SEO — What Is It and Why Do You Need It?

Website Design & Development

Read Time: 6 Min

How Search Engine Optimization Can Boost Your Traffic and Business

What is SEO?

At its core, SEO, or search engine optimization, is the incremental process of improving your web content to increase its visibility on the results pages of whatever search engine you’re using. The better the visibility, the larger the likelihood that your content will be discovered by those who would find it relevant. For brands, that means that SEO is directly linked to the potential success of your business.

According to a recent study done by Search Engine Land, half of all online shopping starts on a search engine. If you’re not considering your SEO, you’re basically boxing out half of your potential audience before you even begin.

Before we begin, remember that SEO is a long game full of small steps and continual improvements. Don’t feel like you need to understand everything right away or that you’re doing something wrong by not completely overhauling your site. Instead, take on what you can when you can. SEO is the summation of several processes and decisions that build on each other.

The Benefits of SEO

There is a vast array of benefits that come with putting effort into your SEO, from measurable lifts in KPIs to growing awareness of your brand. The most noticeable result of well-crafted SEO content is the position in which your website ends up on the all-important SERP.

SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page and is what you’re met with when you press ‘enter’ after typing something into the search bar. You’ll rarely scroll past the first page of results, so getting your link to be one of the first can be the make-or-break moment in terms of reaching your goals. Google and other search engines serve up the results to you based on the strength and quality of your SEO, creating a direct correlation between SEO and digital success.

The higher you are on the SERP, the more traffic your site will generate. The more traffic you generate, the more awareness, leads, and eventual conversions you’ll gain.

Beyond these benefits, there’s also a long-term strategy at play here. The more your website ends up at the top of the SERP, the more people will get used to seeing it. If you’re able to get multiple pages from your site to consistently rank highly, people will start seeing you, your brand, and your content as a ‘thought leader’. In turn, this could lead to people going directly to your website rather than reaching it through a search engine.

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The Key Components of SEO

SEO is made up of several smaller sub-practices. Let’s take a brief look at the main components you want to make sure you’re familiar with.

Keyword Research

When talking about SEO, keywords are the ideas and topics contained within your content. These are words and/or phrases that audiences might type into their search engine when starting their online journey. There are several ways to do keyword research, including simply making a list of all the potential words and phrases someone might use to find your content. You can easily find free tools online that help you streamline the keyword process, but if you want to maximize your confidence in your keyword research and usage, we are always ready to help.

Content Structure & Format

Formatting content isn’t just something we do to help the human eye scan and read our work. Structure and format also directly affect how search engines ‘see’ your website. Headings and subheads are crucial opportunities to tell a search engine what value people can expect to find on your page.

Title Tags & Meta Descriptions

Title tags and meta descriptions are the information you see on a SERP. A strong title tag will often give you an idea of what you’ll find on the page it references as well as where the information is coming from (the name of the brand or website). Meta descriptions are what you see underneath the page title, often a short 1-2 sentence summary of the page’s content with more specifics than the title. Search engines use title tags and meta descriptions as the main way to catalog your webpage, so they’re important to remember!

Internal Linking

Search engines want to know that they’re providing valuable results to the people using them. Internal linking is a great way to show a search engine your website’s ‘value’. Internal linking refers to using hyperlinks within your content to other pages and sections of your website. This shows the search engine that you don’t just have a single page on a single topic, but instead are a large and reliable repository for information on a topic. Ensuring that search engines think you have a lot to offer audiences raises the chance of placing higher on a SERP.

Image & Video Optimization

SEO isn’t just about the words on a page. Visual elements also contribute directly to how easy your website is to find. When adding visuals to your website there are two things to always remember: captions and alt text. Captions help the search engine understand what you’re showing people and how closely linked that image or video is to your topic. Don’t forget to use keywords in your captions! Meanwhile, alt text is important for accessibility reasons. Alt text is what screen reader software uses to help visually impaired people consume your content. Ensuring that your images have alt text and that the alt text is correctly formatted is an important part of how a search engine evaluates your website.

Common SEO Mistakes

Now that you have a sense of the key components that make up SEO, let’s take a quick look at some common and easily avoided mistakes. The number one mistake that most people make when trying to optimize their web content for search engines is referred to as ‘keyword stuffing’. As the name might give away, keyword stuffing refers to padding your written content with so many keywords that it becomes distracting.

Now you’re probably thinking “But wait, you literally told me to use a lot of keywords like 2 minutes ago”. Yes, true, but no SEO should ever come at the cost of readability or comprehensibility. Search engines now are truly smart; they can instantly tell if you’ve overused keywords ‘just to use them’ and can accurately determine if a website’s content has become too convoluted to actually be valuable.

This philosophy goes beyond keywords as well. A search engine can tell if you’re optimizing your content for a machine rather than a human. Ten years ago someone might have told you that putting 100 keywords in white, 1-point font at the bottom of the page will help you reach better SERP results. That may have been true once, but Google and the other big players are first and foremost concerned with delivering value to their users (why else would you use these search engines?) and have trained their AI to judge websites as a human would, rather than a machine.

The last thing to make sure that you remember when approaching SEO is mobile formatting. According to Research.com, more than half of all web traffic in 2019 came from mobile users. And that number has surely only grown since. Ensuring that your content and structure is optimized to work on a mobile device is important for users as well as search engines which are very good at evaluating how your website works in mobile formats.

Still Not Sure Where to Start With SEO?

We hope this primer on SEO helps give you some foundational knowledge and will be useful as you create new digital content. If you want to learn more, or maybe want someone else to take on SEO work for your website, let’s talk! Our team of experts has helped many of our clients with their SEO, boosting everything from traffic to leads to the ultimate value their websites can offer customers.

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