With the calendar turning over to 2023, it’s time to fully understand, accept, and embrace the importance of SEO for growing your business. While you’ve probably heard that SEO, or search engine optimization, is a useful and necessary digital marketing tool, you may not be exactly sure what SEO entails in this day and age—or why it matters so much in the first place.
This guide breaks down what search optimization is, the importance of SEO for sustainable growth, and how to implement best practices so that your brand is more discoverable than ever online.
What Is SEO?
SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results. A higher ranking when someone searches a term in your industry increases your brand’s visibility online. This, in turn, gives you more opportunities to convert qualified prospects into customers. When done correctly, SEO can help your brand stand above others as a trustworthy company and further improve the user’s experience with your brand and website.
Why Is SEO Important?
SEO is important for brands as it’s a highly effective way to improve your brand’s visibility through search, drive more traffic to your website, establish your brand as a trusted authority in your industry, sustainably and reliably grow your business, and much more. Here’s how each of these factors contributes to the importance of SEO for your brand.
Visibility and Rankings
When searching for a service or product online, users are more likely to choose one of the top five suggestions that the search engine shows them. SEO helps you rank higher in search results and garner more visibility online, making potential customers more likely to click over to your site and convert.
To put it simply—if potential customers can’t find your website, you miss out on sales opportunities. SEO increases your organic search engine traffic, in turn increasing the number of visitors your website sees each day. This directly correlates to an increase in sales—because the more relevant people see your site, the more likely you are to sell to them.
The better optimized your site is, the higher you’ll appear on search engines like Google and Bing. While ranking higher on Google is appealing to all brands because of increased visibility, a secondary benefit is the trust you gain with potential customers. Users tend to defer to the recommendations that a search engine generates, so having a higher position for the keywords a user is searching for will, in turn, solidify your product or service as trustworthy in the user’s mind.
A well-optimized website clearly communicates what product or service is being offered, shows how to obtain it, and answers any questions surrounding it. User experience is a major ranking factor for Google. This means that by catering the site to appeal to search engines like Google and Bing, you’re also catering it to the user’s experience. This means both search engines and users are able to easily get the information they need. On the other hand, if a user struggles to navigate your site, chances are that search engines will as well.
There’s no doubt about it—SEO carries a lot of importance for the growth of your brand. As we mentioned above, the higher you rank on a search engine for a variety of high-volume keywords, the more organic (aka non-paid) web traffic your site will receive. It’s as simple as that.
A website that is well optimized is more likely to gain more customers and make more sales. People are also more likely to then share your brand across other social platforms like Facebook or Instagram once they’ve found your website through a search engine.
What Are the Main Elements of Search Engine Optimization?
On-site SEO refers to the improvements to be applied to the content on your site to ensure that it’s search engine friendly. When optimizing your website for search engines, you want to signal to search engines exactly what each webpage is about in a variety of ways.
With on-site SEO, you’ll deal with the structure of your website, adding keywords to various portions of each page. Some of the key areas of attention when it comes to on-site search engine optimization are:
- Keyword selection
- Content optimization
- SEO titles and meta descriptions
- Linking structure
- Image alt attributes
This is far from an exhaustive list, but let’s take a look at each item.
In the same way that it’s hard to understate the importance of SEO for your brand, it’s also difficult to overstate the importance of the keywords you choose when it comes to the success of your SEO efforts.
Picking the right keywords for your website and content takes diligent research, and it’s critical to aim for the sweet spot of high relevance + high volume ratings + low competition. At Alter Endeavors, we offer an SEO Foundational package when building sites that leans on extensive keyword research to ensure the language used across the site includes high-volume keywords relevant to your industry.
The content you choose to write and share on your website is essential to reaching and engaging with your audience. Say you owned a window treatment business, like our client Austintatious Blinds does. To increase your visibility in that industry, we’d suggest a series of blogs exploring the types of window treatments, from modern window treatments to smart home automation through motorized blinds, etc.
So, when a local user searches a question concerning a type of window treatment, your blog shows up. This allows you to start a conversation with a potential customer by providing them valuable information that they are actively searching for. And when they’re ready to purchase their new window treatments, who will be the first to come to mind? You! Your content should be educational, engaging, and shareable.
Meta Descriptions and SEO Titles
When Google puts together search engine results pages (or SERPs) to display to a user following their search, it doesn’t display entire webpages. Instead, it provides a curated snapshot of information (called a “snippet) to represent each page that shows up in results.
The main portions of the snippet are the SEO title and meta description. For example, when you search for “alter endeavors,” here’s how our homepage appears on the SERP:
Importantly, while search engines can automatically generate SEO titles and meta descriptions, they also allow you to set them yourself. This is a golden opportunity for you to include crucial keywords related to your business and improve the ranking of your pages for various queries.
Internal and External Links
Good linking structure is important for both user experience and SEO (which, as we’ve covered above, are closely related). When you link from one page to another on your site that has related and relevant content, you make it much easier for users to find what they need. When Google crawls your pages, it also follows the various links you include in your content. These internal links help Google to more easily navigate your site, and links between pages help to spread the SEO love across your entire website, so to speak.
External links, on the other hand, are all about demonstrating authority. Trust is a major factor for Google, and Google considers sites more trustworthy when they link to (or are linked from) other trustworthy, authoritative sites. While getting other websites to link to your own is a more involved process (which we’ll touch on later), including links to other sites (ideally not your competitors!) is very helpful for SEO as well!
Image Alt Attributes
Google looks at much more than the words you see to determine the relevance of a page for each user’s search query. In addition to things like meta descriptions and SEO titles, which aren’t displayed on the actual page of your website, Google also considers things like image alt text.
An image’s alt attribute is text associated with the image that describes the content of the image itself. This serves two main purposes: if an important image on your site won’t load, the text will tell the user what’s supposed to be there. Additionally, if a visually impaired user is scrolling through your site, a screen reader will be able to read the alt text to describe the image instead.
There’s an important balance to be struck here between optimizing alt text for Google and improving accessibility and user experience. HubSpot has an excellent article on how to write good alt text.
If you own a local business that only serves the Austin area, your website is not ranking in other cities for most high-value terms. Search engines pull the user’s location to make suggestions that are within a certain range so that they can make a quick decision rather than sort through businesses that are nowhere near them at that point in time. So, if someone wanted to find the best sushi in town, they’d do a quick Google search, browse the top results around them, and make their decision.
Conversely, this means that if your business isn’t showing up as a top result when it should be included, users are probably taking their business elsewhere.
Ways to improve your local SEO include using local keywords (i.e. those that include your city or service area), claiming your directory listings, and creating pages for your businesses on platforms such as Google My Business and Google Maps.
Off-site search engine optimization techniques involve efforts made on websites outside of your own to push your own ranking higher. The key element to off-site SEO is link building or “backlinks,” which is an effort to have other reputable, high-traffic websites link back to your site.
Backlinks are a signal of trust to search engines and they can play a huge part in your ranking position. Ensure that the links are coming from well-known and trusted sites and your ranking will be positively affected. Don’t try and trick the search engine into recognizing bad links, using “black hat” tactics, because more likely than not, you’ll get penalized and potentially banned from search engines.
Alter Endeavors Can Get You on the Path to SEO Success!
After overviewing what search engine optimization is, why it’s important, and how to implement it, keep in mind that SEO should be treated as a positive practice with long-term benefits, not an exact science with immediate results. Your rankings strongly depend on who you are competing with, including the size of the company, years in business, and their own on- and off-site SEO efforts.
These tips on how to improve your SEO should help you get the ball rolling, but improving your digital presence is an ever-changing task. Luckily, with an agency like Alter Endeavors on your side, you can leave keeping up with Google to our experts! If you have any questions or are looking to build a sturdy marketing bridge for your brand in 2023, we’d love to chat about how SEO fits in.