Search Engine Optimization – Why It Matters and How to Do It Yourself
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a common marketing strategy that businesses use to help their website rank higher in major engines’ search results.
Despite its popularity, some business owners remain skeptical or even unaware of the power of SEO.
This mostly stems from underestimating the value of SEO, or insufficient understanding of what SEO involves.
With all the resources available online, it can be overwhelming for the uninitiated to wrap their heads around what search engine optimization is or what it takes to achieve results.
If you’re fortunate to have enough funds, you can outsource SEO work to experts like us who will handle your SEO for you.
However, we understand some small businesses are on a tighter budget, but that does not mean they have to miss out on the benefits of SEO.
In this blog, we will explain the benefits of search engine optimization.
We will provide a checklist of what you need before starting SEO.
Also, we will walk you through how to do some basic optimization for your business website.
Want to develop or improve your business website? Give us a call, and we’ll give you a customized quote based on your business goals.
Related article: 3 Reasons Your Business Needs a Website
Importance of Search Engine Optimization
First, let’s talk numbers.
As of 2017, over 4 billion people worldwide have access to the Internet.
That’s more than half of all the people on Earth.
One thing most of these people know how to do? Use a search engine.
Search engines are not a new concept anymore.
Since their inception, they have become an integral part of Internet users’ behavior online.
Take the biggest search engine in the world, for example, Google. According to Internet Live Stats, Google processes over 40,000 searches every second on average.
That’s 3.5 billion searches per day and over 1 trillion searches per year.
For further clarification, look at the infographic image below:
Image Source: Smart Insight
What do these numbers mean for you as a business owner?
It means lots of opportunities to reach your target audiences online.
But the Internet is dark and full of competitors.
So how do search engines sift through the noise?
They rely on complex algorithms that automatically crawl websites and rank them according to several factors called ranking factors.
Ranking factors determine where a website will rank in search engine results.
These include factors such as page speed, meta tags, relevant and rich content, mobile optimization, and more.
For your website to rank high in search results, it needs to be optimized for these factors.
Keep in mind that there are no guarantees when it comes to SEO.
But if you do the work right, and don’t try to trick the search engine algorithms, you should be fine.
When it comes to ranking, you want to aim for the first page of search results, and the top 3 results on that page.
Why? Because results in these positions get the highest traffic.
The screenshot below, based on research by Search Engine Watch, breaks down the traffic percentage for each result on the first page.
You’ll see that the first result gets the most traffic, while the last result gets the least traffic.
This number decreases the further down the result is.
Increase Your Sales with SEO
If the traffic numbers don’t convince you, let’s try dollars.
Using our extensive SEO expertise, we came up with a hypothetical scenario for a daycare business that charges $1,400/month per student to give you an insight into what your business numbers could look like with SEO.
These assumptions are just to show the potential for modeling and planning purposes only – but it will give you an indication of how the return and costs work.
The average revenue after the business has taken the first spot on the first page is $1,138 on the low end and more than double for the realistic scenario.
This means that there is additional revenue coming in every month.
Also, more traffic is being generated by the keyword through SEO efforts.
This can work on additional business models, where the average revenue per transaction is low – how?
By using more keywords and higher converting keywords.
Whether it’s an e-commerce website, a service-based business or something in between, search engine optimization can deliver results when done right.
We have a proven track record for helping businesses increase their sales through search engine optimization.
If you have questions about implementing SEO for your business, do not hesitate to ask.
We will create a scenario analysis for your specific business model.
But if you want to DIY it, keep reading.
SEO Starter Checklist
The first thing you need before you can even consider doing any search engine optimization is a well-designed, functioning website.
By well-designed we don’t mean a fancy site with a ton of features, it simply needs to have the main elements of a good website:
- An easy navigation menu
- Easy and quick access to the most important information about your business, including the address and phone number (if applicable)
- Relevant, high-quality images
- Relevant content
- Fast loading times
- Responsive design
You can learn more about the steps involved in website design here.
Once you’re satisfied with your website, you can start prepping for search engine optimization.
There are two parts to SEO work: on-page and off-page optimization.
This article will focus on on-page optimization, but the following are the basic first steps for any SEO work.
Keywords are the words or phrases a user types into a search engine to find information, products, or services.
They are one of the most important ranking factors for search engine bots (complex algorithms that crawl websites).
These bots help search engines categorize the billions of websites on the Internet.
Before doing any SEO, you need to select the best keywords that are relevant to your business.
Using a hypothetical chocolate business called Wonka’s Chocolates, relevant keywords for this business can look like this:
- Wonka’s Chocolates
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Chocolate chip cookies Ontario
Tip: The more specific your keyword, the better your chance of ranking.
In 2015, Google announced an update to its search engine algorithms that prioritize mobile-optimized websites.
In other words, websites that are optimized for mobile will be prioritized in mobile search results.
It is very important to have a responsive website, not only for the benefit of search engine rankings but also for your customers.
Percentage of people who use their smartphones and tablets to browse the Internet has been increasing significantly for the past 4 years.
In 2018, 52.2% of all web traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones.
That’s more than half of all worldwide web activity.
If your website is not optimized for mobile screens, search engines will not show it to mobile users.
Even if your website shows up, the lack of a responsive design can turn away mobile device users, negatively affecting your brand image.
Don’t know if your website is mobile optimized? Ask for your free site audit today!
Fresh, Relevant, & Engaging Content
As a business owner or an executive, your website is your online storefront.
It should be regularly maintained and updated with information that is relevant to your consumers.
Neglecting to do this will hurt your SEO rankings, as search engines prefer websites and web pages that are constantly updated with new and relevant content.
The best way to do this is to have a blog on your site where you regularly post high quality, relevant content.
This will signal to search engines that your website is always up to date, and that it provides relevant content to users.
Go the extra step and promote your blog articles on your business’ social media to generate traffic to your site and maintain interest in your brand.
Now that you have the essentials of SEO, it’s time to get technical.
On-Page Optimization Techniques
On-page optimization takes place on the website itself.
This is where some HTML knowledge comes in handy as this part of SEO work takes place on the backend of your website.
If you’re not familiar with HTML, don’t worry, we break down the steps, so it’s easy to understand.
We just talked about the importance of content and having regular, updated relevant content on your website.
But content alone is not enough.
The next step is to optimize it.
One way you can do that is with keywords.
Remember that list of keywords you carefully selected?
Now it’s time to put it to use so that when search engine bots crawl the pages of your website, they can associate your content with relevant search engine queries.
In other words, as the owner of Wonka’s Chocolates, you want your website to show for queries looking for chocolate products that you make or sell.
How do you add keywords to your content? Easily.
Let’s take one of Wonka’s Chocolate products as an example: Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Ideally, you would have a page on your website dedicated to this product.
It will have at least one image of the product and some information or details about it.
It so happens that one of your keywords is Chocolate Chip cookies.
This is your chance to integrate this keyword into everything on the page strategically.
Talk about the product and provide answers that your customers might have.
For instance, why are your Chocolate Chip cookies better than your competitors’?
Where do you get the ingredients? The more content you add that would be relevant to a site visitor, the better.
As far as search engine bots are concerned, everything on a web page is content.
Content includes text, images, videos, links, the works.
Your Chocolate Chip Cookies page will naturally have images of the product.
But search engine bots don’t have eyes, so they can’t see that beautiful photo of chocolate chip cookies you have on your page.
You’re going to have to describe it to them. How do you do that? Alt text.
Alt text is a text description of an image on a web page that is helpful to both people with visual disabilities, as well as search engine bots.
The best use for an alt text is to make sure it clearly describes the image while also including the relevant keyword, so your page can rank.
Adding alt text is fairly straightforward.
You go to the backend of your website, find the image you want to optimize and look for the <img> tag.
This is where you will enter your alt text.
Here’s what this looks like:
On the left is how the image appears on your website.
This is what it looks like in code: <img src=“https://wonkaschocolates.com/chocolate-chip-cookies.jpg” alt=“Wonka’s Delicious 12 pc Chocolate Chip Cookies”>
Simply add the alt text in between the quotation marks, save/update your web page, and you’re done!
Have a question about SEO? Ask us!
Optimizing Meta Tags
A title tag is what a user sees in their browser tab. It’s also what appears as the title of the page in search results.
This is another significant aspect of your website that gets crawled by search engine bots.
The title tag tells the bots what this page is about.
When optimized, your “chocolate chip cookies” page would have a title that looks like this:
<title> Wonka’s Chocolates | 12 pc Chocolate Chip Cookies </title>
Similarly, the meta description can include relevant keywords that are specific to each unique page on your website.
The meta description is what a search engine user sees when your website/page shows up in search engine results.
The title and meta description are very important as they tell the search engine bots what the page is about and how it’s relevant to what the user is searching for.
Using the same format as above, this is what your meta description could look like:
<meta description=“Made with fresh ingredients and crunchy chocolate chips, Wonka’s chocolate chip cookies are the perfect snack for kids and adults alike”>
Tip: Keep in mind that you only have a limit of 150 characters (spaces included) for your meta description before it cuts off from view. Keep it short and relevant to the page.
Optimizing Site Links & URLs
Links and URLs on your website are key areas you can optimize for.
You can even optimize your domain name, but only attempt that if you know what you’re doing.
For individual page URLs, make sure that the URL is optimized for the page-specific or content specific keyword.
Going with the ‘chocolate chip cookies’ example, the URL for this page can be “www.wonkaschocolates.com/chocolate-chip-cookies-sudbury-ontario.”
Tip: avoid using underscores (_) in URLs.
Optimizing Header Tags
Last but not least, header tags are important because they tell search engine bots what the content on the page is about.
Header tags look like this <h1> </h1>, <h2> </h2>, <h3> </h3>, etc.
<h1> has higher priority than <h2>, so you want to add the most important information/keyword in between the <h1> </h1> tags.
Also, there is only one <h1> on a single page.
This tag should be at the top of your page.
Moreover, <h2> and <h3> tags can act as subheadings for content. For example,
<h1> Chocolate Chip Cookies in Sudbury </h1>
<h2> Why our chocolate chip cookies are the best </h2>
<p> We use only organic, ethically sourced cocoa beans to make our delicious chocolate chip cookies.
We manufacture them in our factories in Sudbury, Ontario, to allow us to maintain high-quality production. </p>
Common SEO Mistakes
Search engines are smart, and they get smarter every day.
So, there’s no point in trying to trick them into getting them to rank your website higher.
You risk getting penalized if you do. When you’re doing on-page optimization yourself, avoid the following:
- Duplicate content
It is extremely important not to have duplicate content on many pages of your website.
This includes other websites or sources online.
Avoid copying content from other websites.
Take the time to write your own unique, relevant content.
- Overuse of keywords on a page
Keywords are an important ranking factor, but you’re not helping yourself if your content is cluttered with them.
Keep it simple, and don’t over-use your keywords on a web page.
- Non-user-friendly content
It used to be that developers created web pages that had nothing but keywords on them, but search engines got smart about it.
Always remember to write content for your users first, and for search engines second.
As any expert will tell you, the above was merely the ABC’s of SEO.
But it should be enough to help give your website a boost in search result rankings.
Like your blog, SEO work needs to be regularly maintained. If you do it once and forget about it, your rankings will suffer.
It can also be challenging to stay on top of Google’s constant updates, plus the smaller changes they apply to their algorithms without announcing it.
These are all aspects that a digital marketing agency proficient in search engine optimization can take care of for you.
The goal of this blog is not to turn you into an SEO expert as it is a rapid and ever-evolving field.
There are many challenging aspects in SEO work, from constantly updating and improving your website to staying on top of search engines’ algorithm updates.
Despite its challenges, good SEO work yields long-term results, providing a higher ROI compared to other digital marketing strategies like AdWords (now Google Ads).
Unlike AdWords, search engine optimization is essential for any business website.
An optimized website keeps both search engines and your customers happy.
Now you have the tools you need to take a shot at doing your SEO.
But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or want to avoid the hassle, reach out to us today.
We customize our plans to fit your business needs.