When many businesses think about web technology, they fixate on web design. Professional website design is certainly important; keeping up with web development trends is vital to ensuring that consumers like your website and want to be your customers. But there’s a lot more to web technology than designing websites. You also need to get people to visit your website in the first place, and that means investing in search engine optimization.
How Does SEO Work?
SEO is, essentially, the process of making your website rank more highly in the search engine results pages, or SERPs. (This shouldn’t be confused with PPC, which stands for pay per click and refers to placing advertisements on SERPs.) There are many, many factors that go into SEO — and no one knows them all, since Google and its competitors keep their ranking algorithms a secret — but there are a few strategies that are known to work. First of all, mobile web design has become incredibly important this year, as Google announced that mobile friendliness is now given weight in its algorithm (that means mobile friendly design is now a so-called “ranking signal”). Other onsite factors, such as load time, bounce rate and use of keywords are also ranking signals.
The other half of SEO involves offsite factors. Google uses how many links from other websites point to your website to determine how helpful and authoritative it is. In the past, disreputable SEO companies exploited this policy by buying thousands of these links from shady sites overseas. Since Google has cracked down on this strategy, SEO has essentially become synonymous with content marketing, or the practice of creating interesting, helpful and/or funny content. As this content is shared across the Internet, it keeps building up links to your website, allowing you to earn inbound links in a legitimate way and thereby boost your rankings on the SERPs.
Who Needs SEO?
If that sounds like a lot of work to you, you’re right. Real SEO isn’t a quick solution; it takes creativity and time. For that reason, it’s normally best to contract SEO out to a specialized agency or ask whatever company is handling your other web technology to find an SEO provider for you. Is it worth it? The simple answer is yes. Almost all American consumers use search engines to find what they need online, and fewer than 30% of them will click through to even the second page of results. It wouldn’t be overstating the importance of SEO to say that if you have a poorly optimized website, you almost might as well not have a website at all.
While all businesses can benefit from SEO, there’s a certain subset it helps more than others. You can look up all the technical specifications by typing “inbound marketing” into Google, but there’s an easier way to think about it: Any business that would have been listed in the phone book a decade or two ago now needs to be heavily investing in SEO. Because search engines rely on users typing in what they’re looking for, they aren’t a good platform to create demand. But if you offer something that you know people need — whether that’s plumbing or cooking lessons — then SEO is probably your strongest option for capturing the demand that is already out there.
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