Today is #givingTuesday, a day for Internet-goers around the world to seek out their favorite charity or non-profit and donate. Development and marketing departments have been working for months to promote their cause, with beefing up their Web sites a top priority. Why? When they asked themselves why SEO is important, they realized the same thing businesses should also keep in mind — getting your name at the top of the search engine results page greatly increases the likelihood of driving traffic to your Web site.
Search engine optimization is a valuable tool for corporations and industries of all types. The first organic search result typically gets almost one-third of the clicks – and that if you’re on or beyond page two, 75 percent of users won’t ever see you, because they don’t click past the first page. For non-profits, this traffic that finds them is, hopefully, generous donors. Businesses, though, as looking to reach new customers and a wider audience.
Three key aspects are especially important when it comes to SEO; mastering these can help you secure SEO success. These components are important for any search engine, but are ideal for Google, the primary search engine. The site handles more than 40,000 searches each second — equaling more than 3.5 billion searches every day. Understanding Google’s algorithm is the first step to understanding why SEO is important.
SEO and Google: The Relationship in a Nutshell
When it comes to search engine results, Web sites just don’t show up in a random order, with no rhyme or reason. Creating a Web site and content is fantastic, but if it doesn’t get seen, it’s of little value. Search engine optimization is one way of strategically working to put your content in front of the users and prospects who are interested in what your business has to offer.
Google does this by using search spiders and bots to scan these Web sites, track the links in every Web site, and store them in an enormous virtual database. Google has gone through a few different algorithms, with Caffeine released in 2009 to analyze the structures of their indexed Web sites. In 2011, they released Panda, which looked for duplicates, excess ads, and unoriginal content. Panda is still being used, and has been updated regularly since then. Google then released Google Penguin in 2012, also still being used, to look for bad SEO practices. Hummingbird was released in 2013 as a complete rework and overhaul of the whole Google algorithm.
With each of these, Web administrators notice the release and updates when they are looking at their traffic. The overall goal of the updates is to give the users better results, and Web administrators find that meeting the demands of the algorithm and avoiding repercussions from Google improve the way they are seen with their visitors.
Thousands of individuals spend their careers working to understand the way search engines calculate their results. They test out different theories on their own sites and blogs, and develop a rough idea of what the search engine is inspecting. While no one outside the search engine will know the exact formula, the work done by these individuals paints a good picture of what needs to be done to be seen. The experts also stay on top of the changes Google makes, with recent changes causing drastic changes in rankings and results.
Why SEO is Important: The Effects on Your Small Business
Search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, implement a variety of different formulas to give their users a better experience by helping them to discover the most relevant answers to their questions.
If you were to search for the best way to make mashed potatoes, you’d want a site that gives you a highly ranked recipe, not a blog post talking about the origins and cultivating techniques of a potato crop. Learning why SEO is important to your business can change the way you look at writing your blog posts and presenting information to your readers and audience.
Audiences trust the results that search engines give them. While numbers are varied, there are reports that show that, on average, 80 percent of individuals either consciously or unconsciously trust the results that the search engine has displayed. So if your competitor is showing up higher than you on Google, people are more likely to click on your competitor, share your competitor’s products and services, and invite their friends to like and follow your competitor — even if your products or service is of a higher quality. The difference is between how you and your competitor are presenting your companies online.
Small businesses who are paying attention to their SEO marketing have found many benefits:
- Better experiences for both parties: Your users want information at their fingertips — and that’s exactly what SEO does. It takes your answer directly to your customers right when they want or need the information, and good SEO brings them to your site with a simple click. You both win.
- Better chance at finding and winning hard-to-reach customers: Even if you build up a large following on social media, consistent and faithful readers and customers, and developing a quality content marketing plan, without SEO, you’re missing out on another segment of captive audience members. These are people who are actively looking for what you have to offer who don’t yet know about you. If you are on the first page of search results, you’ll be able to attract and bring in customers who are
- Better chance to gain greater brand awareness and recognition: Each time your site comes up in search results is one more chance for exposure to that audience, and if you appear organically, you have a higher chance of being seen — 64-75 percent of Web traffic comes from organic, or non-paid, search results. Web site visitors might not become customers the first time they hear about your company, but each mention of your business is one more reminder that you exist, that you provide the services and products they want, and that you are easily accessible by clicking a link.
- Better chance to learn what your customers are looking to find: When you think SEO, you probably also think of keywords. This is just one tool that will improve your search engine rankings — and as you start to gain ranks, you’ll also be able to better learn who is searching for topics related to your business. Installing an analytics program like Google Analytics can show you the keywords and links that are bringing people to your site, where your visitors are located, what time and day they are searching your keywords, and will help learn what is working when it comes to reaching customers.
Be a Better Answer: 3 Important SEO Principles
At MozCon 2015, Dr. Pete, or Pete Myers, Moz marketing scientist, gave a speech called “Surviving Google: SEO in 2020.” In his speech, he told attendees that they might actually have more luck jumping from number five in a competitive query to number zero than if they were targeting the number one spot.
“That is incredibly difficult,” he said, referring to the number one spot. “That takes a lot of money, a lot of links, a lot of authority.”
Getting to number zero, though, is where you’ll find the featured snippets, also called the “rich answer” or the “direct answer.” If someone queries a direct question, Google might pull a summary of the answer from someone’s page to the top of the search results in a different box. Google notes that it “programmatically” finds pages with answers; when you look at the search results list, though, the site where the snippet was originally published isn’t always the first one listed. You might need to scroll past a few higher-ranking sites to actually arrive at the feature snippet’s blog.
Since being launched in 2014, the featured snippets use has quadrupled, helping users and blog owners. Some stats are showing that when a featured snippet appears in search results traffic to the featured blog increased by 500 percent.
So, what did Myers recommend? What’s the magic formula for reaching this prime spot in your SEO plan?
“You might be able to jump past No. 1 to No. 0 with this just by matching the question better,” he said. “Be a better match. Be a better answer to the question. It’s good for users.”
Following this advice is sound not only from a featured snippet perspective, but from an SEO and content marketing perspective, as well. You’ll start to see more traffic, more followers, and a greater audience when you are able to give your prospects valuable information that helps them grow or learn.
If you want customers to find you at the top of the search engine results page, you have to stay in tune with what your target audience is searching. Since the search engines are scanning your pages and your Web site as a whole to determine if you’re able to best answer their questions, the content that you publish should incorporate some basic practices. These will optimize your content itself.
- Headings and subheadings make it easier for your readers to digest content and improve the search engine’s ability to determine the topic of your content.
- Quality body text incorporates keywords in a natural, flowing manner. Don’t look for ways to just stick your keyword into the piece, but base your sentence structure and content outline around easy-to-read keyword placement. By “stuffing” your content with the keyword, or filling your piece with the word, you’re not only hurting yourself in the eyes of your readers, but could be punished by the search engines.
- Links to your own pages pull the search engines deeper into your site’s architecture.
- Meta tags and alt tags are used to optimize your title and description of your piece and to provide alternate text for images on your Web site.
Good Web site structure and maintenance will make SEO more effective in your business. Starting with a solid structure and template, designing a site that is easy to navigate, and providing ways for users to access your content will grow your ability to reach new customers.
Have a menu structure that clearly specifies the pages, prevent duplicate pages, name your files with descriptions, re-write URLs, and monitor your site and page loading speeds to help you rank higher. Re-visit and review your site and you’ll see why good SEO practices are becoming even more important in growing your business.
Jumping up in search engine rankings doesn’t happen overnight. Persistence, patience, and planning, though, will help you boost your results and reach more people. When writing content, for example, start incorporating evergreen content. Look at the problems or situations your customers are facing, look at your own products or services, and find ways to match them in timeless content that you can promote multiple times. These longer pieces can help drive traffic by building relationships and building authority. They typically take longer for most content creators to produce, but they are also some of the best ways to see traffic spikes, more leads, and ranking increases.
SEO has grown to the point where deciding whether or not to incorporate optimization practices is no longer an option. SEO is important, and becoming a crucial part of growing Web sites, audiences, and businesses. As you can see, though, search engine optimization is made up of many different factors. When you’re working to build your site, finding professionals who understand the algorithms needed to rank higher can improve your results.
What are you biggest challenges when it comes to SEO? Tell me about it in the comments and we’ll talk about solutions and ways to move your site higher on the results pages.
Contact Business Marketing Engine today — the SEO experts will give you a free consultation, analyze your Web site, and will give you a list of actionable steps that can take your site to the top of the results page.