Deep learning. Natural Language Processing. SERP. Search Intent. These Search Engine Optimization (SEO) terms are essential to your digital marketing strategy. 

Confused yet? If so, you’re not alone. 

Understanding the science behind SEO, much less successfully applying it, is overwhelming to say the least. Marketers need at least a basic understanding of SEO in order to run a successful digital marketing plan. But is it really necessary to become an SEO expert to make sure your content will be found by people who are searching for your products and services? Every digital marketing strategy needs a proven SEO strategy that drives traffic and qualified leads to your website, but that expertise doesn’t necessarily have to come from you. 

We have written many articles on this blog about SEO. We’ve even created a free guide to help you MacGyver it yourself. So with this post, we don’t plan to reinvent the wheel but to explain how SEO fits into your digital marketing strategy. We may even go out on a limb here and say that your digital marketing strategy cannot survive without SEO. But first let’s define our terms. 

What is SEO? 

In plain English, Search Engine Optimization (or SEO for short) is the process used to naturally attract qualified traffic to a website. By naturally we mean creating and strategically placing content on a website written in a way to be easily recognized and matched by search engines to specific terms. By qualified we mean that the content of your website is being recognized by search engines as particularly relevant to people who are searching for the products or services you offer. Volume of traffic isn’t enough, your website needs to attract people who are searching for what you offer. 

For example, your kid wants to go roller skating and you haven’t been to a skate rink since the end of the Cold War. What do you do? You Google: skating rink near me and are shocked that there are more than a few options to choose from (because who still skates anymore?). Those search results likely returned with a Google My Business listing, dots on a map and links to addresses, telephone numbers, and websites of various local skating rinks. Which results appear first (or at all) depends on how well these websites are optimized for search. This is an elementary description, but you get the jist. 

Why is SEO Important?

SEO is crucial to a digital marketing strategy because it’s the primary means by which customers find you online. So you can have the greatest products and services, the most beautiful brand, a technically flawless website, outstanding customer testimonials, and a compelling lead-offer in place, but none of it matters without web traffic. SEO provides the leads you need to win more customers.  

SEO is important to small businesses because the majority of internet search is local. Now that practically everyone carries a smartphone in their pocket, and Google has replaced the yellow pages as the go-to source for contact information, consumers turn to the web to find information on the products and services they need. In fact, nearly half of all Google searches pertain to local queries and of these searches, 88% called or visited a business within 24 hours, and three-quarters of searchers visited a store within five miles of their home (source: HubSpot). 

Businesses that optimize their websites are the ones that more often appear on page one of search results—without having to pay to be there. Furthermore, internet searchers overwhelmingly click on the organic search results over the paid search results. Therefore, businesses need to rank high on relevant search terms to avoid losing business to competitors who are intentionally investing in SEO. And make no mistake, 64% of marketers are incorporating SEO into their digital marketing strategies. 

Why is SEO Confusing? 

SEO is confusing because there are a myriad of ever-changing criteria (called algorithms) used to determine if a website contains content relevant to the search. While search engine companies like Google do not reveal every detail of these algorithms, they do offer hints to help SEO experts discern the various ways search engines evaluate website content. These broad strokes help us determine which keywords, phrases, and other technical details have the best chance of being recognized by these algorithms as relevant. Because search engines are always making tweaks to the algorithms, it’s important to keep up with all the latest releases to ensure that your content meets their criteria. 

Furthermore, SEO is confusing because there are two primary components: content and technical structure. A website can have the best written words perfectly placed to be recognized by search engines, but if that site runs slow, is loaded with old/bad code, or doesn’t follow best practices for responsive design, it likely will not rank high in the search results. The website must have fantastic content and flawless technical design to pass muster with the algorithms. 

I Have PPC so Why Do I Need SEO?

It’s important to understand that SEO is NOT the same as Pay Per Click (PPC). Unless you’re well-versed in this world, it’s not uncommon to confuse the two; however, SEO and PPC have very different functions and play different roles in the context of a successful digital marketing plan. We will get more into PPC later in this series, but for now the main thing to know is that SEO comes from organic search and PPC comes from paid search. Just like in traditional PR, earned and paid media both have their place in your digital marketing strategy but they are not the same and it would be unwise to assume that one is just as good as the other. 

Don’t Try to Become an Armchair Expert 

When you’re running a small business or nonprofit organization you wear so many hats—white hat doesn’t need to be one of them. You may have enough knowledge and know-how on the subject to produce a minimum viable strategy. But at the end of the day, your digital marketing efforts would be better served by someone who can devote their full attention to optimizing your website for SEO. 

It can be tempting to think you can manage SEO on your own and some businesses may be able to do enough to get by. But we also know first-hand that SEO can quickly become a full-time job. Our advice: don’t leave SEO to chance and don’t spend hours trying to figure it out yourself. Find a SEO company (we know a great one!) you can trust to partner with you and get the job done. 

SEO is a core service area we provide for our clients. We have dedicated resources and expertise to ensure that your marketing content is fully optimized so the right people can find you online. Let’s set up a meeting and we can show you what we can do to help your website get the right kind of traffic and win more business through SEO.

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