You’ve got a great business idea, and you’ve even got people who are willing to follow your leadership. Before your company can head into a bright and shining new future, however, it will need to make inroads into well-travelled territory:
The digital landscape beckons, but without search engine optimization, or SEO, your dreams won’t ever achieve their potential.
What makes search engine optimization the secret sauce of digital marketing? Here’s what online business leaders should understand.
What Is Search Engine Optimization?
The term search engine optimization describes a broad set of practices designed to help companies improve their rankings on search engine results pages or SERPs. Although these techniques vary, the general idea is vital for attracting notice online.
How Search Works to Power Digital Commerce
Imagine that you’re running a company that acquires overstock apparel and sells it online. When someone searches for a term like “dressy blouse” or “men’s shirts,” search engines provide them with a range of results that the software thinks might be what they’re seeking. Since search engines are the first places that most netizens look for things, your success depends on how prominently you show up.
Naturally, all users are different, so not every link that shows up on a SERP will satisfy a given individual’s needs. Google and other search engines work hard to improve the quality of the results they provide by using algorithms, or rigorous mathematical and programmatic formulas, to promote certain results over others. For instance, if lots of consumers click on your competitor’s link after searching for “winter jackets,” then the search engine will decide that result is organic, or highly relevant to the search term in question.
The Value of Getting Noticed
Where does search engine optimization come into the process? By using techniques like adding keywords to pages and creating interesting, fresh content, companies can target specific search terms and increase people’s willingness to click through. Since these organic results get heavily promoted, it’s possible to manipulate the system simply by ensuring that your content is actually what people are looking for. Here are some of the reasons such techniques are so powerful:
Users Don’t Like to Search for Too Long
If you’ve ever searched for products or services on the web, then you’re already familiar with this concept. Imagine that you’re looking for something fast. You’ve got better things to do than sit around clicking through results in an attempt to find the best options. In the vast majority of cases, you’ll stick to whatever’s available on the first page, and consumers are no different.
Whether such behaviour is due to people’s sheer laziness or fast-paced modern lifestyles, the message is clear for digital businesses: Lower-ranked results receive significantly fewer clicks. It’s essential to get noticed before users completely lose interest, and this means aiming for the highest position on the first page of results.
Since it’s impossible to know who you’re competing with, it’s vital to tailor your content and site design to make it easier for the search engine to find you. Good search engine optimization includes practices like using hidden meta tags and well-organized links to accommodate the web crawlers, or automated bots, that search engines use to map out what’s online.
Wrong Search Results Mean Lingering Bad Blood
What happens when a user clicks on a link only to discover that the resulting page has nothing to do with what they wanted? In addition to finding another corner of the web to occupy, people tend to get frustrated. In a world where consumer sentiment is everything, few things are worse than building this kind of bad PR. Search engine optimization helps your firm target people more accurately, so it’s an essential part of ensuring they don’t feel misled by your brand.
Paid Ads Only Go so Far
It’s important to distinguish organic search results from commercial advertisements. According to one 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, web users reported feelings of suspicion about any search results they suspected to be paid ads. While people weren’t averse to clicking on such sponsored results if they were location-specific, they avoided most of them like the plague.
This concept makes sense from a psychological standpoint, and it underscores the importance of having a robust search engine optimization strategy. Consumers are immediately on their guard when they think you’re trying to sell them something, so it’s more effective to respond to their needs by demonstrating value. Since sites that provide more useful information rank higher, online business leaders must invest time in improving the quality of their content and researching keywords.
Search Engines Don’t Just Look at One Factor
In the old days of the web, search engines didn’t do much discriminating when it came to distinguishing organic results from ads and other low-quality content. Today, however, the algorithms that do the work behind the scenes pay attention to countless variables (over 200) to determine what’s organic and what’s not. For instance, Google favours sites that incorporate mobile-friendly design practices. When it comes to building a web presence that spans across multiple sites, companies with significant numbers of social media followers and inbound links from other places are more likely to show up near the top of SERPs.
It’s also worth remembering that search engine algorithms change with the times. Although companies like Google usually announce major shifts, nobody knows exactly how things work, and these transitions can come with little warning. In other words, effective search engine optimization is an ongoing affair, and it’s critical to be adaptable. Focusing solely on one aspect of your site is a sure way to fail.
Putting the Knowledge Into Action
Search engine optimization takes many forms, but the overarching goal is to increase visibility. The internet is a gargantuan place, so your business’s digital future depends on whether you can make big enough ripples to be seen. Implementing sustainable SEO practices is the key to ensuring that your firm grabs attention when it matters most.