results for searches done on a mobile device. Because over 50% of searches are done on mobile, you can’t afford to have that happen.
If you’re not sure if your site is mobile-friendly, try Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to be sure.
In Summary …
So there you have it, the basic facts about search engine optimization - what it will do for you and, more importantly, what it won’t.
Approach your SEO efforts as you would any marketing opportunity – with your eyes wide open, an understanding of what you’ll get for your investment, and a reputable SEO partner to do the specialized work.
Now over to you - What are you doing to improve your website's SEO? Share your ideas in the comments below!
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