If you’re entering into the world of digital marketing, there’s one term that’s likely to stir up some strong emotions, and that is search engine optimization. SEO is often baffling and aggravating for newcomers to online marketing, so they put off learning about it and focus on more commonplace marketing mediums.
If you’re one of these baffled newcomers, I’m here to tell you SEO is nothing to be afraid of. On top of that, not taking advantage of it is a huge missed opportunity to grow your brand and generate serious revenue. If you’re still concerned, here are a few reasons you shouldn’t be.
It Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive
A lot of beginner marketers have the impression that the only way to really win with SEO is buying your way to the top. You’d be forgiven for thinking that, considering the number of agencies that offer SEO as part of their paid marketing services, and while these agencies certainly make optimizing your content a lot easier, you can start on SEO without breaking the bank.
CMS platforms like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla have various plug-ins and extensions that enhance your search engine optimization either for free or for a minimal added cost. Even if you do contract a marketing agency to help with your search engine rankings, it helps to get to know these services to get a handle on SEO basics.
It’s Investment, Not Expense
Even if you do pay up for professional SEO consultancy, it’s important to point out at this point that SEO is not an expense, it’s an investment. Putting money and effort into SEO will grow your traffic and boost your sales, which means more revenue in the long term.
SEO is one of the best investments you can make when it comes to advertising. It generates more reliable long-term reach than pay-per-click or sponsored ads, giving you more bang for your buck.
SEO Levels The Playing Field
Since the best SEO practices are not expensive, it’s a great way to bring your company up to speed with big players in the market. No matter how big a company is, it has to compete on the same playing field; in this case, Google. The good thing about Google is that it rewards those that put in the work rather than those that have the most money.
What this means is that SEO can help start-up businesses establish themselves against market leaders just by understanding search algorithms. Good knowledge of how pages are ranked and what consumers are looking for can level the playing field in a way that analog marketing never could.
Quality Over Quantity
One thing to note when it comes to leveling the playing field is how SEO has changed in recent years. Google’s algorithms now favor the quality of a piece of content—its ability to answer the searcher’s intended question—as a key factor in determining search ranking.
What this means is that the companies that invest time and energy into making good quality content are no longer dwarfed by those that churn out keyword-filled low-quality content. The searcher benefits with better answers to their questions and the content creators benefit by being rewarded for their hard work. However, you need both good content and quality SEO to make waves.
SEO Is A Content Marketer’s Best Friend
This brings me to a major advantage of SEO: its ability to boost the impact of content marketing. Because search engines are looking to answer their user’s intended queries, pages most likely to answer those questions are ranked higher. What this means in practice is that blog articles, explainer videos, and other staples of content marketing often win out over product pages.
Try it yourself. Do any vague search for a product like “best running shoes” or “cheapest smartphone” and, in all likelihood, the top pages will not be from companies selling these products (necessarily) but blog articles and listicles written by content marketers. If you search for a “how to” term, you’ll likely come across explainer videos or written tutorials first.
It’s for this reason that SEO goes hand in hand with content marketing. With minor investment and a handful of high-quality articles, you could boost your brand visibility and revenue far more with SEO than with paid-for adverts or even social media marketing.
Social Media Is Not Enough
All this is to say that, when it comes to content marketing, social media is simply not enough on its own. Don’t get me wrong, social networks are a great way of personalizing your brand, connecting with your customers, and developing your content marketing, and should be a part of any digital marketing strategy. But they’re not enough without SEO.
The numbers don’t lie. While Google generates 50% of traffic to most websites, social media only contributes 5%. Google’s algorithms don’t play well with social media content, so try not to get so focused on social media marketing that you forget about your search engine presence.
Delivering Long-Term Value
Let’s be clear, SEO is not for anyone looking to make a quick buck. An effective SEO strategy takes time to create, more time to implement and even more time to produce value. However, the benefit of this slow process means that value is often more long-lasting than pay-per-click adverts or similar marketing strategies.
All this means is that you should plan for the long-term; content marketing and SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Start your SEO planning by expecting results to come three or four months down the line. Then you can supplement your SEO with more short-term revenue boosters. This way, you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket, but just waiting for the long-term revenue to pour in.
SEO Attracts Your Target Market
Tigran Hammeson, a web developer at 1day2write and Originwritings, reminds us that “SEO is all about visibility. The whole reason you want to improve your rankings is to be noticed by potential customers. That being said, it’s also about working smart, not hard. SEO done right is highly targetted to the consumers that are most likely to be engaged with your products and your brand, rather than casting a wide net where the fish aren’t interested.”
What Tigran is referring to here is how SEO is so much more powerful than sponsored content or blanked ad campaigns. If you’ve put work into defining your target market, all the demographics and psychographics that your brand appeals to, why are you trying to convert anyone else? SEO is like a laser beam that hones in on those most likely conversions; you don’t have to work any harder than you have to.
The Best Way To Localize Your Brand
While SEO necessarily exists in an online space, it has a definite impact on the local environment. Many businesses still have a specific local appeal, whether they hold brick-and-mortar establishments in a certain city or sell products that appeal to customers in specific geographies. SEO can help you find these geographic hot spots and push your content directly to them.
The greatest benefit of localizing your brand is you cut out unnecessary competition and make your life easier. If you’re a restaurant in Portland, Oregon, you’re only competing with other restaurants in Portland, or maybe only restaurants in your neighborhood. Without localizing with SEO, you may end up fighting for search rankings against restaurants across the nation, a completely avoidable battle you don’t want to fight.
Giving Your Customers What They Want
If you’ve started an online business, it’s likely you’re somewhat motivated by serving your customer’s wants and needs. You can’t get very far in product development without identifying a niche that needs to be filled, a challenge that needs to be overcome. Hopefully, this means you’re looking to deliver genuine value to your customers.
If that’s the case, then SEO is more than marketing; it’s an extension of your offering. If you’ve truly discovered an answer to a customer need, SEO will help push that answer towards a questioning user. You’re not only raising brand awareness and highlighting the value of your products, but the SEO content itself is also a valuable product. Combining good SEO with good content will show your customers that you care about their issues and are trying to solve them.
Search Engines Love eCommerce, And Vice Versa
Search engines are the primary gateways to eCommerce. The vast majority of customers of leading online retailers arrive on websites through search engines after general searches for the products they’re looking for. That means search engines love eCommerce stores—it’s what brings users back time and again—and eCommerce stores love search engines.
For this reason, SEO should be the number one priority for eCommerce stores. It’s the first step in your sales funnel, the initiation that leads to a sale. Being at the top of that search page is the best chance you have of making revenue, bar none.
Everyone Else Is Doing It
I’m sure your parents asked you if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you follow them, but in this case, it really pays off to respond to peer pressure. SEO is such a core part of online marketing that every company is investing in it, across the board. You will not be able to find any major brand that is not engaged in some form of search engine optimization.
That means if you avoid SEO you’re just missing out on a lucrative marketing opportunity. Short of starting a massive online rebellion with thousands of other brands to dispense with SEO to find a new way of marketing, there’s no way you can win without it. The sooner you accept that it’s essential and start working on it, the sooner you’ll notice the benefits.
A Naturally High-Profit Margin
We’ve talked about how SEO isn’t expensive, and we’ve talked about how it drives sales and grows your customer base. If you can put two and two together, you’ll have already figured out that SEO will increase your profit margin.
“The thing about SEO is that it’s a great all-rounder,” says Sheila Tallual, a business writer at Britstudent and NextCoursework. “Everything from CTR to bounce and conversion rates, SEO improves. Add this to its low price tag and you’re very likely to see high profits from your work.”
SEO Slashes Your Pay-Per-Click Costs
In fact, SEO is so cost-effective it may reduce your costs in other areas. If done properly, SEO will reduce your need to rely on alternative methods of advertising, thus reducing your overall marketing expenditure. Think about it in terms of reach. If you’re naturally reaching more people through search engines, sponsored ads on social media are less necessary.
You can see this trend with major brands across the internet. Naturally, the largest brands may sponsor ads on Facebook or Instagram, but they’re often to advertise specific initiatives rather than increase brand awareness. That’s because they already know that consumers are going to come across their pages first on search engines; again, work smart, not hard.
It’s Not Going Anywhere
Once again, save for your 21st Century peasant rebellion, the aristocracy of SEO will not be deposed easily. Search engine optimization has been around in some form or another since the origin of search engines and was well-established by the time online shopping came around. If you’re hearing more about it now, it’s only because companies are getting better at taking advantage of it.
As the internet expands and more businesses exist mostly or even entirely online, search engines will continue to be the pathways that lead customers between them. SEO may evolve and the rules may change, but it will continue to be the signposts along those pathways. Knowing how it works is the difference between being on Central Avenue or languishing on a dead-end back alley.