By all accounts, the vast majority of all customers will discover a business for the first time in the exact same way: through a search engine like Google or Bing. This is true regardless of the type of business you're talking about or even the industry in which they're operating. Therefore, ranking as high as possible in search engine results pages should always be a top priority.
That, in essence, is what SEO is all about. Yet at the same time, things move so quickly in the digital age that it can be overwhelming - and even mystical - to learn about SEO and how to leverage it to your advantage. Where do these rankings come from? What can you do to improve your own? The answers to those questions aren't necessarily easy to obtain.
Thankfully, all hope is not lost. If you do want to make sure that your SEO efforts are as strong as possible, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
SEO is an acronym that stands for search engine optimization. Simply put, it refers to a series of techniques that you can use to get your website to rank as highly as possible in search engine results pages (otherwise known as SERPs for short).
SEO is what makes your website more visible to the people who are looking for products and services like the ones you offer, but who may not actually be familiar with your brand. In other words, it's a great way to expose your company to as many potential customers as possible and to get them excited about the solutions that you have available.
As stated, SEO is actually a series of techniques that themselves can vary quite wildly. However, they all function with the same basic goal: to appease search engines and make your website as relevant as possible to a user's search intent.
Getting there involves optimizing your website's pages, conducting thorough keyword research, and acquiring inbound links. All of these things are signs that your site is not just relevant, but trustworthy.
Think about it like this. If you want people to find your site via a Google search, you need to create content centered around the terms they're likely searching for. That is what keyword research is for. Likewise, if your content is high quality and inherently valuable, you would assume other sites would link to it. That is what getting inbound links involves.
The more of these proverbial boxes you check, the higher your website will rank. You can generally see the results of your SEO efforts once your website has been "crawled" and indexed.
Generally speaking, there are a few different types of SEO to be aware of. Understanding how they work is one of the major keys to using them to your advantage moving forward.
This type of search engine optimization technique refers to all of those optimization efforts that are targeted at both the front and back end of your site. This is also often called on-site SEO for the same reason. Making sure that your content is high quality, that it uses relevant keywords and more are all examples of how to rank highly in search engines and attract new visitors.
As the term suggests, this involves a lot of efforts that don't have to do with your primary domain directly. This includes link building, obtaining as many local citations as you can, and other techniques that are used outside of your site. This, too, goes a long way toward improving your website's (or even just a single page's) ranking in relevant search results.
Here, you're talking about all of those elements that are not covered by either of the two categories outlined above. This can include but is certainly not limited to things like addressing structured data needs, making sure that your site loads as quickly as possible, and optimizing for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, among others.
It's crucial to point out that SEO isn't about selecting just one of these techniques and running with it. For the best results, you'll need to develop a strategy that encompasses all of them at the same time.
SEO is also not something that you "do once and forget about." Once these elements are accounted for and your ranking is as high as it can be, you'll want to conduct audits on a regular basis to fix any problems that could hurt your SEO in the long run.
Having said all of that, there are a number of important steps that people often forget that at best are missed opportunities and at worst are actually harming your SEO efforts, not helping them. These include things like the following:
On a regular basis, you need to go through and make sure that everything is still factual and relevant. Don't provide your visitors with information that is no longer correct due to changes in the marketplace.
You don't just want to rank for one set of keywords - you want to rank for many to use as many opportunities to find new customers as you can.
There was a time when mobile friendliness wasn't really considered when it came to SEO. Now, however, it is - meaning that if you didn't go through your site and update your old content for mobile devices, you were seriously harming your SEO. These are the types of things you need to think about on an ongoing basis.
Again, just because you managed to use SEO to get your page to the top of the SERPs doesn't mean it is destined to stay there. Always check to see how your website is performing to see what you need to adjust to maintain those rankings.
Again, proper SEO isn't a task that is completed definitively. As SEO and inbound marketing best practices change, your strategy needs to change along with them. This means ongoing and thorough investment in these areas.
If something is working, you need to figure out why so that you can recreate it all across your primary domain.
Don't hesitate to reach out to a similar website and ask if you can write a guest post for their blog, for example. Not only can you get your brand in front of its audience, but you'll earn backlinks that will help with your SEO efforts as well.
Again, you can't improve upon what you're not measuring which is why this level of ongoing analysis is important. If your ranking declines, you need to know about it immediately so that you can fix any problems that have occurred and stop them from happening again.
It's been said before but it is certainly worth repeating: one of the most critical things to understand about all of this is that SEO is definitely not a one-and-done deal.
That is to say, when it comes to SEO success, continuous improvement is the name of the game. There are always steps you can take to improve your on-page, off-page, and technical SEO efforts. There are always ways to rank higher or to target new sets of keywords (and thus new customers).
Your ongoing success to that end depends on your willingness to capitalize on these opportunities as you discover them. If you're able to do that, there is nothing stopping you from wielding the full power of a search engine like Google to your advantage. Rest assured that this is a very exciting position for any business to be in.