What Is SEO Marketing?
When a person searches for something using a search engine, like Google, the search engine looks through all of the pages in its “index” — an archive of websites that have been submitted to the search engine in the past — and presents the most relevant results. This is done through each search engine’s algorithm.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know exactly what search engine algorithms look for — even for the most popular search engines — since this would allow people to “cheat” how the algorithm works. However, through trial and error, many people have found quite a few consistent ways to allow their website to rank organically in the SERP.
Generally, algorithms consider several different factors when deciding whether a piece of content has “valuable information” or not, including:
- Keywords: Specific words used on your website’s page that a lot of people are searching for. (e.g., “how to form an LLC” is a popular keyword for our site)
- Page activity: How often people visit your website.
- Nature of the content: How “fresh” or up-to-date your website’s content is.
- Website age: The older the website, the more likely it is to be prioritized by search engines over new content. This is because search engines presume that content that has “stood the test of time” is likely to be valuable, or it wouldn’t still be around.
- Location: This is used by search engines to help match queries with search intent (e.g., “best LLC services in Texas,” etc.).
- Social media presence: Even though this doesn’t directly affect SEO, it contributes to factors that do (e.g., increased website traffic, etc.).
The importance of each factor will depend on what users are actually looking for. For example, the nature of a piece of content can be important when it comes to researching a particular topic, but not so much when it comes to looking up the definitions or synonyms of specific words.
SEO is all about proving to search engines that your content (e.g., your website, blog, etc.) is valuable to users (e.g., as a result of effectively addressing search intent, etc.) and should thus naturally be promoted to the top of persons’ search engine results.
Why Is SEO Important for My Small Business?
Ensuring your site is SEO-optimized will inevitably mean that it is viewed as credible and trustworthy by search engines, which will boost your credibility as an online business.
This can resonate well with consumers — particularly the ones who are wary of websites presented to them through paid advertising means.
Content Marketing Booster
Another reason SEO is a pivotal part of any small business is that it goes hand-in-hand with content marketing.
Creating free, informative, and unique content is a proven way to improve your brand’s recognition and increase your sales and revenue as a small business. Making your written content (e.g., articles, ebooks, blogs, etc.) SEO-efficient is a necessity when it comes to making your content accessible to a sufficient number of people from your target audience.
SEO has no direct cost. This is not to say that it has no real cost — as it can be a tedious and time-consuming process — but it does not involve paying search engines directly like with PPC advertising.
This can make SEO marketing great for small businesses with tight budgets. It is also a more cost-efficient marketing approach because, if done correctly, SEO tends to generate consistent traffic for businesses. This means short-term investments can be rewarded for very extended periods of time.
Even though the principal point of SEO is to make your website more search engine-friendly, a hidden benefit of this is that this indirectly makes your website more user-friendly for consumers.
This is because it ensures that it entails valuable content, has a sufficient number of internal links that consumers can use, and is easy to navigate.
Even though SEO is not as straightforward as PPC advertising — where businesses can make direct measurements based on click-through and conversion rates in order to identify a campaign's efficacy — it remains very measurable.
You can see how your audience finds you, what keywords you are ranking well for, and use Google Analytics to set up trackable conversions (e.g., page views, order completions, etc.).
How SEO Works
A keyword is a word or phrase that is highly relevant to your business and/or industry. This means it will also be commonly used during search engine queries that relate to your content.
As the name suggests, keyword research is the process through which businesses examine what keywords their target audiences are searching for online, as well as how difficult it is to rank for them organically.
You can do this by following three simple steps:
- Finding keywords: Before you start to think about the logistics of SEO, you need to know what your targeted consumers are looking for online. This will allow you to create informative content that ranks well organically.
- Checking traffic: You will need to check the traffic generated from your desired keywords. You can do this by finding how often each keyword is “searched” for on your desired search engine. Some common tools used to check this are Ahrefs.com and Google Search Console.
- Checking how difficult they are to rank for: This can depend on several factors:
- The number of other authority websites (websites that are well known or popular) competing for that keyword
- The number of backlinks your website will need to rank well on the SERP
- The amount of similar relevant content you will need to show you are an expert on the topic
You should look at the number of high-profile business websites that link to high-ranking pages with your chosen keyword. Generally speaking, a prominent website that has a lot of backlinks (i.e., links from other prominent websites that link back to their website) is likely to be one of high quality, meaning it will be harder for you to rank well against it organically.
Note: If you have a new or smaller website, it may be a good strategy to focus on more niche or longtail keywords (i.e., keywords that are more than two words) that have a small search volume because these are easier to rank for. The more pages you have that rank well on the SERP, the more credible your site will be.
On-page SEO involves optimizing existing webpages — or sometimes even creating new content — and making that page or several pages more SEO-efficient. Contrary to popular belief, this is done through much more than simply including strong keywords.
On-page SEO can be broken down into these components:
- Matching Search Intent
- Optimizing Images
- Writing Effective Title Tags
- Creating Meta Tags
- Creating Effective URLs
- Creating Mobile-First Indexing
- Creating Heading Tags
In order to become SEO-optimized, you need to ensure that your content is aligned with what is known as “search intent.” This is the information that users are hoping to find when they type in a particular query within a search engine. How relative is the information on your website to what customers are looking for?
If you are unsure about how to judge search intent, you can take a look at the top-ranking pages for your target keywords. For example, if your keyword phrase is “digital marketing guide,” you will likely see several blogs rank very highly.
Contrarily, if your keyword was “laptop,” you would find loads of ecommerce websites. This indirectly lets you know that the search intent for laptops is to make purchases, whereas the search intent for digital marketing guides is to learn.
You should take time to optimize your website’s images to be as SEO-friendly as possible, which can be done in the following ways:
- Compress your images in order to improve your page’s speed
- Name your images
- Incorporate descriptive alt text
Title tags are the clickable links that show up when a business ranks on search engine results. These are used to incentivize your audience to click on your website, so aligning them with search intent is very important.
Meta tags are a crucial factor in SEO because they can affect how your site appears on SERPs, which can play a key role when it comes to how likely users are to click on and be directed onto your website.
This can then affect your engagement rates, traffic, and user-experience levels, all of which impact SEO.
Note: Google’s algorithm can choose to use a section of your website’s text instead of your meta tag if it is very relevant to users’ queries.
A great way of improving your website’s organic rankings is embedding keywords within its URLs. This can help search engines identify what content your website will contain and “match it” with users’ search intent.
Mobile-first indexing is the process through which search engines use the mobile version of a website to rank it in their search results. This means that web pages that load faster on mobile devices have a much better chance of ranking well organically.
Fast loading times are generally essential when it comes to ranking well on SERP because they play a key role in retaining traffic and ensuring that visitors stay on your website for a longer period of time — providing a more enhanced user experience.
Headings tags — particularly H1 heading tags — let search engines know what your content is about.
H2 to H6 heading tags can also be used to indicate the importance of each piece of content on your website in numerical order.
Besides affecting search engines’ algorithms, heading tags are valuable when it comes to SEO because they ensure that your website provides a better user experience. This is because they provide an easy way through which users can “scan” through your website and find the content that they are actually looking for.
External links or backlinks (i.e., links from other websites that link to your website) are indicative of high-quality content according to search engines, meaning that they are crucial when it comes to how well a website ranks on a SERP.
The higher the number of links from other websites, especially from popular websites, the more credible you will seem to a search engine’s algorithm, and the higher you will rank organically.
Technical SEO is the mechanism through which your website can be optimized for crawling and indexing.
You can control how Google and other search engines find your content and even prevent search engines from crawling specific content on your website. These can be done in the following ways:
- Sitemaps: These are files that include information about the content on your website (e.g., your pages, videos, files, etc.) as well as the relationship between them and their importance. Search engines use sitemaps to crawl your website more effectively.
- Robots.txt: These can be used to guide search engine crawlers by telling them which URLs can and cannot be accessed on your website.
- Recrawl requests: You can ask Google to re-index your website or online pages by using the URL Inspection tool or submitting a sitemap. This can only be done for URLs that you actively manage.
- Removals: You can choose to exclude images hosted on your page from appearing in your search results, opt out of display on Google Local, and remove any pages which are hosted on your website from Google.
- Duplicate content: Letting search engines know about any duplicate content on your website is important because it allows you to choose a canonical version. If this is not done, Google can decide which URL is the “main” one by itself, which can lead to inefficient crawling.
- International and multilingual sites: You can take steps to help search engines understand how your website is structured if it contains content in several different languages.
- Website development: This includes how your website is coded, how clean the code is, making sure you don’t have broken links, making sure you aren’t copyrighting other websites all play a role in how effectively your pages are indexed and crawled by search engines.
For more information, see Google’s guidelines on crawling and indexing topics.
Popular SEO Strategies
There are a few popular strategies that businesses and marketers follow in order to maximize SEO on their websites:
- Domain: Registering a solid domain can be an important factor when it comes to SEO because it tells visitors what your website is about. Generally, you will want to follow the following rules when choosing your domain name:
- Do not add any hyphens
- Do not use any business name other than your own
- Keep it as short and memorable as possible
- Web hosting: When starting your business website, you can choose between two different types of hosting. These include hosted and self-hosted platforms. Generally speaking, self-hosted platforms are better for SEO because:
- There are millions of SEO-related plugins that you can use to improve your functionality.
- It is highly customizable, meaning businesses can edit and work with code more flexibly.
- Site structure: Coherent site structures are pivotal when it comes to SEO because they allow search engines to navigate through your website easily through internal links. These allow search engines to find new pages, understand what your website is about, and improve PageRank across all of your pages.
- User-friendliness: According to Google’s SEO Starter Guide, pages are ranked well if they give users a “positive experience.” This means it is important that you make your website as user-friendly as possible (e.g., by making it mobile-friendly, removing pop-up ads, making it secure, etc.).
Should I Use SEO Marketing for My Small Business?
Whether you should use SEO marketing for your small business is ultimately up to you, but it is highly recommended for several reasons.
For one, SEO compliments other forms of digital marketing. This includes both PPC campaigns and content marketing. Maximizing your organic traffic by incorporating SEO strategies into your operations also comes at no real cost if you do this yourself, other than the time you will have to invest into learning them.
As a small business, SEO can also help you “diversify” your advertising as much as possible in order to expand your marketing reach. This can enable you to resonate with a higher number of customers, which, in turn, can benefit you in the following ways:
- Increased traffic
- Increased sales and revenue
- Increased leads and conversions
- Improved brand recognition
All in all, SEO is a pivotal part of ranking well organically on Google, meaning it is an essential element of non-paid digital advertising (i.e., content writing). You can use this to target consumers who are actively looking for your business’s products and/or services while avoiding an “Ad” tag on SERP.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does SEO stand for?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is used to make websites as optimal as possible in order to rank well organically on search engines.
Is SEO marketing less expensive than PPC?
SEO marketing has no “direct” pay-per-click cost like with PPC advertising, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it is less expensive. This will vary from business to business, as how much is allocated to each type of marketing is highly discretionary.
Generally speaking, SEO can be more expensive when it comes to showing results because it can take a few months for content to rank well organically, whereas PPC can generate quick returns.
What does SERP stand for?
SERP stands for search engine result page. This is the page that a search engine (e.g., Google, etc.) directs users to after they type in a query on a search bar. These can include both PPC ads and organic traffic.
What is organic traffic?
Organic traffic is any traffic that is not a direct result of paid advertising.
When you type in a search query on Google, you will see that a few pages have “Ad” tags, and — depending on the query in question — you may also see other types of PPC ads.
This is paid advertising, so any traffic derived from users clicking on these websites would not be considered organic. If, on the other hand, a website ranks well “organically” through SEO, any traffic that is derived as a result of natural user queries would be considered organic.
What are the main types of digital marketing?
The main types of digital marketing include:
- Email marketing
- SEO marketing
- PPC marketing
- Content marketing
- SMS marketing
- Social media marketing
For more information, see our guide on digital marketing.