Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the art and science of optimizing websites utilizing both “on-page” and “off page” factors to influence Google’s search algorithm to rank that site or page for specific keyword queries entered by web users. This process is an ongoing endeavor that ideally will be adjusted to keep up with Google’s never-ending updates.
Google reports utilizing over 200 ranking signals and makes minor updates to their algorithm hundreds of times per year in addition to a handful of “core” or major updates. Enterprises that rely on Google to drive brand awareness, visibility, leads and sales should constantly analyze their sites, identifying both opportunities and potential optimization bottlenecks that could be hurting performance.
Just how impactful is SEO for your business?
Curious how impactful SEO is for your organization? Consider the following stats:
- 81 percent of shoppers conduct online research prior to making a purchase (Adweek)
- 97 percent of consumers research products online prior to making a local purchase (BIA/Kelsey)
- 66 percent of B2B buyers rely on blog posts to shape their purchasing decisions (Forbes)
- 71 percent of B2B buyers report starting with a Google search
As you can see from the above stats, SEO is a core driving factor. Businesses that fail to keep up with the rapidly evolving world of SEO risk losing up to 70 to 80 percent of the market that starts when consumers search online (usually through Google) for products or services.
With global competition heating up, most businesses simply can’t afford to ignore SEO as a part of their marketing and branding mix. Below are four steps businesses can use to incorporate SEO into their current marketing strategy.
Step 1: Market analysis
The first step involves analyzing your keywords, content, code (and other factors) to determine how well your site is optimized for your target audience and the terms they search for. A proper website audit also looks for missing tags or other errors that are holding your site back.
This step is similar to the first step but here you’re analyzing the websites for your competitors. By utilizing competitive intelligence, you can uncover hidden opportunities and identify aspects of their site or strategy that Google is currently rewarding. You can then incorporate those same strategies into your own plans.
Step 2: Keyword research and planning
For the second step of your strategy, you will build and prioritize a list of keywords and search phrases relevant to your target audience (i.e., the terms consumers are typing in when looking for products or services like yours). This list will later be used to develop content optimized to rank for those specific keywords and phrases.
In order to get to where you want to be, you must first understand where you are. At this stage, you will need to take an inventory of all the keywords and phrases you rank for as well as the corresponding page or URL for those keywords. Use this initial report as a baseline to measure improvements as you optimize and to prioritize pages of importance for further optimization.
Step 3: Content planning and optimization
This stage involves utilizing your keyword and ranking information, as well as the competitive intelligence data you compiled, to develop a content plan to meet your business’s objectives.
For example, prioritizing keywords and phrases with buyer intent can help your business capitalize on low-hanging fruit early on, driving revenue that can be invested into curating content targeted to broader, higher-traffic search phrases.
Step 4: Monitoring, testing and ongoing implementation
SEO optimization is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Therefore, you need to constantly be evaluating your current strategy while looking for ways to fine-tune it.
Test and measure
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all SEO strategy that works for every business website out there. And while Google has disclosed some of the factors it uses to rank sites, the majority is kept secret as proprietary information. Each optimization technique implemented will need to be monitored and measured for effectiveness, creating a feedback loop of trial and error until you get things dialed in just right.
In today’s competitive landscape, Google is king. Businesses looking to earn market share, gain visibility and remain competitive need to incorporate SEO into their marketing mix. Those that fail to do so risk falling behind and losing ground to the competition.