Whether they realize it or not, nowadays almost every business is eCommerce. No matter what you sell, you need to get your product or service in front of potential buyers, and those buyers are using Google to find what they are looking for whether it’s a local Chinese restaurant or a new car.
Some businesses choose to use pay per click or other forms of online advertising. It can cost thousands of dollars each month to bring in relevant traffic. When you stop paying, the traffic stops.
On the other hand, search engine optimization (SEO) builds up your flow of traffic organically. Yes, there is a monthly cost, but over time the cost per sale will be lower than the cost of running online ads, and SEO traffic keeps on going.
If you build up organic traffic and suddenly stop optimizing (not recommended), your traffic wouldn’t drop to zero immediately – it would likely begin to trend down over the next few months as your competitors continue optimizing their websites and take over the top positions.
As a business owner your goal should be to get as much relevant, organic traffic as possible. Organic traffic can help carry you through rough economic times. If cash becomes scarce and you are forced to scale back your online advertising efforts your business could suffer. If you have thousands of organic visitors you will be able to weather the storm better than competitors who do not use SEO.
With this in mind here are a few important things that you as a business owner need to know about SEO.
It’s a marathon not a sprint
The first thing you need to know about SEO is it takes time…but it’s worth it.
We all want traffic and we want it now. That’s why some companies run online ads, which is a great way to start getting traffic for a brand new website.
However, traffic gained through SEO takes time to build up. How long? It’s sort of like asking “how long is a piece of string?”.
- Is your website brand new?
- How much content do you have on the website?
- Is the content high quality with lots of words and images?
- Is the website responsive (mobile friendly)? As of December 2021, 63% of searches are done on mobile devices
- Does it load fast? Test your website speed here.
- …and more
There are at least 50 questions I ask clients before I can give them a rough estimate on how quickly they can expect to get more traffic on their website. Even then it is often necessary to do a full website audit first. In some cases there can be significant traffic improvements within a few months. In other cases it can take 12 months or longer, depending on many factors.
Content quality and quantity is non-negotiable
If you are not ready to commit to having a decent amount of good quality content, don’t expect traffic to increase rapidly. The more words Google finds the more keywords your website can rank for.
Let’s take a closer look at why content is important. Here’s a phrase we put in one of our blog posts:
“SEO requires lots of great quality, well-written content”
How many phrases can you turn this into? Here are a few examples:
- SEO quality
- quality SEO
- SEO content
- well-written content
- lots of content
- lots of quality
- great quality
- great content
Google’s algorithm reads every word – it reads every phrase – and can combine them into many different groups of words. More words = more phrases = more chance of ranking for multiple keywords.
It’s about relevance
What do we mean by relevance?
In terms of SEO, relevance means “related to” or “pertaining to”.
Let’s say your website is a blog about the “Health benefits of exercise”. If you write a blog post about “How to warm up before a workout”, this is totally relevant to the theme of your website. However, if you write a blog about “The time my car broke down in Singapore” Google will get confused. Is this website about traveling by car in Singapore or health?
The same rules apply to backlinks. Using the above health related website as an example, let’s say we get a backlink from Men’s Health magazine. Perfectly relevant. One health related website promoting another health related website. Now let’s say you get a link from a website focusing on “Best iPhone accessories”. This link has a far lower value in Google’s eyes because it is not coming from a health related website.
How to measure relevance as related to backlinks
In the above example:
- Best links would come from websites that are specifically about “health”.
- Second best would come from websites that have a specific section related to health such as a “lifestyle” or “sports” website.
- Third best would be from general news types of websites.
Technical SEO is important
What do we mean by technical SEO?
Technical SEO refers to optimizing the website and your server so search engine spiders can more effectively crawl and index your website.
This type of optimization relates to website speed, responsiveness (aka mobile friendliness) and site structure.
To properly cover what technical SEO encompasses in detail we would have to write a 5,000+ word blog post. Suffice it to say that we ask questions like these:
- Are your images optimized (not too large so they load quickly)?
- Is your site secure?
- Is your site structured so both humans and search engines can easily find things?
- Are there many 404 (missing pages)?
- Is your sitemap accurate and up to date?
- Is your robots.txt file optimized?
- Is your content unique (not duplicated throughout the website)?
- Have you incorporated schema markup?
Some of the above terms may be foreign to you but they are all very important parts of SEO. Google likes websites that pay attention to these details and will reward them with higher rankings.
It’s about referring domains and authority
What is a referring domain?
A referring domain is any domain that links to your website.
Let’s say you have 5 backlinks to your website from a single domain (website). This means that one domain has referred to your website 5 times, but it’s still just one domain.
If you have 5 backlinks from 5 different domains this equates to 5 referring domains.
Put simply: if you have 5,000 backlinks from one domain it carries much less value than 5,000 links from 5,000 different domains. Would you rather have one friend recommend your business 5,000 times, or 5,000 people recommend your business one time each? Which example shows how well-known your business is?
In simple terms, Google views each domain as a “person” on the internet. The more “persons” that recommend you the more weight that carries with Google. But some recommendations are more important than others. What do we mean?
Let’s talk about domain authority
What we’re really talking about here is “reputation” or “authority”.
Let’s say your business is called “Amazing Vitamin Products” and you sell vitamin supplements. A 20 year old kid who works at the local sandwich shop tells his friend “you should buy from Amazing Vitamin Products”. You MIGHT get a sale out of this one referral.
Alternatively, let’s say a top olympic athlete mentions your product in a television interview. We both know which of these recommendations is better for business.
Now let’s apply this to how Google views your website.
A small time blogger posts a blog about your product, recommending it to his 500 readers and places a link to your website in the article. We appreciate the recommendation, but it’s just one recommendation from a relatively unknown blogger.
Alternatively, Men’s Health magazine recommends your product in one of their articles and links to your website. Now a heavy hitter has recommended your products. Which website is Google likely to put more faith in? Backlinks (aka recommendations) from highly regarded domains carry far more weight than unknown persons. One backlink from say the New York Times will push your website up much faster than 50 links from mediocre websites.
Bottom line – it’s important to get links from highly respected websites. This reputation, or “authority” is passed on to your website and you stand a better chance of outranking your competition. When you acquire enough of these high quality backlinks Google begins to view your website as an authority on your topic.
Real SEO is complex. I could add thousands more words in this blog about all the aspects of “on page” and “off page” SEO, but the above represents some of the most important fundamentals. If you get the basics right, you can build on that foundation and traffic will increase.
Got questions? Contact us.
If any of the terms in this article are foreign to you, here is a glossary of SEO terms that may help.