How To Do SEO, Part 1: Why Use It?

Search engine optimization is the practice of configuring your site to increase organic traffic and conversions driven by Google, Bing and others. Part science and part art, SEO contains elements from website development, user experience, content creation and social relationships, as well as an understanding of search engines and their algorithms.

This post starts a weekly primer in SEO, with the goal of touching on all the basic aspects. In the end, you will be able to practice SEO more securely and talk to others about important SEO challenges and opportunities.

There are three key aspects of SEO:

  • indexing: The search engine's ability to crawl and index your web pages.
  • Relevance: The relevance of your content.
  • strengthening: Strengthen the relevance and authority of your content through links.

Optimization of relevance and government signals that your site sends to search engines can increase your ranking, leading visitors to your site. The more relevant signals, the more targeted visitors (to convert to customers).

Each search represents a desire for information or products. Thus, searches related to your business and products can increase your brand awareness and drive consumers to your site.

Keep in mind that Google only fields more than 60,000 searches per second on average. There are many people with many desires. And with an estimated $ 602 billion in retail and B2B e-commerce generated in the US in 2019, search engines can drive lots of customers to your site.

But performance in search results goes beyond competitive organic listings.

Search queries can also trigger ads – paid search listings at the top, right and bottom of the desktop and laptop page, and in a single column for smartphones. Organic search results are embedded in the middle (for desktops and laptops), as shown below for a sample product search.

Google's US search results page on a laptop for the query

Google's US search results page on a laptop for the query "image in glass." Click on the image to enlarge.

There is no charge for the search engines to appear in organic results. Placement is earned – not paid as an ad – so you can't rank higher by saying Google.

But with all the elements of the search results, it becomes increasingly difficult to claim a place on the first page. When Google places at the top four text ads or a product listing carousel, there may be room for just one or two organic search listings.

Organic search is still a high-performing marketing channel for most e-commerce companies. Some studies put the average traffic and revenue driven by organic search at about 50 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

However, in my experience, it varies a lot depending on the size of the company and their duration and expenses for their entire marketing mix. The higher the marketing for other digital channels – social, email, search ads – the lower the organic search percentage.

I have seen companies that drive 75 percent of their traffic and revenue through organic search. But that dependency is risky because a single algorithm update can reduce revenue. But even a company with a varied marketing mix should drive at least 10 percent of traffic and revenue through organic search.

Ethical SEO means improvements to your website that drive customers long term. It's not about shortcuts, short-term gains, or deceiving search engine algorithms. Consequently, while SEO requires time and expertise (which can cost money), the benefits are often long lasting.

Thus, SEO should touch most aspects of an organization – from product planning, marketing and customer support to the obvious areas of digital strategy, design, development and implementation.

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