What is SEO?
You’ve heard other people talking about it and you know it has something to do with Google and your website, but beyond that, you’re not too sure. What is exactly is SEO?
Search engine optimization, or SEO for short, is basically the way in which search engines such as Google, rank the results when you perform a search. It helps them decide what should appear on the first page and what can be left towards the bottom.
Think of it as asking advice from a group of friends. Maybe you want to find a photographer and each of your friends gives a recommendation. The same name comes up a few times and that photographer goes to the top of your mental list.
Search engines are similar. They use a range of different measures to determine which content online is most popular and helpful and therefore, should be more highly recommended…or in other words, appear towards the top of the search results.
To maintain their reputation as a great search engine, companies such as Google need to make sure you get the best and most useful results on page one so you don’t need to scroll through hundreds of pages to find something relevant. If they get it wrong, you end up losing your will to live battling to find the right thing amongst the millions of results and they lose you as a customer!
Put simply, SEO is the way in which search engines improve the search results you receive when you “google” for something.
Should I really bother with this SEO stuff?
So, what has this got to do with you and your business?
A LOT…everything even!
If you have a website, you need to be thinking about SEO. Ideally, you want potential customers to search for the product or service that you provide and to see your website near the top of their results.
However, with so much information out there on the web, this doesn’t just happen. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself languishing on pages never visited. Meanwhile, your competitor is picking up all the business as they sit pretty in the top spot – number one on the first page.
This really is no exaggeration. On average, 33% of search traffic will visit the site ranked number one in their search results. By the time you get down to the one ranked number ten, this generally drops dramatically to a measly 2.4% visiting the site. Even more depressing, as much as 95% of the traffic doesn’t even bother looking at the results on page two.
If you are not working on your SEO and getting to the first page of the search results, then you are waving goodbye to the majority of customers that could come your way via the Web…and let’s be honest, most people today, start their shopping with internet searches. In fact, research has shown that 81% of people conduct some research online before making a large purchase.
It, therefore, makes sense to make SEO a priority in your business so you can appear in front of the right people when they are doing their research. In fact, 57% of B2B marketers reported that SEO was their most successful initiative bringing in more leads than any other.
How does SEO work?
So, what are some of the things that search engines such as Google look for when deciding where to rank you in their searches?
Well, no one knows all of the secret ins and outs of the algorithms that make these decisions but there are a few key factors that do make a significant difference.
If we return for a minute to our example of asking our friends to recommend a photographer, we know that popularity is important. But how can this be measured online?
One way in which this is happening now is with social shares. If a company is producing popular content that people are enjoying and sharing across social media platforms, they appear higher in the search results.
Not dissimilar to this are links to your site. If numerous other websites are providing links to your company, then Google can see you are popular. This comes with a word of warning though! Google has become much cleverer at recognising the many ways in which people were link building. Now, they consider the quality of the links and their relevance. In other words, a link from your Auntie Jan’s cat fan website to yours is not likely to do you any good!
Another way in which Google seems to measure popularity is in how long someone remains on your site. If someone clicks on your website and finds it irrelevant to what they wanted or difficult to navigate, they’re likely to “bounce” away quickly. If they find your site relevant and interesting, they will spend longer reading it and visiting other pages on your site. A high bounce rate where visitors leave your site after only a few seconds will have a detrimental effect on your ranking in the searches.
It’s not just a popularity contest!
There are other things that are important in optimizing your website. The most obvious is keywords. When someone performs a search, Google will trawl through their databanks to find websites that contain those keywords.
As you can imagine, this can still result in millions of search results and huge competition for those top spots. They tend to be dominated by large companies with hefty amounts of time and money dedicated to their SEO. However, with some clever keyword research and inclusion in your site, it is possible for small businesses to get to the top too.
Finally, there is content. The phrase “content is king” is a well-worn one but still very apt. Google likes to see new content on a site and will prioritize those who are regularly putting out quality, popular content. It makes sense because the last thing they want to do is provide people with websites that are out of date or even businesses that no longer exist!
But what about all the other types of marketing?
Before we can make any comparisons to other forms of paid marketing, we need to understand the value that an SEO strategy can add to your business. To do this you need to know the current number of visitors to your site each month, your conversion rate and the average customer lifetime spend.
For example, an average customer’s spend with you might be $150, you get 700 visitors to your site each month and a 0.025 conversion rate (the amount that go on to become your customers).
That would mean the revenue from your website is:
700 * 0.025 * $150 = $2,625
Now let’s look at a conservative estimate that your traffic increases by 55% with an SEO strategy. This would mean that you were now getting 1,085 visitors.
The result would be revenue from your website being:
1085 * 0.025 * $150 = $4,068.75
You can see from this example the significant impact SEO can have on your sales!
Now let’s look at another common form of paid marketing – Google ads. With Google ads, costs can vary hugely depending on the keywords that you are bidding on. Click through rates tend to be about 2% and anything above that is considered good.
However, only 6% of clicks are going on ads and 94% are headed for those who have worked on their SEO and climbed the rankings organically. Therefore, whilst Google ads can be successful, they can get expensive and most of the time, you will still be losing out to those who are using an SEO strategy.
Avoiding the cowboys…
We know though, that deciding to get help with your SEO is still a big decision. There are plenty of companies to choose from and all of them make enticing promises. The choice can be daunting. If you want a professional service that can deliver results, there are a few key things to look out for, that can help you avoid the cowboys who are simply after some quick cash.
Firstly, if a company just starts listing all the different things they are going to do on your website and are ready to get going straight away, run away…quickly! A decent SEO organization will first conduct a full audit of your website, examining what is already there before they even begin putting together a plan of what they will do to boost your rankings. If there is not even a mention of an audit, you’re probably throwing your money away.
Another tell-tale sign that a company may not have you and your business’ best interests at heart, is the technical talk. If you find yourself being bamboozled by the jargon and not really feeling clear on what they are offering you, it might be time to walk away. This is particularly relevant if you wish to continue the SEO work yourself in the long term. The right company will support you in getting to this position.
Above all though, you should be talking about measuring impact. SEO can take time but there’s nothing worse than continually paying out a monthly retainer and feeling like you’re not benefiting from it.
The company you hire should provide you with regular reports covering the metrics and key performance indicators that you have previously discussed. Whilst it might take time to get you to the first page, you do want to start seeing results from the work that is being done.
This should be part of the conversation you have at the beginning. A good organization will want to know what you want to gain from the work they do for you and where you want to see the impact. If they’re just talking about “doing your SEO” rather than it being a form of marketing, it’s time to find someone else.
There are all kinds of measurable outcomes that you could focus on, for example:
- Increase in the organic traffic visiting your site
- Increase in the organic conversions
- Deduction in your bounce rate
- Decrease in cost per lead
- Ranking in search results for keywords
- Increase in links from quality sites.
Of course, the ones that are important to you will depend on your marketing objectives.
This is an important aspect of the discussions you have with the company you choose to hire. There is no point in you having one objective in mind and the SEO company working on something completely different because of a lack of communication.
You both need to know the goal you are shooting for!
Questions to Ask
Whether you’re looking for the best SEO agency in Toronto, the GTA, or anywhere in the world, there are questions you should ask before you begin. It’s important to ask the right questions during those initial talks to suss out whether the organisation is the right one for you. We’ve included a list below that will give you a great start:
- What’s your process? How do we get started?
Look out for the mention of an audit!
- What would you recommend for my company?
Watch for a list of services and whether they talk about first conducting a discovery process and audit to see what you NEED.
- Are you able to explain that to me more simply?
This is a good one to use when any jargon appears. Really understanding something means you can explain it to someone else who knows nothing about it. It ensures that they know what they’re on about as well as making it clearer for you.
- Will I be able to continue the work myself at the end of the contract?
This will hopefully trigger a conversation about whether they are going to really support you and help you grow and understand, or whether they’re just going to do the work and leave you in the dark!
- How will you measure outcomes?
This question is a door opener to a much bigger conversation. Ideally, you want a company who offer reports as a standard part of their service and who ask you questions about your objectives and goals. If they simply tell you one or two measures that they will provide, you need to ask yourself if these are the areas you are looking for progress in.
We’re sure that you can come up with plenty of other questions but these will help you get out of the starting blocks and begin assessing whether the organization you are talking to are the ones to help your business.
Save time, make money
It might take time to find the right company, but we promise it will be worth it! You will save so much time by getting the experts in rather than trying to work it all out on your own. Plus, the benefits that come with SEO mean that you won’t feel like you need to be constantly raising your profile. You can begin to work on your business rather than in it!
By far the biggest reason to invest in SEO though is the return you get on your investment. It will give your business a serious boost and with a little patience, you’ll find visits to your website and your sales skyrocketing!