What is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a long-term inbound marketing method that uses keywords, search engine rankings and website design to draw leads, clicks and all sorts of eyeballs to your business. If you’re confused by any of those terms, then just wait a moment, I’m about to break it down for you a little bit more.
Let’s start here. What are keywords? In the simplest terms, these are words that people use to find a product or service on the internet. For example, if you wanted to find out what SEO was, you would just search “What is SEO?” and then you have a whole list of resources where you can learn all about it.
Search Engine Rankings
Search engine rankings are actually pretty easy to understand, it’s the algorithm behind them that is difficult. To start out, search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo! are software systems that organize all the documents and websites on the internet and then pull them up when you request them. So how does a search engine know what order to pull these results up in?
Well that’s where the algorithm comes into place. For our purposes, we are going to focus on Google because it is the dominant search engine out there. In fact, according to SEO Leads, Google receives 96% of all smartphone search traffic and 94% of the total organic traffic on the internet. So back to the algorithm. Only Google truly knows what goes into their ranking algorithm, as there are over 200 ranking factors, but we will focus on the main three factors.
The most important ranking factor is relevance. Google wants to make sure that whatever you’re looking for, you find it and you find it fast, so when it comes to rankings, they will make sure it’s the most relevant and information-filled source.
Another important ranking factor is credibility. Google doesn’t just use keywords to determine where to rank, otherwise people would just put keywords all over their page like maniacs (which they have). Instead, they use the amount of traffic and the number of backlinks your site has. What are backlinks? Great question! Backlinks are links that one website gets from another website. For example, when a website produces articles, blogs, or any sort of great content, some websites will link that content onto their website. Which means the more backlinks you have, the more authority you have in that field, and the more credibility in Google’s eyes.
The last ranking factor is user experience. What is that? Well, that’s how your website looks, feels and responds to users. If your website responds quickly, has all information you need right in front you and looks great, then you’re going to do great. If your website takes forever to load, has 14 pages to go through before you can find the info you need, and looks like something from 1997, then nobody will ever see it. Or if they do, they will quickly back out of it and give you a high bounce rate. What’s a bounce rate? Well, that’s when users click onto your site and quickly click back to the results page. What that means to Google is that the people who use your page don’t think it’s what they need for that keyword and causes them to drop you in the rankings.
Google’s algorithm will never be known, but what everyone can agree on is this: make your site for humans, not for Google. It will help build your credibility up quicker and help you soar up those rankings!
Why is SEO Important for Business?
What’s the most important thing for a business? To have customers of course, and SEO not only helps you generate leads, it helps your customers figure out if they want to buy something from your business. In fact, 34% of consumers begin their retail research by using search engines such as Bing, Google or Yahoo, according to a survey by BloomReach. Not only that, but according to Google, 46% of all searches are local.
Let me make that message a little clearer: a third of YOUR customers that are looking for products and services within YOUR industry start by typing in the search bar and seeing what pops up. If YOUR business is nowhere to be seen on that first page, you’ve just lost a huge chunk of YOUR customers to YOUR competition. A little bit loud I know, but you need to know what’s at stake!
Let’s build onto that a little bit more. Nowadays, consumers want quick results and they want them as soon as they hit enter. If you will look at this chart created by Advanced Web Ranking, you’ll see
that the click-through rate for both desktop and mobile highly depends on where you’re ranked. The blue line shows that for the top position in Google desktop rankings in February of 2019, there’s a CTR of 30.54%. The red line shows that the top position for Google mobile rankings has a CTR of 23.59%. Both of these are amazing and give those rankings a large portion of all traffic.
Main lesson from this, if you rank #1 in Google, you’re golden. You will have customers coming to you, buying your products and services, reviewing those after they purchase them and giving you leads when they don’t. But if you’re reading this, then most likely, you’re not there. In fact, you probably don’t show up on this entire chart. If you rank #20, then you have a CTR of less than 3%. If you’re lower, you probably don’t want to know what your CTR is. Actually, you should definitely find that out and figure out where you stand.
Why Not Pay for It?
We’ve learned a little bit about SEO and why it’s important, but we all know you can do paid ads as well. So why not just pay for clicks? Well you can but pay-per-click (PPC) ads are only relevant as long as you pay for them. Even then, most customers don’t trust PPC ads. In fact, 70-80% of users are only focusing on organic results, according to SEOtribunal.com. I know for a fact that when I see a PPC ad and a regular website link side-by-side, even if they are to the same website, that I will always click the organic result.
But that doesn’t mean completely forsake PPC ads. According to searchengineland.com, marketers who use a combination of organic SEO techniques and PPC ads see an average of 25% more paid clicks, 30% increase in organic traffic and 20% increase in profits compared to those who only use a single technique. The trick is to not go all-in on technique or another, it’s to use them together. You have to use every tool in your arsenal, but you also have to know when and where need to be used.
To-Dos and Not To-Dos
Look, now that we know all about SEO, let’s talk about some things you need to jump into immediately and things you need to avoid like the plague.
Starting with things you need to get to doing today, you need to start getting some valuable content on your website. There are tons of different kinds of content, from blogs to product, category or industry explanations and examples, to guides on how to do things. But it’s just vital that you get something that people can backlink to. Not only that, make sure you try to constantly update and add new things.
After all, it can’t hurt your website. In fact, 47% of consumers view 3-5 pieces of content created by a company before talking to a salesman from that company, according to a report by Demand Gen. This is especially important if you’re offering a service, like cybersecurity or HVAC service and repair. Explain your craft, your industry, why people need these things. When people see that you know what you’re talking about, they feel more comfortable trusting whatever issue or need they have to you.
Another thing you should definitely do is optimize your website. Bring it up to date, make it reliable, make it modern and make it user-friendly. It’s going to help you out. Also, if you haven’t already, make it mobile-friendly. Every year we rely more and more on our phones and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I mean, did you know that 50.8% of searches came from mobile devices last year? If you haven’t already become mobile-friendly, get started on it. If you haven’t done any of this, there’s no better time to start than now.
Now onto things to avoid like the plague. Most importantly, do NOT try to circumvent or manipulate Google’s ranking factors. What’s that mean? Well, that means don’t buy backlinks, for one. There are some sites and shady places where they will offer you backlinks if you pay for it and if Google catches you or those sites (which they will!), you will be heavily penalized in rankings. Another thing, do not “cloak.” That means do not manipulate your site to look better to Google than it does to humans. Google does not like that, and they will make sure that traffic to your website suffers.
Last thing for ranking factors, don’t stuff keywords into your website. While you should strategically place them into all areas that makes sense, you do not need to overuse them. Whether you write “HVAC” five times in two sentences or five times on a whole page, it will count the same. Not only that, if you write a paragraph full of text and you use the keyword “HVAC” six times, even where it doesn’t make sense, then users who come to your website will think that you’re not legitimate and will back out as quickly as possible, which will help drop you in the rankings.
Hmm, what else? Oh, I know! Do not use paid ads to improve SEO. By themselves, they won’t, and Google won’t boost your rankings because you bought from them. In fact, they have their paid ads department completely separated from their organic rankings department just for that purpose.
Finally, don’t fail to use the tools at your disposal! Use everything Google gives you, especially their tips, guidelines and their tools. Google Webmaster Tools will allow you to do multiple things that will help boost your SEO and allow you to increase your rankings. If you don’t think you can do this on your own, find an agency or freelancer within your price range who will. They will know where you’re at, how to get you where you want to go, and they will get you there.
What’s It Cost?
Before I go, let’s talk about the 3 ways people usually bill for SEO.
- Flat Fee
Now as an agency, we have seen a lot. We have had customers that were paying a flat fee for SEO ($99 to $5000) and you must be careful because no matter how you pay for it you need to have reporting. Here are two samples of reports. The first one below is SEO that is based on keywords. The blue number will show the ranking of the particular keyword on the all of the search engines and the green number next to it will show the number of places you’ve increased.
The next report shows the ranking of main keywords as well as the secondary keywords, otherwise known as “halo” keywords.
If you choose to pay a professional, which you should, make sure they are truly a professional and provide accurate reports. We at Amplus Agency are a fan of transparency so we only offer keywords at a specific cost and hourly work. Be careful of flat fees with no reports of keywords, long term contracts and the $99 SEO guy. Smoke and mirror SEO is sold to thousands of businesses a year, so be careful! Ask the right questions and know what you are getting.
If you’re interested and need SEO help, our SEO packages start off at around $400 a month and go up to $5000 depending on the number of keywords and hours that you want. If you have any questions or would like to chat with us, we would be happy to assist!