What Is SEO and How Does It Help Your Business?

SEO Graphic

It feels like the acronym “SEO” is popping up all over the place these days. But what is it, exactly, and how does it help your business? We’re here to provide the answers.

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It’s the art and science of elevating your organic presence in search engine results. Or, as we like to call it: the best catalyst for your business growth.

Search engine optimization helps your business grow by putting your products and services in front of the people who are searching for them online. Unlike pay-per-click (PPC), SEO helps you improve your organic standing. In other words, you don’t have to pay for the clicks you’re getting.

This makes SEO the digital marketing strategy with the highest potential return on investment. In this article, we’ll help you understand everything there is to know about search engine optimization and how it can help expand your business.

We’ll also cover the role of SEO in today’s business world, the benefits of SEO, what goes into an SEO strategy, onsite and offsite SEO, and much more. Let’s get started!

What Is the Role of SEO in Today’s Digital Marketing World?

SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s become an integral part of the digital landscape today. This is not to say your business can’t grow without it, but a good search engine optimization effort can turn an uphill battle into an easy victory.

What does a search engine results page look like?

You’re skeptical. We get it. So far, SEO sounds like a pair of magic beans with the promise of a pie in the sky. But bear with us and allow us to illustrate what we mean.

Pull up Google and search for businesses in your niche and location, and you’ll see how search engines work. But, search engine results pages have different sections that each serve a different purpose.

On top of the search results, you’ll see some entries that say “Sponsored.” Those are pay-per-click results, which means businesses pay to appear in those search rankings. Each click costs them money and the price they pay depends on a variety of factors.

Below the “Sponsored” results, you’ll see Places. These are local results and a product of local SEO. There are still some paid results there, but it’s mostly organic. You need a well-optimized local listing to earn your place (no pun intended), though paying for one may also be a viable strategy for some.

Organic search results

After the Local results, you’ll see the first organic results. This is what SEO efforts are all about—getting your website to appear here. Once it does, your business will likely start to grow. Quickly. We have clients who can barely keep up with the demand they’re getting online.

Now that you’ve searched your niche and location, did your business pop up among the results? Did your competitors? Whatever you saw is probably the same thing your potential clients see when they search for a business in your niche.

Imagine hundreds or even thousands of people seeing the results for these search queries every day. What happens if you’re not there? How much money are you leaving on the table?

Bear in mind, this is an oversimplified example. People can use different keywords to search for essentially the same thing. There are many ways SEO can help your business, and some of them are more subtle than others.

What Are the Benefits of SEO? Why Does It Matter for Your Business?

SEO is a treasure trove of benefits for most businesses. It’s difficult to encompass them all without making this article into a book, but we’ll try.

  • Increasing website traffic

    This is an obvious one. By optimizing your website and targeting the correct keywords, you bring more people to your website. More people means more attention and, if you’re offering a good product or service, more sales.

  • Improved brand awareness

    The best way to ensure the longevity and success of your business is by creating a brand that people associate with your niche. For example, we say “car rentals,” and you say, “…”. Whatever your answer was, that’s the brand you associate with car rentals and therefore the one you’re most likely to use. If your brand pops up in different search results again and again, people begin to associate your brand with your niche in the same way.

  • Higher conversion rates

    Conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who take action on your website. This may be a purchase, signing up for your newsletter, booking a free consultation—whatever you want visitors to do.

    Since people are actively searching for what you have to offer, they’re much more likely to take action once they make it to your website. This is why SEO usually gives you a relatively high conversion rate compared to other forms of marketing.

  • Cost-effectiveness

    For a small local business (or a mid-sized business, for that matter) marketing budget decisions are a constant dance between spending and saving. SEO makes this balancing act much easier to bear because it offers long-term benefits for your business.

    Unlike advertising, SEO continues to bear fruit even if you have to take a break from SEO for some reason. Once the ball gets rolling, you’re likely to get an amazing ROI, which works even better in the long run. The caveat here is that it usually takes a while before things get moving, so you have to be in it for the long haul.

  • Competitive edge

    Earlier, we asked you what would happen if people were searching for businesses in your niche and finding your competitors instead of you. But this can also work the other way around—what if clients and customers are finding you instead of your competitors? You’re gaining a huge competitive edge.

    The first position in Google’s search results garners an average CTR of about 27.6% to 39.8%, depending on the study and specific query characteristics​. The second position sees a significant drop with an average CTR of around 14.75% to 18.7%​. In other words, all things being equal, second position gets around 50% of the clicks the first position gets.

  • Targeted traffic

    SEO allows you to target specific levels of your sales funnel so you’re getting qualified leads. It can also help you refine all levels of your sales funnel so leads convert to actual business.

    We could go on, but you get the point. Search engine optimization offers a ton of benefits to your businesses’ visibility and ultimately, your bottom line. However, it requires a clever strategy and a good bit of patience if you want to reap the rewards.

Developing an Effective SEO Strategy

SEO strategy is our bread and butter here at Uptick. We’re firm believers that careful planning is the way to lasting success. Of course, no strategy or plan comes with a guarantee, but covering all your bases is a great way to put your best foot forward.

So, what goes into a good SEO strategy?

Setting clear and measurable goals

No wind is favorable if you don’t know where you’re going. The first step to any good strategy (SEO or otherwise) is to identify measurable goals.

This can be a Herculean task when it comes to SEO. Google uses hundreds of factors to determine which pages get ranked first. This makes it exceedingly difficult to make predictions.

The way we tackle this at Uptick is by having regular meetings with our clients. We use SEO tools to establish goals at the beginning, but we also update these goals regularly.

At the end of the day, we’re looking to give you the best return on your investment. Sometimes, this will be by focusing on generating more traffic (getting more people into the sales funnel). Other times, it would be optimizing the way visitors move through your website so they can become leads for your sales team to nurture.

We discuss how things are moving with you and your team and constantly make sure we’re moving in the right direction together. 

Performing website audits

Website audits are diagnostics we perform with different tools to make sure our clients’ websites are search-engine-friendly. They help us reveal issues that stand in the way of success so we can remove them and get the website to the next level.

Conducting keyword research

Keyword research is the process of identifying specific words and phrases people use when searching for businesses like yours. As we’ve said, your customers can search for the same thing using different terms. The role of keyword research is to figure out the best search terms to optimize your site for your niche. This is the cornerstone of any SEO strategy.

Optimizing for search engine algorithms

Search engine algorithms change all the time. Sometimes the changes are subtle. Sometimes, they’re earth-shattering. Trust us, we’ve seen things…

A good SEO strategy moves with the algorithm. That being said, in most cases, best practices and solid foundations are enough to give your website a headstart in front of the competition.

Evaluation and adaptation

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in the world of SEO. That’s why setting good goals was a necessary first step. It makes it possible to take a step back and evaluate results every once in a while to see if there’s a need to pivot or if we’re moving in the right direction.

Researching your target audience

Other than the search terms they use, it’s a good idea to know who your target audience is. Why are they looking for a business like yours? What kinds of problems can you solve for them? What pains can you address? These are important questions you need to answer so your SEO strategy is most effective. And, if you can’t, we can help you.

Aligning SEO with business objectives

At the end of day, search engine optimization is a tool like any other. You want business results, not just pretty graphics, and we understand that. Our marketing consultants work tirelessly to make sure your business objectives align with our SEO team’s work.

Onsite SEO – Creating Content that Ranks and Engages

What is onsite SEO? You may have heard the term thrown around, so let’s delve into what it actually is.

Onsite SEO includes most elements a visitor sees regarding your website. From the first glance on the search engine results page to your “Thank you” page, everything is onsite SEO. Some of the key elements of onsite SEO include meta titles, meta descriptions, H-tags, and more. Let’s delve into more detail.

  • What is a meta title?

    A meta title is the title a potential visitor sees on the search engine results page (SERP). It’s one of the most important elements because it not only affects rankings, but it can influence the user’s decision to click on your website.

    The meta title should reflect the contents of the web page and contain your main keywords. However, it should also sound natural. We put a lot of stock into crafting compelling meta descriptions because they’re so important. Page titles should be limited to around 60 characters; otherwise, Google truncates them.

  • What is a meta description?

    Under the meta title on the SERP, users also see a short description of the page. This is what we call the “meta description.” It’s basically a short description of the content in no more than 155 characters. It’s another chance to entice users to visit your website, while also putting some of your keywords to work.

  • What is an H1 tag?

    The H1 tag is like the title of the page once the user has already made their way to your website. It can be the same as the meta title or it can be different, considering the fact that there’s no character limitation. Although, let’s be real—no one wants to read a title that’s three rows long.

    Since it plays the role of a title, you should only have one H1 tag on your page. This helps search engines better understand what your content is about.

  • What are H2 to H6 tags?

    H2 to H6 tags are used to structure your content so it’s easier to read and follow. Well-structured content is a benefit to both users and search engines.

    These tags follow a hierarchy of importance, with H2s having the biggest impact. We don’t go out of our way to include all types of tags—we use them only when they make sense.

  • What is content optimization?

    Content is the meat and potatoes of your onsite optimization. It’s the heart of your content marketing efforts. You should always aim to make relevant content that is useful to your target audience. This is where all our previous research comes into play.

    Knowing your target audience is essential for creating quality content. What does quality content mean? It means that it’s useful to your target audience. It means that if I have questions and come to your blog, I’ll leave with the answers. This is how search engines understand it.

    That being said, it doesn’t matter how useful your content is if no one ever sees it. This is where we make use of keyword research and use relevant keywords in the content. High-quality content should bring results.

    When it’s all said and done, in a perfect world, SEO work should pull more organic search traffic to your web pages. Some of this traffic will convert to new clients or customers.

  • What is internal linking?

    Internal linking ties your content together. It’s the practice of using clickable links within your website to help users and search engine bots navigate it. These links are essential for good navigation.

    Internal linking is one of the most underestimated aspects of onsite SEO in our experience. Most of the time when we onboard new clients, they have almost no internal links on their website. Because this is such a widespread phenomenon, we’re particularly mindful of it.

Offsite SEO – Building Your Online Authority and Presence

Aside from internal linking, you should also pay attention to links coming into your website from other sites. This used to be one of the most important factors for Google’s search algorithm back in the day.

While things have become a bit more nuanced nowadays, links still play an important role. They’re like recommendations in the eyes of Google.

  • Quality over quantity

    If your first thought is buying as many links as you can, you’re not alone. In the Dark Ages of the Web, this is what many SEO professionals, agencies, and businesses did.

    However, this crude tactic hasn’t been effective in over a decade. Google’s algorithm has become much more sophisticated and not as easy to fool with a bunch of low-quality links.

    As far as links are concerned, quality trumps quantity. A single link from an authoritative website (like Forbes or The Wall Street Journal) is easily worth a thousand low-quality links.

    Think about it this way: if you’re buying a new computer, who are you more likely to trust: your friend who builds computers for a living or a bunch of random strangers on your way to the store? This is essentially how Google sees things regarding links.

  • What is link building?

    Link building is an SEO strategy aiming to attract more high-quality links to your website. There are different ways to achieve this and they’re all proactive.

    This means in order to build links, you’re reaching out to webmasters of other websites. Ideally, you’re trying to figure out ways to create a mutually beneficial relationship. Guest posting is an excellent example of this.

    Or you might be engaging in broken link building. This is the process of sniffing out broken links on different websites and emailing webmasters to let them know. Oh, and, by the way, you just happen to have content similar to the link their content was pointing to.

    Link building is a science of its own, so we won’t expand on it too much in this article. Rest assured we’ll cover this topic in more detail in the future.

  • Social sharing

    Sharing your content on social media is one of the best ways to ensure it reaches a wider audience. If it’s great content, there’s a chance other people will share it and it will spread even further.

    And the best part is your content might get picked up by an authoritative website and you might get a link out of it, too. However, you need quality content first.

    As you can see, there’s quite a bit of synergy between different aspects of SEO, and they all need to work together if you want to get the best possible results.

Technical SEO – Optimizing for Performance and Accessibility

Optimizing your content and offsite presence is great, but it won’t do anything if your website is an error-riddled mess. This is where technical SEO comes into play.

  • What is technical SEO?

    Technical SEO is the process of making your website easier to crawl, navigate, and understand. While it does have its human elements, technical optimization focuses mostly on search engine crawlers.

    Crawlers are tiny little robot spiders that search engines use to catalog your website. You want to make sure they can do their job correctly. Otherwise, you may end up having a thousand pages while search engines have no idea your website exists.

  • Website speed and performance

    Website speed is one of the most important human elements of technical SEO. Loading speed can have a major impact on user experience and, as a result, website conversions.

    In fact, 82% of people state outright that a slow website speed impacts their purchasing decisions. This is even more pronounced as far as mobile speed is concerned since internet speeds on mobile devices tend to be slower.

    We’re very particular about website speed here at Uptick and we pay close attention to all the different ways of improving it.

  • Mobile optimization and user experience

    Most people today browse the Web on their smartphones. In some niches, up to 80% of organic traffic comes from smartphones. So to say mobile optimization is important is the mother of all understatements.

    But what exactly is mobile optimization? It’s the process of ensuring everything on your website works properly on mobile devices. Sometimes, a website would look amazing on a desktop but run like a rust bucket on a mobile device. This could be a huge problem if 80% of your customers/clients are seeing the mobile version. We make sure that doesn’t happen.

  • Sitemaps and robots.txt

    Sitemaps showcase the architecture of your website and make it easier for search engines to crawl. Robots.txt is a document on your website that tells search engine bots where they’re allowed to go and where they’re not allowed. This is the long and short of it.

  • Errors and redirects

    Too many errors and redirects are indicators of poor website health. We make it a point to remove them if at all possible. Unfortunately, they do come in different shapes and sizes, so sometimes it takes quite a bit of work to fix them, but we never shy away from a good challenge.

Understanding Results with SEO Tools

Okay, we’ve fixed all the glaring technical issues. We’ve done our homework and created amazing content for our target audience. We’ve shared our content and it’s made a splash online. It’s even gotten a few mentions on different blogs in our niche.

This is great and all, but how do we know if everything is working as intended? Enter SEO tools! We use different SEO tools to gauge the effectiveness of our work and to make sure we’re heading in the right direction.

Google’s own tools—Google Analytics 4 (GA4) and Google Search Console (GSC)—are amazing at revealing the effects of work we’ve already done.

They can show us how much the traffic has changed, measure the traffic for each page, gauge the number of clicks and keywords pages are ranking for, and so much more. We use this information to see what’s working and what isn’t. It’s a source of invaluable insight we use to chart a course moving forward.

We also use different third-party tools to make our plans even better. While SEO is not an exact science, all these tools ensure we’re not flying blind. They enable us to plan, create strategies, and then explain to our clients why we’ve made these choices in particular.

Our decisions are mostly driven by data. That’s how we can focus on giving you the best return on your investment.

How to Measure SEO ROI Effectively

Measuring the ROI of SEO can get really complicated, really fast. There are many factors to consider: the size of the investment, marketing attribution flaws, the indirect impact of SEO on brand building, and much more.

However, we’re always doing our best to make this process easier, so we measure what we can. As we’ve said, we use tools to measure the results of SEO. This same data helps us estimate your ROI.

We work closely with our clients to make sure that increased rankings and traffic translate into business outcomes (such as more sales or leads). Every time we hear a that a client has had their best month ever, we celebrate internally.

For example, when we notice rankings have improved for a certain keyword our client wanted to target, we look at the clicks and traffic. If they’ve increased, as well, we check Google analytics to see if there’s an increase in conversions. Although, usually, our clients tell us outright that they’ve seen an increase on the business side of things.

In cases where the website doesn’t have direct sales or services, we gather the data we can and then work with the client to compare the business outcomes. If there’s an increase in traffic for a certain period, yet no increase in business, we investigate the reasons why.

At the end of the day, we want to make sure our clients grow and we grow with them. While measuring SEO ROI can sometimes be tricky, it’s the only way to know if we’re moving in the right direction or if we need to adjust course.

Conclusion

Search engine optimization is a great way to help your business grow if you have the patience to wait for results. Remember, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a while to get the ball rolling, but when it does, the results are amazing.

As you can see, there’s quite a lot that goes into the process of website optimization, but don’t be alarmed. This is why we’re here to help guide you through the process and ensure that you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

If you have any more questions about the topic or you’d like to work with us, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We can’t wait to hear from you!

About Uptick

Uptick Marketing is a digital marketing agency based in Birmingham, AL. We provide a variety of digital marketing services (30+ services à la carte) to our clients, including search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, digital advertising, graphic design, video production, and more. We work with business owners, marketing directors, and other key stakeholders every day—and we believe in results-driven strategies that work to grow your business.

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