Most entrepreneurs understand that a website is essential to a thriving business. Yet, building a website is just one of many steps you must take to reach your target audience online. Sure, you will get a few visitors via word-of-mouth, but you also need a plan for engaging people through other channels like search, social media, or email. And, in my view, search engine optimization (SEO) is the best place to start because one of the main benefits of SEO is that it becomes the foundation for your entire digital marketing strategy.
So, below I’ll clarify what SEO is and what you can expect from it in more depth.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of improving a website (and its content), so it can achieve a high level of visibility in organic search (Google, Bing, etc.) and become a source of quality website traffic, leads, and sales. It involves setting goals, ensuring that your website is technically sound, and creating SEO content that targets keywords or keyphrases related to your business.
SEO is a long-term strategy. To be successful, you must build quality content that thoroughly addresses the needs of your target audience and compels them to take action. However, in contrast to advertising, which only produces results if you continue to pay, SEO content can attract traffic, leads, and sales for years after you do the work.
What are the Benefits of SEO?
Investing in SEO can deliver tremendous value to your business if you are rigorous and persistent with your approach. It is also vital that you measure your progress to see what works and what doesn’t so you can adjust. A good SEO practitioner will help you do that, but what benefits can you expect from a data-driven SEO strategy?
1. Successful SEO Delivers Targeted Web Traffic, Leads, and Sales
According to estimates, the average person submits three to four search queries every day, and roughly 90% of those searches take place on Google. That’s a massive audience! Moreover, many people scroll right past the ads at the top of the search engine results pages to the organic answers below. So, one of the main benefits of SEO is that your content will appear for some of those queries – attracting traffic to your site.
However, you’ll notice that I qualified this benefit by saying you will get targeted traffic because traffic for the sake of traffic is pointless. Instead of fixating on volume, build a strategy for developing content related to your products and services. Then, make the most of whatever traffic you earn by encouraging visitors to become leads and sales.
You can track your progress using any website analytics platform. But many marketers use Google Analytics and Google Search Console combined with other tools, like a customer relationship management (CRM) system. With these solutions, you can track and analyze important data such as search traffic, organic rankings, conversions, and conversion rates.
2. SEO Results in a Valuable Foundation of High-Quality Content
A winning SEO strategy will require ongoing technical improvements to your website and the development of excellent content that can outrank the competition. So, over time, you build a foundation of quality content that (if maintained) will continue to impress your visitors and perform well in search for years. For this reason, I would encourage you to think of SEO as an investment, not an expense, because good SEO content is built to last and will increase the value of your business.
How? Well, Google favors content that satisfies searchers. So the only way to rank is to construct content that demonstrates your expertise while giving searchers what they want and more – i.e., trustworthy, informative content that isn’t overly salesy.
It takes time to create such content, and when you do so consistently, your credibility grows, and it becomes easier to get the results you seek. Therefore, businesses that have already done this work and attract a steady stream of traffic, leads, and sales from search are more valuable.
3. SEO Supports the Reputation of Your Organization and Team
When you produce well-written content that dives deep into topics your target audience cares about, your credibility will grow, especially when that content ranks well in search and becomes visible to a broader audience. And when I say “you,” I mean your organization and the authors of your blog posts or specific resources. So, in addition to making it more likely that your visitors will convert, successful SEO provides you and your employees an opportunity to nurture your professional brands.
I would encourage you to consider this benefit of SEO as you build your strategy. The people who write your blog posts or other resources that cite an author will become the voices of your company. You can use this to your advantage.
For example, if you wish to raise the visibility of your CEO and founder as an expert in her field, encourage her to author some of your blog posts. When done right, this can lead to more opportunities in your space, such as speaking engagements or co-marketing opportunities, which can result in more business. And don’t worry if she is too busy to write content or doesn’t know a thing about SEO. A great SEO writer can do it for her.
4. A Sound SEO Strategy Will Result in a Better User Experience on Your Website
Have you ever heard the aphorism, “a rising sea lifts all boats?” Roll your eyes, if you must, but one of the benefits of SEO is that it does the same for the user experience on your website.
I already mentioned how SEO encourages you to build great content. But search engines look at hundreds of things when deciding which content deserves to be on page one, and some of them have to do with the overall quality of your website. For example, we know that search engines favor sites that are:
- Fast and mobile-friendly.
- Free of technical issues, like broken links.
- Easy to navigate, with a clear site structure.
And, that’s great news, because website visitors also like these things.
Furthermore, since you want a return on your SEO investment, you will likely scrutinize your messaging to make sure visitors can quickly grasp what you do, who you serve, and what to do next. In other words, you will create a clear path to conversion and lots of internal links, which will make it easier for people to convert, regardless of how they arrive on your site. Just be sure to track your progress using engagement metrics such as your bounce rates and time on page.
5. Robust SEO Content Can Fuel Other Marketing Strategies
Without even trying, the benefits of SEO make other marketing efforts more effective. The increase in traffic will help you build your email list, for instance. Furthermore, greater visibility in search creates brand awareness and attracts inbound links, which will support your public relations efforts. But, you don’t have to stop there – SEO content can fuel all of your digital marketing activities.
For example, imagine that you have a content marketing strategy that calls for four blog posts a month (only one of which will be SEO), social media promotion, and the development of lead magnets. You can repurpose individual points from the SEO blog posts to create a wide range of social media communications. You could also combine two or three SEO blog posts to make the lead magnet, which you can then promote via an advertising campaign or partnerships.
The point is, SEO content doesn’t have to live in a vacuum – you can make the most of it by putting it to work in other ways. If you ignore SEO, however, you are leaving an entire marketing channel untapped.
Another point I’d like to make here is that SEO content isn’t only for your blog – you can apply SEO to all stages of your marketing funnel. For example, you can optimize product and service pages, professional bios, product comparisons, and frequently asked questions (FAQ) pages. Nearly anything people look for online is an SEO opportunity.
6. SEO is a Relatively Low-Cost Endeavor
Compared to other promotion types, such as advertising or in-person events, SEO is more cost-effective. There is a cost, of course, and SEO expertise isn’t cheap. But, remember, an improved website and a collection of evergreen content (content that’s relevant year-round) can deliver a return for years. In contrast, advertising works, but only while you pay.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t engage in other marketing strategies. On the contrary, I would encourage it to get more mileage from your SEO investment. For example, you can create ads to promote your SEO content. Or, you can repurpose some of your written materials into flyers to hand out at events. However, once your SEO campaigns are successful, you may find that you can stop bidding on specific keywords and invest those funds elsewhere.
7. SEO is Suitable for Businesses of all Types and Sizes
SEO is a great way to promote all sorts of businesses, from family-owned coffee shops to large corporations that sell to a global audience. Small to mid-sized companies can sometimes have the advantage here because they tend to be more nimble, but larger companies often have more resources to lean on.
However, it is critical to remember that SEO is a long-term play, and in some industries, it is very competitive. Therefore, I recommend assessing your unique situation and building a customized, multi-channel strategy for your needs.
For instance, the family-owned coffee shop I mentioned might use a combination of local SEO techniques, email marketing, and organic and paid social media. The SEO effort would likely involve updates to the website’s core pages, a Google My Business listing, and a push to earn links from other local businesses. Meanwhile, they might encourage customers to leave reviews, develop a routine of regular social media posting, and start building other promotional campaigns. Such a strategy would allow them to engage with their audience quickly while investing in the long-term plan to appear in local searches.
If, however, you run a professional services business and work with companies throughout the United States, you would take a different approach. Although you might use the same channels and employ some local SEO techniques, you would probably invest more heavily in a blogging strategy and develop high-quality guides or eBooks for lead generation. Your SEO efforts would bring people to the website who might download the guides and eBooks, but you would also promote that same content through other channels.
8. A Powerful SEO Initiative Will Boost Your Competitiveness
Investing in SEO isn’t too dissimilar from investing in the stock market. It can seem like you’re barely getting anywhere when you’re just starting, and it is easy to get discouraged. However, if you stick with it, your “portfolio” of quality content will grow, and you will gain momentum until you appear in a wide array of searches related to your business. Such visibility will not only boost your reputation but your ability to compete because anyone looking to challenge your position in search will need to start at the beginning.
Another thing that happens is it becomes easier to rank. As people consume, share, and link to your content, Google learns to trust you as an authority in your space, making it easier to compete in search. So although SEO will still require a good chunk of your time, once you get the hang of it, it will use up less of your creative energy – freeing you to shift focus toward other things, like encouraging website visitors to convert.
What are the Drawbacks of SEO?
Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to talk about the benefits of SEO without sharing the drawbacks as well. The reality is, SEO is a big commitment, so before you dive in, I’d encourage you to think about your priorities and limitations so you can decide if you’re ready. For instance, here are some of the drawbacks of SEO:
1. SEO Requires a Significant Investment of Both Money and Time
SEO pricing varies tremendously, depending on the skills of whomever you hire and what they will do. Experts in this field typically charge upwards of $100 an hour and will normally need a minimum of 15 to 20 hours a month to move a small business forward. So expect to spend approximately $2,000 per month or more.
Furthermore, this cost is just for the person with SEO expertise. You may also need website development, writing, email marketing, or other types of skills, so be sure to clarify the capabilities of the person you plan to hire and fill in the gaps.
As to the time commitment, here are a couple of questions to ask yourself:
- First, do you have subject matter experts who will contribute to the content development effort? If so, do they have the time (and motivation) to participate in interviews and edit the new content for accuracy?
- Second, do you have another source of leads and sales? Since SEO is a long-term strategy, you cannot expect it to deliver a return overnight, and results can fluctuate. For this reason, I would encourage you to diversify your marketing spend, so you can weather the ups and downs while minimizing risk.
2. You Must Maintain SEO Content to Keep it Relevant
Although good SEO content will perform for quite some time, this assumes you update that content periodically. Even evergreen content can become stale, so eventually, its effectiveness will decline. Furthermore, as the algorithms change and new competitors enter the mix, your positions can shift. To mitigate this, you must revisit your content regularly and make adjustments.
3. Writing SEO Content Can Feel Constraining
When striving to rank for a particular keyword (or topic), an SEO practitioner will perform keyword research, examine the competition, then craft an outline to guide the writing process. To some, such structure can feel limiting, even suffocating. For instance, if your company’s leaders wish to create free-flowing and opinionated thought leadership content that challenges the status quo, they may not like this construct. When this is the case, I encourage clients to mix it up – plan to write certain pieces for SEO and others for different purposes.
4. The SEO Field is Home to Some Shady Players
Anyone can take a course or two on link building, then hang up their shingle as an SEO expert. But, there is way more to SEO than link building, and (in my opinion) if you do it right, you will attract links naturally anyway. So, beware of anyone who floods your inbox with offers to build links for you for a few hundred dollars a month and promising results. SEO doesn’t work that way. There are no shortcuts or cheap dates – a sustainable SEO strategy takes time, energy, and commitment.
The Bottom Line
According to BrightEdge, organic search is the dominant driver of website traffic. But, traffic is just one of the many benefits of SEO. Engaging in SEO helps you to improve the user experience on your website and build a stronger reputation. It also encourages you to develop amazing content and becomes the foundation of your digital marketing strategy. So, how can you get started?
Put some thought into your goals, how the benefits of SEO might help you realize those goals, and what you’re willing to spend. Then, contact an SEO practitioner who is passionate about their craft, transparent about their practices, and eager to explain how they would build and implement a customized strategy for you.