So, what is SEO again? My client doesn’t understand
I once designed a business website for a client who is a professional painter. After his site was complete, we had a discussion that went something like this:
Him: I want some business! We just launched my website. Why isn’t anybody calling?
Me: Because having a website alone doesn’t guarantee you’ll be found.
Him: But why? It seems to me, if someone googles “professional painter in [his city]” my site should come up. But it doesn’t. Why not?
It’s a good question (and one he found highly frustrating).
The truth is, landing on the front page of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) is no that easy. In a sea of billions of webpages, ranking among the top dozen or so for a particular search term is extremely difficult. There’s a lot of competition!
Google determines which search results to show you based on many, many factors. The exact formulas (“algorithms”) for these results are closely-guarded secrets and highly complex. And they change CONSTANTLY.
Here are some FAQ about SEO, in a nutshell.
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
SEO is an acronym for “search engine optimization” or “search engine optimizer.” Put simply, SEO involves doing things to make search engines like your website more.
Why would you want the search engines to like your site more?
Because then, when people are googling or searching for services you offer, the search engines will be more likely to suggest your site as a place to go (above others who offer the same service). Whether you’re a plumber, dentist, real estate agent or any other type of business, ranking on the first page of Google can dramatically increase your business.
Why does my website need SEO?
The majority of web traffic is driven by the major commercial search engines, Google, Bing, and Yahoo!. Although social media and other types of traffic can generate visits to your website, search engines are the primary method of navigation for most Internet users. This is true whether your site provides content, services, products, information, or just about anything else.
Search engines are unique in that they provide targeted traffic—people looking for what you offer. Search engines are the roadways that make this happen. If search engines cannot find your site, or add your content to their databases, you miss out on incredible opportunities to drive traffic to your site.
Search queries—the words that users type into the search box—carry extraordinary value. Experience has shown that search engine traffic can make (or break) an organization’s success. Targeted traffic to a website can provide publicity, revenue, and exposure like no other channel of marketing. Investing in SEO can have an exceptional rate of return compared to other types of marketing and promotion.
Why can’t the search engines figure out my site without SEO?
Search engines are smart, but they still need help. The major engines are always working to improve their technology to crawl the web more deeply and return better results to users. However, there is a limit to how search engines can operate. Whereas the right SEO can net you thousands of visitors and increased attention, the wrong moves can hide or bury your site deep in the search results where visibility is minimal.
In addition to making content available to search engines, SEO also helps boost rankings so that content will be placed where searchers will more readily find it. The Internet is becoming increasingly competitive, and those companies who perform SEO will have a decided advantage in visitors and customers.
Can I do SEO for myself?
The world of SEO is complex, but most people can easily understand the basics. Even a small amount of knowledge can make a big difference. Free SEO education is widely available on the web. Combine this with a little practice and you are well on your way to becoming a guru.
Depending on your time commitment, your willingness to learn, and the complexity of your website(s), you may decide you need an expert to handle things for you. Firms that practice SEO can vary; some have a highly specialized focus, while others take a broader and more general approach.
In any case, it’s good to have a firm grasp of the core concepts.