- Derek Shropshire
SEO is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted terms in the world of marketing. That’s right, folks: I said marketing. While SEO has been painted as some sort of black-magic secret that requires an internet illuminati membership to learn the ways of, at its core, it is a marketing method. SEO’s unfair characterization as a kind of alchemy over the past decade has caused many otherwise savvy business people to devalue its importance as part of a good, solid marketing plan for small, mid-sized, and large businesses.
I find this extremely unfortunate, because SEO is a very viable marketing outlet that can, in concert with effective landing pages and content, bring your business qualified leads and customers. Moreover, studies have shown that SEO can have a better ROI than traditional forms of marketing like TV and print ads. It isn’t magic, and SEO alone is not going to transform your business from a shop in your parents’ basement to a Fortune 500 company. But neither is any other single form of advertising. What it can do is provide a business visibility, branding, traffic, a high ROI, credibility, and insight into customer behavior. Let’s discuss each of these in turn.
When people search for your products and services, you obviously want to appear as high in the search engine rankings as possible, but the reasons for this are more than just because you want them to click through to your website. In fact, there is a certain amount of value in simply appearing in search results for terms directly related to your business. For instance, most searchers don’t just simply search once, click on some websites, and be done with it. Instead, they search, click on some websites, edit their search terms, search again, click on some websites, further hone their search terms, search again, and so on.
So what does this mean for your business? It means that if you can continually show in all these search results that you are gaining more and more mindshare with each potential customer. Chances are very good that they will eventually click through to your website, and since you continually displayed in all their search results, they will trust you that much more. Which brings us to the next reason why SEO is important for your business.
Searchers make mental notes of the rankings for the terms they enter into Google and other search engines. They may not realize it, but they do. And in the minds of consumers, your ranking is a vote of confidence — “Google says this business is relevant, so that must be the case.” This may sound a bit far-fetched, but let’s look at it like this: back in the golden age of the yellow pages, if you were looking for a plumber, did you feel more confident in calling the guy on the seventh page of the listings, or did you, like most people, start from the first page and work your way through? Your customers may not admit it, but high search rankings makes you more credible in their eyes.
Sure, by itself, traffic is not going to make you any money. But would you rather set up your storefront on a backstreet in Davenport, Iowa or right in the middle of Times Square? All those people walking around in Times Square day and night by themselves aren’t going to make you any money, but chances are that quite a few of them will eventually become your customers. Just like Times Square, you still have to make your best effort to sell to your customers once they are on your website, but it’s better to do business on a crowded street corner than it is to set up shop on a deserted island. What’s better is that SEO is usually a good deal more affordable than store leases in Times Square.
SEO rewards your business for its efforts at a higher rate than pretty much all traditional forms of offline advertising — the same can be said for almost all types of internet marketing. The reason for this is because SEO is an inbound marketing strategy; that is, it allows you to market to people when they are looking for the products and services your business provides. You don’t have to interrupt their favorite TV show, you don’t have to take up space on a page where they are reading a news article. You just show up when they are looking for businesses like yours. You don’t have to convince them they need your product or service; you just have to convince them that you are the right business to purchase from. In other words, with SEO, half the battle is won before it even starts.
As I already stated, SEO generates valuable traffic. Google Analytics tracks this traffic. Google Analytics is an amazing tool. As Mark, our President and CEO, said today: “it provides more data and metrics than you can shake a stick at.” The data and metrics are valuable because they give you insight into your customers: how they search, how they browse, the language they use, the technology they use, the region they live in, the days they are most active, the times of day they are most active, you name it. This is extremely valuable because it can help you make more informed decisions regarding your business and its strategies, both online and offline.