If you’ve spent ANY time at all on the Internet, it’s pretty much a given that you’ve used Google at some point to help you find what you need.
From a casual Internet user’s perspective, the process must be bordering on magical—simply type in a few keywords and send them off into the void, and in return, you get a list of results in order of how important they might be to you.
But now, as someone actually trying to rank highly in that list, it can’t be a box of black magic anymore. You need to learn how to make yourself relevant to the people searching in your niche.
And that’s where search engine optimization or SEO comes in.
What Exactly Is SEO?
SEO is a term that you’ve likely encountered as you’ve read up on digital marketing. It refers to
making your website as “palatable” as possible to search engines so that you rank highly whenever people search within your niche.
There is a huge number of SEO strategies out there, but virtually all of them revolve around optimizing websites and content to rank highly in the relevance-detecting algorithms used by every search engine’s web crawlers.
These crawlers are constantly scouring the Web for content and “indexing” it for their engine’s servers to look through. They’re also searching for keywords and other characteristics in each website, to give them an idea of how relevant they are.
Does It Really Matter If I Get Ranked By Google?
Let’s get this out of the way.
“Search engine optimization” should probably just be named “Google optimization,” because really, that Google represents the bulk of the search volume in the world. Almost 90% of people use Google as their search engine around the world, with the remaining minority going to Bing, Yahoo, Baidu and other engines you probably haven’t used in years.
Google’s dominance is so great that not only is it the most-used search engine in the world, it’s actually the website with the most traffic in the world. There’s a huge amount of value in ranking highly on Google when it comes to driving traffic to your own site.
And being ranked highly on Google is a metric that sticks around for a long time. By providing great relevance to your niche, you’ll show up on keyword searches constantly for months at a time—with the right SEO strategy, of course.
Finally, the impact of a high rank on Google is undoubtedly massive. 55% of all clicks go to the top three listings on Google search results, and 97% of searchers won’t even make it to page 2.
How Do I Know If I Need SEO Services
It’s not hard to build a working knowledge of SEO. Even with zero understanding of terms like “bounce rate” and “search volume,” you can get yourself up to speed in a couple of weeks by following courses and reading articles.
That said, effectively implementing SEO is another story. It takes years of experience handling SEO for different industries and facing many kinds of competitors and unique niche landscapes before you can truly become an SEO guru—one who can bring your traffic and conversions to the next level.
That’s why doing it yourself won’t always yield good results.
You might find that despite your best efforts, your traffic is going nowhere and your website is a barren wasteland. Or perhaps people are finding their way to you, but just bouncing off your page utterly uninterested in what you have to say, which may hurt your page ranking even more.
And even if it does work for you, SEO is a massive time sink, involving constant audits, keyword research, maintenance, backlinking, and a lot of other busywork that will take time away from you growing your business.
When you realize that these things are happening, it may be time to call in the experts.
There are plenty of affordable SEO services for small businesses, so getting your page optimized won’t hurt your wallet. In fact, the right SEO service will bring back incredible returns and boost your traffic and business.
How Do I Know Where To Get Started With SEO?
It’s often said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Well, with SEO, you might want to make that a dozen or so steps. Knowing where to begin with SEO requires you to do a detailed SEO audit of your website so you can determine your areas for improvement and the next steps you need to take.
In this section, we’ll give you a quick rundown of the easiest SEO audit techniques you can perform by yourself.
Tools To Help You Get Started
Some of the tools you’ll need to learn along the way are the Google suite of SEO tools, including Search Console, Analytics, and Structured Data Testing Tool. These are all critical to discovering your opportunities for optimization.
The easiest of the SEO audits is also one of the most impactful if you find a mistake. Checking if your site follows mobile-friendly practices is an extremely important thing to do, as Google explicitly penalizes sites that don’t play nice with mobile browsers. With half of all traffic coming from smartphones and tablets, this is something you want to work on pronto.
Simply view your site on Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to get a quick answer.
Site Loading Speed
About half of all consumers want websites to load in under two seconds. When a site takes three seconds or longer, expect as many as 40% of people to just navigate away. And on top of this, Google has said all the way back in 2010 that page loading speed affects rankings. Clearly, you should be focusing on getting your page loading speed as fast as possible.
To help improve your page loading speed, use Google PageSpeed Insights to get a quick report of how fast it takes for your page to load, and get recommendations on how you can improve your speed.
In today’s interconnected, data-driven digital landscape, few things are as important as security. One big step to ensuring your site’s security is switching to HTTPS. This is particularly important to SEO because Google penalizes sites that aren’t HTTPS-secured, and Google Chrome will show warnings to users if they’re navigating a site that isn’t HTTPS-secured.
You can check if your site is fully migrated to HTTPS by entering your site in the address bar with HTTP instead of HTTPS as the header. You should be redirected to the HTTPS version in a jiffy.
If you don’t have HTTPS, then you should definitely switch over as soon as possible. For the most part, your web host should do the job for you. If you’re fully self-hosted, though, or if your hosting provider doesn’t cover HTTPS, you should purchase an SSL certificate of your own and install it on your site. This will give you HTTPS-secured status.
You should also ensure that your SSL certificate is up to date. Generally, SSL certificates last 1-2 years, and no SSL certificate can last longer than 825 days.
Finally, you should also make sure that Google is only indexing the HTTPS version of your site. You should be using HTTP 301 redirects for all of your HTTP pages to their respective HTTPS versions.
Are SEO Services Affordable?
The big SEO agencies can get very expensive, as they’re accustomed to dealing with huge clients with massive SEO requirements. But for a small business, SEO services can get pretty cost-effective.
Generally, agency SEO packages for small businesses are the way to go. Many of these agencies have had years of collective experience among their SEO experts, and are well-accustomed to working with small to medium-sized enterprises. If you pick an agency that works within your geographical location, they may very well have experience in helping businesses market within your geographical niche.
SEO services for small businesses are definitely affordable. With that said, you shouldn’t cheap out too much! A very cheap SEO agency might use outdated, low-quality, or they may use unethical SEO techniques that not only will have a very limited impact on your growth, but might actually ruin your rankings if they’re bad enough. Techniques like keyword stuffing, using article spinning software, and employing private blog networks are signs that a cheap SEO agency runs bad business.
A Critical Part Of Any Digital Marketing Strategy
Search engine optimization is a critical part of your digital strategy’s success. The right SEO implementation can make the difference between a marketing strategy that sends your traffic skyrocketing, and one that simply plummets away into oblivion, with every penny spent wasted.
Getting an SEO agency is the best way to improve your SEO. Doing it yourself might work when you’re just starting out, but in the long run, handing it off to an agency with more experience will yield the best results, and let you focus on what matters most—growing your business.
SEO is one of the biggest and most important things you should be spending your money on, and if you’re not already working on a strategy, you should get started right away!