When people talk about SEO, many times they have only one goal on their mind which is “I want top rankings for my keywords as soon as possible”. My question to them is “okay you achieve top rankings, then what? Is your website optimized enough to convert visitors into leads and customers?” While attaining top rankings should be a priority, however, it should not be the only priority. Google has been changing the architecture of SERPs (search engine results pages) like never before and it’s not only about top rankings but the overall quality of your content and how valuable it is to your audience.
Have a look at the screenshots below.
The article from Nerd Fitness ranks on 4th position yet it was pulled by Google and shown in the featured snippet area. It’s because according to Google’s algorithm (which takes into account around 200 factors to rank a webpage), this article answers the user’s query better than the top three results.
This blog post is not about how to get into the featured snippet area. You can read about this here.
How has SEO changed overtime?
Simply put, SEO is a process to get free traffic from search engines. The process involves multiple tactics and practices. The tactics and practices keep on evolving and changing. Practices which were effective in 2009 didn’t work in 2012 and the ones worked in 2012 are no longer working in 2017. For example keyword density, repeating keywords multiple times in titles and descriptions, manipulation of anchor texts, paid links, etc. are all things of past.
It is still important to use your keywords in the content and have backlinks. However, the way it should be done has changed. It is because people don’t want to land on a website full of keywords and sales pitched content. And search engines have been putting a lot of efforts to analyze how users behave online and how they can provide them the best results. People want helpful, valuable content (on your website and off your website).
SEO is incomplete without content!
Before I go into explaining the benefits businesses get from SEO, I want to talk a bit about content. What is it that ranks in search engine results? It is the content in the form of service pages, blog posts, ebook guides, images, videos, free tools, etc. More content you have for your brand, wider the audience you are able to reach. Content also helps to build a community around your brand, provide value to your audience, convert visitors into leads, nurture leads, convert leads into customers and delight customers.
So, I will be talking about content a lot in this blog post.
Now let’s talk about how SEO benefits businesses
1. SEO helps build a credible and trusted brand
As I explained above, SEO is incomplete without content. And it’s not limited to optimizing only your service pages for your keywords. It is, instead, how much value you provide to your website visitors. When you come up with content which helps your audience and provide them valuable information, you build a connection between your audience and your brand. And when you do it regularly, you emerge as a credible and trusted brand in your industry for the topics you write about.
Search engines are going out of their way to figure out which content is valuable to users. Signals like social shares, click through rates, pogo-sticking, session durations, visit frequency, etc. are all used by search engines to understand the quality of content. The user behavior signals are well explained here.
If you are a small business, and you start building trust of your audience, you also start getting a share of voice in your industry alongside your competitors.
2. SEO helps to find new and related opportunities
Have a look at below screenshots.
When I searched “stop unnecessary spend in Adwords”, Google showed articles having words like invalid clicks and Adwords mistakes. Also note that some words are bolded in meta-description like turn off and unwanted. These words were not even there in my query then why Google showed these articles and highlighted these words? It is because according to Google’s algorithm (based on topic relevance and user behavior signals), these words are closely related to my query. Same goes with the example of “home workout”. Phrases like no equipment, lose weight and build muscles are closely related to home workout.
Discover new and semantic (closely related) keywords to write about in addition to your current keywords. More importantly, find terms which are closely related to the topic you are writing about (as explained above). However, analyzing SERPs this way is time consuming and tedious.
One good way to find new keywords and related terms is looking at Google Search Console’s Search Analytics data. It shows all the queries your website is ranking on. Grab the data and run it through your keyword tool to find search volumes and find more variations of those terms.
You can also do a Twitter hashtag research. RiteTag is a good tool to explore popular and nearby hashtags on Twitter and words used on Twitter alongside a hashtag. Example: https://ritetag.com/best-hashtags-for/blogging
3. SEO results in growth of organic traffic and leads
One of the biggest benefits of doing SEO is that it brings potential organic traffic from search engines. While there is no any investment in terms of ads, you will have to invest in content (more on this in the fifth point). When you come up with valuable content like blog posts and promote it on multiple channels, your audience will start reading and sharing your content if they find it worthy. As easy as it sounds, it requires a lot of efforts.
The process of generating organic traffic starts with brainstorming the areas related to your business. Then you need to conduct keyword research around those areas and find long-tail keywords having considerable search volume. Once you have a handful of keywords, pick one of them and find some related terms around those keywords and come up with blog post. The blog post should have at least 1000 words and more importantly it should not be just any other blog post but it should offer some value to your users. Do this for all the other keywords you found during your research.
Pro Tip: Spend good amount of time writing titles, descriptions and headings of your blog posts. Use these tools to come up with catchy titles: SEOPressor and HubSpot. Use CoSchedule’s headline analyzer to come up with sensible and emotional headlines.
Once you publish your post, you should promote it in various ways like on social media, publish a corresponding blog post, guest post on a popular blog, participate in different communities, etc.
To generate leads from SEO, you need to go a step ahead of publishing and promoting blog posts. You need to come up with content like ebooks, white papers, email course, etc. which you can promote through your blog posts. While people read your blog posts, you can show pop-ups, sticky bar, scroll pop-up, screen overlay, in-line forms, etc. where you can embed a short form asking for users’ info in return of your content. This is a highly effective way to generate qualified leads. See some examples below.
4. SEO helps in building quality back links
Along with the quality of a website’s content, Google and other search engines count on links to rank websites. So building high quality links is still very important to be successful in SEO.
What are links and what is link building?
When people include a link to your content (on your website) from their website, your website gets a link. In the Pre-Penguin (Penguin: Google’s algorithm update to hit low quality back links) days, people used to buy links and get links from low quality directories and websites, manipulative blog commenting, etc. Websites getting links using these ways got hit hard after Penguin update.
How to build links?
There are multiple strategies to build links. One of the most effective strategies is content marketing where you create high quality content and promote it on various platforms. There are many other strategies to build links. The ones right for you will depend on a number of factors. Here is a detailed guide discussing multiple link building strategies.
5. SEO helps you get better rankings that last long
When you advertise on any platform like Google, Bing, or Facebook, the traffic stops coming as soon as you stop running ads. While on the other hand, once you achieve top rankings for particular keywords, you stay there for a long time (maybe forever). Look at below screenshot. A search for “email marketing best practices” showed blog posts from 2015 and 2011. It is because these articles still hold value for this topic.
To achieve such long lasting results, you need to come up with something which really provides value to your audience and keep bettering it over time. For example: this blog post is an old one but it still ranks in top 5 on Google on searches like link building, link building strategies and link building in 2017. Certainly it is highly helpful but the author, Brian Dean has also been bettering and updating it to keep it fresh. Notice the title 2017 Update in brackets. I don’t have screenshots of the earlier design of this page but the design was also different. This is an example where certain changes in title and content added to the relevancy of the content.
I am not saying you do the same with your content. It might not apply at all to your business. But you must create something of value which will remain valuable even after years.
6. SEO greatly improves conversion rate of websites
Up until now in this post, I have been talking about creating quality content and promoting it. One other very important aspect of “modern day” SEO is optimizing your website’s user interface which results in great user experience. User interface is everything from content formatting to high level design elements of your website.
What I will specifically cover in this point is how SEO helps convert visitors into leads. Every business needs different types of leads to be profitable but the bottom line every business needs leads.
While designing your website, you should include lead capture forms and CTAs. CTAs should be closely aligned with your content and define the next step(s) for readers. The screenshot from Zapier’s website below is a good example of using relevant CTAs.
To start with, you need to come up with relevant offers to increase conversion rates. In the Zapier example above, they are offering a free ebook and a free trial. You can also come up with similar offers. Generally, free ebook, free trial/consultation, free evaluation, free email course, blog subscription, etc. all make good offers.
The second part is how and when you show those offers on your website. The message and position of your offers matter a lot. Homepage, pop-ups, sticky bar, scroll down pop-up, screen overlay, homepage overlay, in-line forms, etc. are all good ways to show your CTAs and offers.
7. SEO impacts the whole buying cycle
A buying cycle is a journey your customers/buyers go through to buy something from you. SEO impacts this cycle to make the purchase decision easy for your customers.
A buying cycle generally has 3 stages: awareness, consideration and decision.
Awareness stage: When people discover they have a problem and they are looking for possible solution. Common forms of content are blog posts, guides, and reports.
Consideration stage: When people analyze your solution and compare it with your competitors’ solutions. Common forms of content are case studies, comparison pages, explainer videos, etc.
Decision stage: When people have completed comparison and are ready to start with your product/service. Common forms of content are free trial, free consultation, free quote, etc.
How SEO impacts buying cycle?
When you continuously come up with content for all the stages of buying cycle, your audience starts recognizing you and your brand as an expert on the topics you write about. They also start connecting with you emotionally. And if in future they consider buying a product or service that you also offer, you will have the advantage over your competitors.
8. SEO helps save marketing and advertising costs
Marketing and advertising are two of the most important factors of business success. And running successful marketing and advertising campaigns requires good amount of money. SEO can greatly help in saving costs and reducing marketing spends in the long run.
However, one must understand that SEO is a long term strategy. It is not possible to see results from SEO right from the day you start. And, to have SEO really bring good results, you need to have a detailed strategy which you have to follow religiously. It is because of this commitment that people start running ads on Google Adwords and other advertising platforms to get faster results. While it’s usually a good move to start things off, investing in SEO is highly recommended. Reread this post to understand the benefits of SEO.
What will happen over time is if you are continuously coming up with useful content for your audience and optimizing it for search engines, your organic rankings will get better and you will start getting organic traffic and leads from your content. You can then consider reducing your advertising budget or even stop them altogether based on your business goals.