How search engine optimization can help grow your website traffic and bring in more customers
If you’ve researched digital marketing strategies to bring in organic traffic, at some point you may have asked yourself: why is SEO important?
When marketing your business, it can be tempting to prioritize the glamorous channels that bring immediately visible results. But while Instagram likes, Facebook ad impressions and Google Ad clicks can be exciting, their effect tends to go away when you stop spending on them.
SEO, on the other hand, is a long-term strategy to bring in organic traffic (non-paid) and build rapport with your audience over time. It’s one of the most important marketing efforts for any business, whether your business operates online or in person.
In this article we’ll explain what SEO is, why it’s important, and how you can implement SEO best practices to bring in more website visitors.
What is SEO exactly?
SEO stands for search engine optimization and is the practice of improving your website in order to have it rank higher in search engine results and therefore gain more traffic.
Website traffic that comes from SEO is referred to as “organic” traffic because you didn’t pay for the click or traffic resulting form of a Google search ad for example. Search results that show below the paid ads are referred to as “natural” or unpaid search results. Clicks on natural listings in the search results do not cost you any money and result in organic traffic to your website.
While we’re talking about the definition of SEO, we should also address another acronym: SERP. The SERP (search engine results page) is basically what comes up when you hit “enter” on a search. The SERP is usually made up of paid results, organic results, Featured Snippets, Knowledge Graphs and video results.
Why is SEO important for my business?
Think about the last time you Googled something. When you submitted your search and came upon the SERP, which Google search result did you click on? Maybe you browsed the first few results and clicked on the first two or three organic results.
How often do you travel to the next page of Google? Chances are you rarely leave the first page of Google because the answer to your question is in the first few results. Indeed, studies have found that 99% of searchers click on one of the links in the first SERP.
If you want potential customers to visit your website, it needs to appear high enough up in the search engine results that they click on it. SEO is important because it can help boost your website higher in the search engine result pages so you increase your chances of getting seen and getting clicked on.
Organic Search is often the primary source of quality website traffic
Organic traffic accounts for 53% of all website traffic. Every business needs online traffic in order to grow. If you offer a service, organic traffic can serve as an invaluable source of inbound leads for your sales team to nurture.
If you have an ecommerce business, organic traffic can result in immediate customers who would otherwise travel through your sales funnel in the form of a social media follower or email list subscriber.
SEO builds trust & credibility
SEO is a crucial aspect of your online reputation. Think about it: if you see a site show up as the first result for your search, wouldn’t you be likely to see it as an authority on that topic?
Search engine algorithms are designed to replicate human behavior, so search engines will boost your website if it demonstrates expertise, authority and trust.
SEO isn’t just about showing up high in search results; it also involves your site’s user experience and load speed. Maintaining SEO best practices on your site will help communicate to website crawlers and visitors alike that your site is worth visiting and engaging with.
When you pay for Google Ads, your website will show up in the SERP for as long as you’re paying for the ad. One blog post, on the other hand, can bring you website visitors for years, making SEO a more sustainable source of website traffic than paid search (PPC).
When executed effectively, SEO can bring in tons of website visitors that convert into customers. Depending on the industry, SEO has been found to bring in an ROI of 317% – 1,389% over a three-year period.
A source of foot traffic
If your business has a brick-and-mortar location, local SEO can be an important source of foot traffic. Local SEO helps you rank for geographically targeted searches. When a local customer searches for your business type “near me” or within a certain geographical distance from your business, local SEO can help your business appear in Google search results.
How does SEO work?
The Internet has come a long way since Tim Berners-Lee launched the world’s first website in 1991. In the beginning when websites floated around in the Internet, search engines served as a way to catalog information and sort results based on keywords.
Today, search engine algorithms are almost as complex as living, breathing organisms with a mind of their own.
Search engines are governed by three broad steps: crawling, indexing, and ranking.
According to ohmycrawl.com, website crawling involves finding new pages and recording information about them. This helps search engines discover new pages, and also review pages they’ve already visited for updated content. Website crawlers are sometimes called “spiders,” possibly because they follow links they’ve already discovered in a similar way that a spider would follow a web. That’s why how you structure your internal links has an effect on the way search engines crawl your website, which we’ll get to later.
The next step is indexing, which is when a search engine files your website into a database that can later be retrieved.
Once the search engine has crawled and indexed your site, it can then begin ranking it. There are more than 200 ranking signals that search engines such as Google use to sort and rank content.
Let’s talk about some of the most important ways you can signal to search engines that your website should be among the sites that they rank for search results.
How to improve your SEO
There are several types of SEO you need to know about in order to form a well-rounded organic search strategy: technical SEO, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO.
Technical SEO is all about ensuring that search engines are able to crawl and index your site. Here are some of the most important steps to improve your technical SEO:
- Make sure your robots.txt file is optimized so that search engines can properly access your website.
- Use the Index Coverage Report in Google Search Console to identify and fix crawl errors.
- Create an XML sitemap and submit it to all major search engines.
- Optimize your website for both desktop and mobile to ensure a good user experience on all devices.
- Optimize your site speed and how your content loads on your pages. Refer to Google’s Core Web Vitals
On-page SEO refers to the process of improving the content on your website for both search engine crawlers and potential customers. That means adjusting your code and content to indicate to search engines what your page is talking about. Make sure the content is high-quality so your human visitors understand and value the content enough to engage with it and spend time on your website.
Some of the most important on-page SEO factors include:
Every time a user performs a search, search engines want to show them results that satisfy their search intent efficiently and comprehensively. The four main types of search intent are:
- Informational: People looking for broad information
- Commercial: People looking to research before purchasing
- Navigational: People looking for a specific website
- Transactional: People who are ready for a purchase
Consider what your users are searching for and how each of your websites can satisfy their intent.
Your blog or website content can satisfy their informational intent (for instance, this blog post).
You can target commercial intent with information about your product or service like FAQ’s, reviews, and pricing information.
If their intent is transactional, make sure your site has structured data to show up in the Google Shopping carousel and local packs.
Once you’ve determined which user intent you want your page to satisfy, consider how to signal to search engines that your page should be ranked for that search query. One way to do this is through strategic keyword research and placement.
Your URL, page title, and meta description are several places you can strategically insert the keyword you want that page to rank for. Since these elements are visible on the SERP, they can also help communicate to users what that page’s content consists of and therefore improve click-through rate.
You should also include your keywords throughout the headers and body of your page content. Try to use your target keyword in the first 100 words of the page, since search engines put more weight on terms that show up earlier on your page. Be sure not “stuff” or overuse your keywords. Your text should sound natural and easy to read.
Keyword optimization is much more complex than just adding a few keywords but starting with a focused topic will help get you started on the right foot.
In addition to technical factors and keyword distribution, search engines also consider the less tangible aspects of your on-page SEO when ranking your site. Make sure you’re writing high-quality, readable content in order to reduce bounce rate and increase page dwell times.
There are a couple of writing strategies you can use to make your content more readable. Make sure you write concisely and only give accurate information. Adding skimmable headlines also helps readers find the information they’re looking for quicker. Content also tends to be easier to read when it’s broken down into short sentences and paragraphs.
Internal linking, or linking between pages on your site, is an on-page SEO tactic that helps search engines understand the relationship among the various pages of your website. Internal linking also benefits the user when you use it to help them navigate to supplemental content. For instance, linking an in-depth guide within a more surface-level blog post helps readers who want to dive deeper into the topic navigate to the appropriate place.
Internal linking can also help to reduce bounce rate or people leaving your site by keeping visitors on your site longer. Keeping signals to search engines that your website is valuable and therefore should be given a higher ranking position.
Structured data, or schema, refers to the code you can put in the backend of your web pages to help Google understand your content. Examples of structured data formats include ratings, books, articles, recipes, local business information, and much more.
When you code this schema into your webpage, Google can then populate what’s called a “rich snippet” into the search results. Rich snippets are placed high on the search engine results page and have great visibility. Having rich data can help your site stand out and improve your click-through rate.
In contrast to on-page SEO, off-page SEO refers to the optimization of signals that happen off of your website. You can look at off-page SEO as “borrowing” authority from other websites and platforms to help boost your site in the rankings. For instance, a backlink, or link from a reputable site that links to your website can signal to search engines that your site is valuable too, and should be ranked accordingly.
There are companies that will offer to give backlinks to your website for a fee. This is considered a “black-hat SEO” tactic and is typically frowned upon by Google. While spammy link-building strategies worked in the earlier days of search engine algorithms, now it can actually hurt your search engine rankings. Try to avoid backlinks from low-authority or spam domains. It’s better to collect backlinks by publishing high-quality content and offering to guest post on legitimate websites within your niche. If done right, link-building can have a big impact on your SEO efforts.
How does SEO play into your digital marketing strategy?
SEO should be a part of every business’s digital marketing strategy. When done effectively, search engine optimization can be a source of steady traffic and a way to build trust with search engines and human audiences alike.
If paying for website traffic is like buying a tomato at the grocery store, SEO is like sowing the seeds and having endless tomatoes. Even though it takes longer to see results from your SEO efforts, your harvest will be more rewarding and cost-effective in the long-run.
What to look for in an SEO agency
Of course, not everyone wants to spend time gardening. Proper SEO involves auditing your current site for optimization opportunities, implementing technical SEO best practices, and developing a content strategy.
Hiring an SEO agency is a good idea for brands who want to make sure their website is set up and managed in a way that helps them rank for their target keywords.
Your SEO agency should be able to demonstrate a track record of optimizing websites and increasing online visibility. They should also provide regular updates about the progress of your website’s SEO and explain a long-term vision that will bring you qualified traffic and conversions.
Are you looking for an SEO partner that will help you scale your business? We’d love to chat.