“What is SEO?”
and some great tips on choosing the right SEO professional for your small business
by Brad Stewart, Founder of Big Market SEO
Before answering the question of “What is SEO” you must first have a baseline understanding of search engines, their purpose, and why business owners should be very intrigued by how their target audience is already using it. Search engines are programmed web-based algorithms on the internet that allow a user to type in any topic or keyword phrase to receive the most relevant, popular, and related results and sources on the internet. If you have ever heard someone say, “I am going to ‘Google’ it” or make any similar reference to Google, they are using a search engine. Google holds the largest share of search engine users with roughly two thirds of the search market, with Yahoo and Bing carrying a split portion of the remaining pie. A recent study showed that 92% of internet users use search engines, with well over half of internet users using search engines on a daily basis.
If the World Wide Web pioneered the infrastructure to introduce the information age, then search engines provided the interface. Search engines provide the ability to research any topic including product or service reviews, price shopping, local and national provider search, college research, or practically any search topic known to the human race. If there is a relative article or resource available on the internet, the search engine can typically find it as long as it relates to the keywords the user types in. There were several search engines launched prior to Google, but Google’s algorithm, or formula for returning the best results for the user, pioneered the search engine industry. There are 3.5 billion searches per day, and 1.2 trillion searches annually worldwide on its search engine with that number progressing every year since its 1998 launch.
Search Engine Optimization for Small Business
SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads such as direct mail and print advertising have a 1.7% close rate.
SEO is 300% more effective than social media at driving traffic to websites.
By understanding how search engines work and how their growth continues to spike every year, your small business should be aware that users are going to the search engines to discover companies and brands that offer the very products and services you offer. If an individual types in the product or service you offer and they tag it with your local city, Google immediately gives them all of the providers and companies that offer what they are ready to buy in their local city or region. Unfortunately, simply being on the internet will not produce results. Your website, social media, and online presence overall must be intentional and created in a way that the search engines, which are computer bots, understand what you are providing and why you should be a top authority in your niche within your local city or region. It requires a search engine optimization on your website as well as your other online properties before bots will realize that you indeed should be listed in the search results for the products and services you provide in your city or cities.
Search engine optimization is used for many reasons, but the most important purpose of having a search engine optimization strategy for your small business is to drive traffic to your website. With a proper website structure and conversion strategy, the only variable is highly targeted traffic. The traffic already exists on Google, and if you are not intercepting the traffic then your local competition is by default. An effective SEO strategy increases brand awareness, drives traffic to your website, generates leads, and allows your company to sell products and services directly to the real-time, highly targeted audience who is in the mood to buy. This type of effectiveness cannot be achieved by billboards, television ads, newspaper ads, or other types of traditional advertising where you are charged by the massive traffic rather than a very high targeted group of individuals. Furthermore, with true organic search engine optimization, you are only paying a firm or an SEO professional to generate these results. As a business owner, you should be aware that Google takes search engine optimization serious. If you are not educated in this realm, you should have an SEO consultation prior to initiating anything on your online properties.
What is the catch with SEO?
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The worst part is when your SEO provider blames it on Google and walks away from your agreement, or even worse, upcharges you to fix it. With that said, search engine optimization is absolutely acceptable by Google and they desire to place you higher in their results as long as it is by organic method and natural. Overall, Google wants the user experience to be great, and they even publicize what areas they are focused on in order to determine your placement in the search results. Performance based SEO experts are more focused on the money and are not focused on providing a great user experience. If you are contacting a firm that specializes more in SEO than they do in web design, this could be a potential red flag. At the same time, SEO should be more important to you than the web design, because a great web design is useless unless there is traffic that can see it. Find a firm that is great at both and you will be very happy that you did.
White Hat SEO experts are individuals or firms that steer away from exploiting the algorithm but still have a great understanding of what Google and other search engines are looking for. Their methods and tactics are ethical and very natural. Since there are no exact rules on what is allowed and not allowed in terms of search engine optimization on a website, white hat SEO experts focus on natural and organic methods such as producing high quality, user engaged content including articles, videos, and social media updates and engagement. Having proper backlinks from credible and relative websites is totally accepted by Google, but having several thousand backlinks from irrelevant sources is what business owners sometimes end up with from black hat SEO gurus. Simply put: White hat SEO is more focused on the user experience and is not nearly as focused on exploiting the search engine algorithms.