Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the most important advertising tools that any website or online business can make use of. It is part of digital marketing as a whole and focuses on specific tactics like page optimization rather than direct marketing through paid advertisements. But how do you use search.engine optimization to your advantage, and what kind of SEO strategy can you use to boost a specific business' place in search rankings?
Does SEO Work Anymore?
SEO is one of the most effective digital marketing methods still available, at least when it comes to appearing on search engines. While search engine optimization services won't allow you to post ads on a website like regular advertising can, content and website optimization allows for far more appearances in organic search results. These are the natural search results that come up when you use a search engine, rather than the paid results that appear as advertisements. Using Google as an example, the first three or four results are generally ads (indicated by an AD symbol or a tinted background on the text), although the format of these results can also be product images or a Google Maps view of a certain business.
Proper optimization and link building can easily lead to your site reaching one of the top spots for these search results. The majority of search engine visitors will click on the first few non-ad results they see and only move onto the second page if they can't find the specific information that they are looking for. Through keyword research and careful optimization of a website's content, SEO agencies can increase the chance of a certain site appearing on the first page of results, which naturally leads to more traffic and a higher chance of being noticed by potential customers.
What are SEO services?
While SEO is technically all a collection of search engine and social media marketing services, SEO specialists won't always offer the same things in every situation. Unlike paid advertising, which relies mostly on money and careful ad construction, SEO involves the creation of quality content alongside a wide range of other online marketing responsibilities and long-term strategies. Because of this, it is easy to break down SEO services as a whole into different groups that each cover certain types of website marketing.
Overall, search engine optimization does exactly what the name suggests: improving SEO allows your website to appear more often on search engines, using a combination of good site quality and precise keyword or content adjustments to nudge you closer to the top spots.
The most common form of SEO you will see is standard on-page search engine.optimization, covering most attempts to improve both the design and overall quality of a website as well as the metadata behind it. At a basic level, this can include tasks like making sure that every title on a page had a proper title tag, but it can also heavily revolve around keywords. A keyword acts as a piece of content that search engines can pick up on: if your website is meant to sell chairs, for example, then an SEO agency will likely help you add related keywords gathered through highly specific research to attract more potential customers to your business.
On-page SEO can also be used to refer to technical 'fixes' that might be dragging down the website's position in search results online. A broken link can impact the rank of the site and reduce how likely it is to appear in search results, in the same way, that poor page optimization can lead to search engines penalizing your website. Meta descriptions and other pieces of behind-the-scenes data can often make or break a website's appearance on search engines and social media, changing the actual content that appears in the preview before a user even has a chance to properly visit a page.
Most website designs contain a lot of content, whether it is related to products being sold or just as part of the website's function. While technically part of on-page SEO, content writing and optimization acts as another part of page optimization, making sure that all of the right keywords are used in the right places and that the content isn't stolen from another website. Clear, relevant content that uses keywords correctly and doesn't copy from other sources can lead to major boosts in search rankings, while poor content that isn't relevant or copies wholesale from another website can drop your rankings.
Content marketing isn't easy, and careful manipulation of keywords and search terms becomes key to using it correctly. Heavy keyword research can be required to figure out which terms are most useful, and some custom SEO strategies may involve creating entirely new pages (or even a blog section) to add larger pieces of carefully-crafted content that can appear on search results. Keywords generally come from the terms that users are searching often: if more people are looking for "red car" than "blue car," the term "red car" becomes more desirable and much more competitive.
Technical SEO is a 'behind-the-scenes' type of search engine optimization that focuses on the structure of a website. An SEO company may offer services like improving navigation, making the website friendly for mobile users, or even improving how pages are indexed by search engines and blocking out pages that don't need to be indexed. None of this will impact the content of your website itself: technical SEO is more about how that content gets received by a search engine and how the user can then interact with the results they are given. For example, if a user makes a Google search and clicks on your website, the first page they land on should load quickly and contain everything they need to reach the information they might be looking for.
Off-page work is mostly related to social media digital marketing, with the goal being to gain 'backlinks.' These are links that other sites place that link back to your website, improving your search engine rankings and making you appear more legitimate to most search engine algorithms. They can either be organic (a site links to your content of their own free will) or bought (you can pay many sites for guest articles that contain links to your site, although many are unofficial deals). Unrelated links, or links from relevant sites that are still identified as spam sites, can actually have a negative impact on your SEO rankings.
How are SEO services offered?
Unlike a conventional online marketing package, SEO services revolve around the specific needs and status of whichever website is paying for it. Link building, page optimization, keywords, and even social media presence can all change from client to client. A large company that sells clothing will require different types of work from a small company that sells party costumes, even if they work for the same client and are generally aiming for similar keywords. Because of this, most SEO agency groups will treat the arrangement as a personal one that is meant to suit the client's needs.
Any SEO strategy can be adapted on the fly to fit with changing markets or search engine updates, and not all businesses want everything that an SEO company can offer. One common strategy, local SEO, is a common option for local businesses: rather than using online marketing to get attention from the whole world or their entire country, they can focus on the nearby area to reach customers who are relatively close instead. This is just one example of how a company might have slightly different SEO needs, as well as how they can be fulfilled with the same basic marketing concepts.
In most cases, an SEO agency will start with an audit of the company's website, as well as their advertising data or other key information if they have been given access to the site backend. This audit is meant to point out flaws in their client's current internet marketing strategy and list new opportunities that can be taken, often with details about the kind of budget that might be needed for certain types of work. The client is under no obligation to take on all of these ideas, and depending on their long-term goals, they might only have a need for one or two of them.
Audits are sometimes considered separate to other SEO services, and many SEO companies will offer them for free (either before or after agreeing to work with the client). Regular audits can also be one of the many services that SEO companies will offer after you start a professional relationship, which can be regular updates on the current state of your SEO and which SEO trends could be worth following in the future.
While most agencies will treat an SEO strategy as a fluid concept, some will still offer their services in SEO packages that follow a set pricing structure. These can still be fairly fluid, especially if a site had very niche needs, but these packages might also include other marketing techniques beyond those of regular SEO services. This is generally seen in larger agencies that work with bigger companies since they can have entire divisions of their office dedicated to specific tasks.
Do I need SEO services?
SEO services have been an option for many years, and even now, in 2020, they are still incredibly useful. Search engines change often, with certain products or services becoming easier or harder to promote in particular ways, but the overall goal is generally to improve conversion rate and increase the amount of paying visitors you receive. While niche companies might be able to operate well without SEO services, there is always a chance that another company with an SEO team can overtake them in the future.
SEO involves a combination of temporary and semi-permanent changes. Some SEO services, like improving the navigation on a website, can be a change that persists for years and never needs to be updated. However, other SEO service types - such as doing keyword research to improve page title tags - can be very temporary, since certain keywords will fall in and out of favor as markets change. There isn't any approach that can lead to permanent SEO success, and even large companies have occasionally found themselves being overtaken by others if they have failed to choose the right keywords for their website's contents.
The type and scale of SEO services you need will vary depending on your site's size, goal, purpose, and popularity. If you are concentrating on a specific local area or sell products with a unique, recognized name, then you might need fewer SEO changes than you expect. On the other hand, if you are re-selling products that have a lot of attention elsewhere (such as offering iPhone cases), you might need more extreme SEO services, since hundreds of other companies do the same thing.
SEO for local businesses can be a mixed bag, depending on how large your local area is. If you are already well-known in the community that you are targeting, then SEO is an excellent way to expand that reach, but it won't have any effect on the people who are already aware that you exist. It can be useful for targeting people who may be taking trips to nearby towns or cities, especially if they are likely to look up "things to do in (your area)."
Small businesses can heavily benefit from SEO, and it can often be the best way for them to get attention online. Whether you are targeting a local area or focusing on shipping things overseas, careful SEO adjustments can be a great way to push your business into the public eye, especially if you are able to latch onto a niche that other companies haven't been able to fill properly.
Large businesses can also benefit very well from SEO services, although this might become slightly less important if their name is well-known in the industry and can draw a large amount of attention anyway. Even then, individual product launches or specific services that the company wants to offer might still need SEO to get them spread across the internet, especially if those products are contained on their own websites rather than the main company site.