Why Having An SEO Optimized Website Is Important
Making a website for your new business or blog is all fun and games until a marketing person asks about your SEO and SERP rankings.
They ask because they care, but if you’re new to selling or sharing online, you may not know exactly what SEO and its related terms mean or why they matter.
SEO matters a lot, so let’s take a look at why. Then you’ll be able to ask your marketing friends for their tips on earning the featured answers box on SERPs, optimizing for voice search, and other stuff that’s fun and games for them.
Defining SEO and SERPs
SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is a very precise way of saying you’re doing all the right things to get found in searches that people do on Google, Bing, and other search engines.
A SERP is a search engine results page, the screen full of links you get when you search for, say, “what does SERP mean?” SERP ranking refers to a site’s position on that results page, the higher up the better.
Now that we’ve defined our terms, let’s look at why SEO matters so much.
SEO Helps People Find Your Website
As of this writing, there are 1.8 billion sites on the web, and a new one goes live every second.
Don’t take that statistic as discouragement—the web is crowded because it’s an effective way to reach people. Do take it as evidence that choosing your domain name, building your site, and posting your content are the first steps, not the only steps, to reaching your audience.
How much does SEO matter?
A few years ago, I watched a startup business without an SEO program fail to appear on the first SERP for the keywords that made up its domain and business names.
The owner went to great lengths to choose the domain name according to all the best practices for search results: location + type of business. This person even named the business to align with the URL. It was a perfect choice and a minor miracle that the domain name was available, and with good SEO it should have been a lock for the top spot in search results. But there was no implementation of on-site SEO, no keywords included in the site copy, no link building. And no page one results—those all went to competitors with less-than-ideal names but strong SEO programs.
SEO Helps You Connect With Local Customers
Connecting with an audience is vital for every site owner, especially those who also run brick-and-mortar shops or depend on local clients.
SEO is a must for sites that cater to locals, because most local searches now happen on mobile phones, when the customer is ready to buy something. Appear in those search results, and you’re likely to get traffic that converts. Don’t rank well in those results, and you’re invisible to your target customers.
The relationship between local searches and mobile users is so important that Google is gradually shifting to a “mobile first” site index that will rank mobile-optimized sites higher in search results than sites that don’t perform well on smartphones. And because most of us talk to our phones rather than key in search phrases, the mobile-local search trend is making voice-search keywords more important than before.
SEO Matters for SERP Rankings
Earlier, I mentioned a business that failed to appear on the first SERP for its keywords. How much does showing up on the first page of search results really matter? Won’t potential customers carefully review the first few pages of results before they decide who to contact?
Overwhelmingly, the answers are “a lot” and “no.”
First page rankings matter because most searchers don’t look past the first page of results, but appearing on the first page isn’t necessarily a golden ticket. That’s because the site with the #1 position on a SERP gets about a third of all the traffic, with a marked decline for each position below it. The #6 site on a SERP can expect less than five percent of the traffic from that search. The higher your site ranks, the more traffic you’ll see.
If you run a local business, SEO can help you land the most coveted voice search position of all: zero. Zero’s not nothing—it’s the spoken answer searchers will hear after they ask their phone where the closest dog wash is, or where they can get their mascot suit dry cleaned in Houston. It’s called zero because it comes from the answer box on the results page, not the list of URLs.
Want to earn position zero? Work on implementing rich snippets as part of your SEO program.
SEO Best Practices Help Your Business Shine on Other Platforms
Keeping up with current SEO practices is work, but it can pay off in ways beyond search rankings. As Pete Roesler wrote at Inc., “good SEO works on any searchable platform.”
- If you cross-list your merchandise on marketplaces like Etsy or eBay, knowing how to research, refine, and use keywords can help you make more sales.
- The same goes for marketing on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms. People often search social media by keywords and hashtags for things they want to buy.
- If you’re a service provider, include your SEO keywords in your listings on professional and local business directory sites so people who need your expertise can find you.
SEO Helps You Get the Most Value from Your Content
Good content isn’t cheap, even if you’re creating it yourself. The time you take to write blog posts and product descriptions, shoot and edit photos, and create videos or podcasts is a real investment, and SEO can help it generate better returns.
Rather than turn out content and hoping it goes viral, help it find the right audience by using the most relevant keywords. As your audience grows and comes to rely on your for, say, tutorial videos on furniture refinishing, you’ll establish the kind of trust and authority that leads those people to seek out your online shop when they need refinishing products and supplies.
Good SEO Can Help You Refine Your Website’s Direction
A good ongoing SEO program can help your site by keeping your content and decision-making processes focused. For example, if visitors who convert are coming to your site through searches for “indoor herb garden lighting,” but the visitors who don’t convert are arriving through searches for “herbal bath products,” you know where to focus your content and/or your product offerings.
Setting up and maintaining your SEO program takes some time but it’s critical to the success of your website. You can use our DIY guide to the basics of SEO to get started, and you can use the SEO tools that are included in the HostGator Website Builder. You can also save time by letting the experts at HostGator’s SEO Services handle it for you.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.