What Is Search Engine Optimization?

In the digital marketing age, business owners inevitably ask “What is Search Engine Optimization?”. Many have heard the term or its popular abbreviation “SEO”. Many know that it is used to boost position rankings on search engines like Google. Most are weary of scams involving SEO providers and are rightly concerned about wasting their hard earned money on a service they don’t understand. This article will shed some light on what SEO is, how it can help, and what to watch out for.

Search engine optimization graphicOrganic Search Ranking

Organic search ranking refers to the order in which website listings are displayed in the free listings when you perform a search on some keyword on a search engine such as Google or Bing. The first free listing is “ranked” number one, the second listing is number two and so on. The position makes a big difference in whether the listing gets clicked or not, as discussed in this article. The search engines return thousands of listings for a given keyword, but most users never look beyond the first or second page.  Therefore, if your site doesn’t show up on these pages, most users will not find your site.

Search Engine Optimization

SEO is the process by which you enhance your website’s ranking by emphasizing keywords relevant to your product or service.  There are a number of processes used to improve search engine ranking including:

  • Keyword analysis – determine which keywords are searched on the most for your product or service
  • Technical SEO – ensure that the website is set up correctly for search engines
  • Content optimization – modify content to improve structure and support for keywords
  • Link Building – gather inbound links from other websites, a major ranking factor for Google
  • Directory Management – add your website to online directories as part of local SEO

SEO is complex and hard work. As such, unless you have time and the technical knowledge, it is best left to the professionals. And good SEO isn’t cheap. It takes a lot of time to do it right and the folks who know what they’re doing are in demand. So the question is how to find a good SEO service provider and avoid wasting your money.

How SEO Helps

We know that having our listing on page 1 of a search result is good. A Google search engine results page (SERP) typically returns 10 listings. In addition, they return map listings known as the “local pack” and “Featured Snippets” like questions people have asked relating to your search. So there’s a lot going on here and ideally your website would show up for all of these. Regarding the SERPs, studies have show that people click on the position 1 listing 28% of the time versus around 1% for position 10. Therefore it is important not only to show up on page 1, but at the top of page 1. We’ve written an article on how to calculate the value of SEO here but suffice it to say, getting 28% versus 1% of search users is a good thing.

Reality Check: Effective SEO is an ongoing process and can take months to see noticeable results. Your competitors want those top spots too and they’re going to do SEO as well. So if you get ahead and then stop, it’s just a matter of time before they catch up and pass you.

SEO Provider Considerations and Cautions

Unfortunately, there are few regulations and certifications in the SEO industry. That means a lot of opportunity for unscrupulous providers to grab some of your money for nothing in return. We’ve picked up many clients who were victims of expensive providers who did little to help boost rankings. Here are some things to ask prospective SEO providers to weed out the the bad actors:

  • Can you provide references? A good provider will have happy clients that are willing to say as much. If the SEO provider can’t provide any references, that’s a red flag.
  • What tools do you use? We believe SEO tools are a must. There’s too much to do in SEO to “wing it” and tools make for a more efficient service. If they are not using any tools, keep looking. Popular tools include:
  • How long will it take to achieve results? If you are told something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It can take many weeks and months to get any useful, sustainable results. It’s not what anyone wants to hear, but it is reality.
  • Do you provide regular progress reports? You should get monthly reports showing progress on all fronts. Some of the data may be technical but your SEO provider should be happy to explain it. This is the best way to gauge progress.

Additionally, look for a provider who can do both SEO and web design – like us! An SEO who doesn’t have the web design chops can provide a good service but they have to outsource their design work which adds cost and delay making for a less efficient service.

This is Search Engine Optimization

SEO is hard work, takes time and costs money. If you want to compete for top rankings on Google for important keywords, you need to be prepared for that. There are no shortcuts. You have competitors in the same situation as you and it’s a never ending battle. If you’re looking for an SEO provider that checks all the boxes, get in touch with us.