Despite ongoing algorithm changes made by Google—the behemoth among search engines—search engine optimization (SEO) remains a mainstay for marketers of any type.
Assuming that marketers still view their websites as the gateway to generating leads and landing customers (and the vast majority do), anything that can be done to drive relevant and high-quality traffic to those websites should be a primary area of focus. Unfortunately, the land of SEO is often shrouded in mystery, acronym, jargon and marketing speak. Business owners and leaders know they need to do SEO, but often they don’t know how. Worse, although they’re aware that SEO consultants and providers exist (in ever-increasing numbers), they feel they don’t know the right questions to ask - or issues to consider - when choosing someone to help them boost their numbers.
It’s time to demystify the mysteries of SEO and provide practical insights for business owners and others making decisions about marketing direction. Here we will take a look at “the least you need to know” when seeking help with SEO.
What SEO Is…And What It Isn’t
SEO is all about driving qualified traffic to your website.
As a rule of thumb, you can accomplish this by writing content that includes the right keywords and phrases that your audience is likely type when searching for what you have to offer. Additionally, it can also be accomplished by earning links to your website from other sites.
Beyond these foundational elements, SEO also involves making sure that user experience is the top priority - and that all of your efforts are tailor made for your target audience.
In order to implement an SEO strategy successfully, you must:
- Implement on-site optimization to make sure that the content, structure and layout of your site is user-friendly
- Create quality content that addresses the questions, needs and pain points of your target audience
- Generate off-site authority building – these are the backlinks to your site from other credible sites that help you establish and maintain authority
That’s what SEO is.
What it is not is simply chasing traffic for the sake of building big numbers. Qualified traffic is a key term and a core element of effective SEO. You don’t want to attract just anyone to your site—you want to attract the people most likely to be interested in your company and your offerings, and most likely to be ready to make a purchase decision.
From this perspective SEO can really be likened to the traditional sales process and how to find qualified leads.
However, it is important to note that just because you have implemented an SEO strategy does not mean that your website is a “magic jackpot” of new customers. It exists in competition with other sites and, if you happen to find yourself in a saturated niche, you’re in for a big challenge since you will need to perform better than others in order to rank higher in search results. Which leads us to our next point.
Effective SEO is Built on a Strong Strategy
SEO doesn’t start with keyword research. It starts with building a solid understanding of the strategy behind your SEO efforts. In essence, you need to be able to answer the following questions:
- What do you want to achieve?
- What audience are you attracting?
- Who are your competitors?
- What strategies and tactics are your competitors using?
- How successful are your competitors with their content?
- How will you position your SEO strategy against your competitors in ways that will attract customers?
- What will the elements of your strategy be (i.e. blog content, website pages, guest blogs, etc.)?
Effective SEO is About Providing Value
Just as in traditional sales, salespeople who could effectively communicate the benefits of whatever products/services they were selling were the ones that made the sales again and again and again. They’re the ones that created long-term, lifelong customers.
The same is true of effective SEO. Your website content needs to be structured so that it provides value to users—both in terms of ease of navigation/use and in terms of the information on the site.
Effective SEO is Not About Quick Hits
Run fast from any provider that promises you thousands of instant leads, ROI guarantees or any other empty promises. Run faster from any hint that a provider may use black hat SEO practices—these are underhanded, “tricky” ways of generating traffic, such as buying links, scraping content or duplicating content from other sites to your site.
So, what should you be looking for when seeking an SEO partner? We’d recommend:
- A solid and current understanding of digital marketing
- A solid understanding of your business, your potential customers, competitors and goals
- A focus on the bottom-line analytics that matter to your business and align with your strategy
In conclusion, when you’re looking for a partner to help drive qualified traffic to your website—traffic that will convert to sales—don’t be baffled by terminology, numbers and false promises. SEO isn’t magic. It’s marketing. And there is a LOT of strategy behind it.