February 24, 2021

Do I Really Need SEO?

The age old question for website owners, do I really need SEO? I know we’re all busy people, so to keep it nice and simple the answer is- Yes, yes you do.

Now that we’ve gotten that part out of the way, I’ll use the rest of this post to explain why. For those of you who were just in need of the quick answer, thanks for stopping by. For the rest of you, let’s unpack.

What is SEO?

Before we can get into why SEO is so important for you and your website, let’s first do a quick breakdown of what SEO even is.

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SEO boils down to how well your website ranks in search engines for certain keywords. Since search engines are the first stop for just about anybody surfin’ the web (check out my sweet early 2000s terminology), the best way for people to find your website is if the search engines’ first page worth of results (1–10), display your website. Cowabunga dude.

The general rule of thumb is that nobody looks past the first page of results that are returned for their search. Because honestly who has the time for that? So if your website sells small batch craft artisanal pickles, you need to be in the top ten search results for the person who searched “best artisanal pickles”, otherwise you’re pretty much SOL.

In order to rank in the top 10 for search results you’ll need to: 1) Determine which keywords you want to rank for. 2) Put together a strategy to optimize your website so you’ll start to improve your rankings for those keywords. Let’s dig into each of these steps.

Finding your keywords

The first step towards a sound SEO strategy is finding out what keywords you want to start ranking for in the first place. It might sound obvious, but if you are a sushi restaurant in San Diego, CA then ranking in the top ten results for “best BBQ in Austin” isn’t going to do you much good. Luckily, there are tools out there to help you find the keywords that actually matter.

Google Keyword Planner is arguably the most useful keyword tool out there. Using this planner, you can plug in a keyword you’d like to start ranking for, and the Google Keyword Planner will spit out a bunch of related keywords that users also frequently search for. Not only that, it will also tell you how many times each of those keywords are searched for and how difficult it will be to rank highly for that particular keyword.

Another great planning tool is SEMRush. SEMRush allows you to analyze a competitor and see which keywords they rank the best for. You can take their highest performing keywords and incorporate them into your own keyword strategy. Cue evil genius maniacal laughter.

Okay, I have my keywords, now what?

Now that we’ve got a list of all your shiny new keywords we want to start ranking for, it’s time to put an SEO strategy in place. Essentially, SEO best practices can be grouped into two major factors: On-page SEO and Off-page SEO. Both are equally as important for ranking your site for your keywords. Let’s start with on-page SEO.

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO encompasses all the things you can do on your website itself to optimize it for your given keyword. Some of the most common on-page factors are:

  1. Content — If you want to ensure your website ranks for keywords, then those keywords need to appear in the content of your website. Make sure to include the keywords in a way that makes sense. And don’t over do it. Cramming your site with as many keywords as possible is called “keyword stuffing”, and it’s a big no-no.
  2. Meta Titles and Descriptions — These are the titles and descriptions that appear in the actual search results page. Make sure that they are relevant to the content on the page and include the keyword once.
  3. Page speed — This refers to the speed at which your website loads. You can use Google’s Page Speed tool or Pingdom to check your site speed. These tools also give recommendations on how to improve your site speed if it’s too slow.
  4. Image alt tags — Alt tags are descriptions that you can write for each of the images on your website. This doesn’t provide a lot of ranking boost, but it’s good to include them regardless.

There are a few more on page factors out there, but these are the big ones. For a full list, check out Moz’s guide to on page ranking factors.

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO can be a little more tricky to implement that on-page, but it’s vital to get your site ranking in search engines. The most common off-page SEO strategy is building “backlinks” to your site. A backlink link is simply link from another website that leads a user back to your website.

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Why are backlinks important? Search engines use them as a way to verify that your website is trustworthy. Imagine that the first page of search results is the hottest night club in town. The search engine is the bouncer. Now, you want to enter the nightclub, but obviously they don’t just let anyone in. I mean, this is the hottest night club in town, right? So, in order for you to get in, you need to have some street cred with someone the bouncer knows and trusts. We’ll call that person “The New York Times.com”. Weird name but whatever. So, if The New York Times.com says that you are trustworthy, aka backlinking to you, then boom, you’re in. Now go enjoy those over priced drinks.

Now, of course, it can be very difficult to get a highly reputable site to link back to you. So, you have to put together a sound strategy to generate as many high quality backlinks as possible to build your own site’s trustworthiness.

So why do I need SEO?

Now that you’ve got a general understanding of how SEO works, does it actually help? Simply put yes. Ranking in the top 10 for a strong keyword will result in a huge boost in traffic to your site. That means more leads, more sales, more pickles. And in today’s internet world, SEO is considered a cornerstone by almost all marketing departments. That means all your competition is carving out a least some of their time and budget strictly for SEO. If you aren’t doing the same, your website will simply get left behind. And the further down you are in the results, the less likely anybody will be visiting your site.

If you’re interested in finding out what kind of SEO you need, stay tuned for our next post where we break down the difference between Local SEO vs Organic SEO. Otherwise, we hope this article has been helpful in your talks with your current SEO company. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

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