As digital marketing becomes an increasingly vital part of the business owner’s marketing mix, the term “SEO” gets mentioned more and more. While most marketing professionals have a rudimentary understanding of what SEO is, the more important questions are “why does SEO matter?” and “why is SEO important for business?”
Lightning Media Partners’ team of SEO specialists have a thorough knowledge of SEO, with decades of experience in the industry among the team. From digital publishing to senior living to electronic engineering, our team’s varied backgrounds have informed their education. Now, we’re excited to share their expertise with you.
Ready to start leveraging the power of SEO? In this article, you’ll learn:
- The definition of SEO and other essential vocabulary.
- How search engine algorithms evaluate content and determine page rankings.
- Why SEO should be an essential part of your marketing toolkit and how you can get started.
What is SEO?
It’s a big question with a big answer! We’ll break down each piece.
The definition of SEO
Search engine optimization (or SEO) is an internet marketing strategy that hinges on the process of improving the quality and relevance of a website’s contents to better suit a searcher’s query. SEO influences unpaid or “organic” search results on search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
SEO takes into account search engines’ algorithms, a searcher’s intent, and the key phrases inputted into the search engine to create an SEO strategy and influence the target website to return high in the search results. SEO is both creative and logical and is considered part of a digital marketer’s toolkit.
SEO is also used in reference to a “search engine optimizer,” or someone who specializes in optimizing websites.
SEO acronyms and vocabulary to know
While not as in-depth as a programming language or other computer science knowledge, SEO has its own small dictionary of jargon. We’ve created a handy guide to the most important acronyms and vocabulary commonly used in SEO strategy.
- Keywords: A keyword is the basis of SEO. It is the search term a searcher inputs in Google, Bing, or Yahoo and the term an SEO optimizes their website to show up for. A keyword can be one or two words or an entire phrase; it is both the goal of the searcher and the catalyst for the SEO. Examples of keywords include “blue shoes,” “when is Memorial Day 2022,” or “the definition of SEO.”
- Spiders: Spiders, in relation to SEO, refer to the web crawler bots that read and index all the content on the internet and catalog it to be later returned on search engine result pages. Spiders read web pages based on a variety of signals, understand what the page is talking about, and organize it based on its contents. Then, they will show that cataloged page in search engine results when it is the most relevant answer to a searcher’s query.
- Indexing: When a spider “catalogs” something, it actually puts it in the search engine’s index. Indexing is the process a search engine and its web crawlers use to “rank” information before returning results to the end-user.
For example, websites A, B, and C feature blog posts on dog treats. Website A’s post focuses on the different types of dog treats an owner can buy, website B’s post is a recipe to make homemade dog treats, and website C’s blog post largely discusses a specific breed of dog, and at the end mentions the best treats to give that breed. As the search engine indexes these pages for the query “dog treat recipe,” website B will rank first because it is the most relevant, and website A will rank above website C because it covers a comprehensive breadth of information about types of dog treats (and probably their ingredients) over Website C’s quick mention and otherwise irrelevant copy.
- Title tags: Title tags are also commonly known as the “blue links on the search results page.” Robots and spiders know title tags as code that indicates the title of a webpage. Title tags are an important ranking factor.
- Meta descriptions: Meta descriptions sit right below the title tag on each entry in the search engine results page and describe the content on the web page it’s advertising. Like title tags, it is code on a webpage used to tell spiders and robots what the content of the page is about. Meta descriptions are not a ranking factor but can significantly influence user clicks to a site.
- SERP: Stands for “Search Engine Results Page” and is the term used to describe the pages of results a user gets after inputting an inquiry into a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo.
- Backlinks: Put simply, backlinks are hyperlinks to your website from another website. The higher the reputation of the other site, the more positive weight a backlink carries. Backlinks are incredibly important ranking factors.
- PPC: Stands for “Pay Per Click” and refers to paid advertising on search engines. The most widely-used search engine advertising platform is Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords).
- SEM: Stands for “Search Engine Marketing.” Some define search engine marketing as only pay-per-click advertising, and others (including us at LMP) consider it to be an umbrella term for the internet marketing discipline of which both SEO and PPC fall under.
- Black hat SEO: This describes any SEO practice or action that violates Google’s guidelines for quality.
- White hat SEO: Conversely, white hat SEO describes any SEO practice or action that complies with Google’s quality guidelines.
- Ranking factors: Ranking factors are variables that SEOs have the ability to manipulate to help search engines crawl, catalog, and index relevant results for search queries. Examples of ranking factors include an SSL certificate, page speed, and backlinks.
- EAT: Stands for “Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness” and is a guiding principle from Google for webmasters to ensure content is accurate, comprehensive, and reliable.
- YMYL: Stands for “Your Money or Your Life” and describes a type of content that, if it is inaccurate or untruthful, could negatively impact the reader’s happiness, health, or safety.
How SEO works
SEO is a cyclical process. When content is published on the web, search engines do their best to find and crawl that page. Once crawled, search engines determine the rank of a page in search engine results for specific queries (like “content marketing” or “best hosting website for small businesses”) and index the page in their catalog. Then, searchers access their favorite search engine (Google, Bing, and Yahoo are the industry leaders) and search for what they need. Based on the query, the submitted page of content shows up in the search results.
To change and influence rankings, SEOs understand the search engines’ algorithms, publish changes to their content, and monitor user behavior on the web pages in question. The goal of SEO is not only to rank in the top three spots on search engines to win more organic traffic; it’s also to educate, inform, or provide the best solutions to those looking for it — and make that process as easy as possible. SEO is an ever-evolving process of creating, publishing, and re-tooling content to give a searcher the best user experience.
What are the most important ranking factors?
Ranking factors determine the position of a website within search results, so what are the most important ranking factors in 2021?
Is content still king? For years, the adage “content is king” rang true among digital marketers, but as Google releases more algorithms, it’s a fair question to ask if content really is important anymore.
From our perspective, the answer is still yes. However, the quality of content has absolutely changed. When Google updated its guidelines with the EAT and YMYL principles, it suddenly became much more important to have comprehensive, accurate content than a webpage only focusing on repetitive keyword insertion.
Content is still the basis of many ranking factors like title tags, meta descriptions, and more because it’s the building block that tells spiders what a web page is about.
Backlinks, in addition to outbound links and internal links, are significant factors for ranking. In fact, one of the digital marketing industry’s most influential leaders, Backlinko, performed a study of 11.8 million Google search results and found that “a site’s overall link authority (as measured by Ahrefs Domain Rating) strongly correlates with higher search engine rankings.”
So, why is link building important? Links inform Google and other search engines of the reputation of your site. The easiest way to understand the importance of backlinks (and links in general) is a job reference example.
Imagine you’re hiring a head chef and are trying to pick between two candidates who are essentially the same, except for their references. The first candidate’s references are Michelin-star chefs who give glowing reviews. The other candidate’s reviews are also glowing but come from their relatives who have never had experiences with the candidate in culinary situations. It’s pretty obvious that the first candidate would be the top pick because their reputation is backed by other high-authority figures in the discipline.
Remember that the quality of backlinks and outbound links are much more important than the quantity of them.
From page speed to mobile-friendliness to an SSL certificate, a user’s experience on a website is vitally important to a webpage’s rank. Why? Because it tells Google and other search engines if the result they returned to you was valuable.
Remember that search engines’ goals are not to satisfy an SEO, but to ensure a searcher gets what they’re looking for. As such, the spiders catalog the most relevant results in the SERPs. If the majority of users who click on the first result bounce after a few seconds on the page, search engines will drop that page’s position for that query because it’s obvious the users aren’t finding what they’re looking for on that page.
Why does SEO matter?
Now that you understand what SEO is, why does it matter in the marketing mix?
Why SEO is a great marketing tool
SEO has long been an attractive tool because it’s technically “free advertising” or organic, meaning that companies don’t pay for users to visit their site. The commonly-cited drawback, however, is that SEO takes a lot of time and resources to perfect. While it is true that SEO remains a marathon, not a sprint, SEO is one of the most powerful forms of marketing because businesses can communicate their messages to a large number of potential customers specifically looking for their products or services.
With traditional marketing tactics like radio and print, or even other digital marketing channels like social media, a business’s message can be served to likely customers who may have previously expressed interest in that business — but only SEO meets a potential customer at the top of the funnel and can segment the already-interested audience by need.
Based on deep research and continually monitored/updated by analytics, SEO proves to be an inexhaustible tool that provides new customers, higher brand awareness, and access demand stimulation.
How to approach SEO
Unlike other tasks that may seem too technical for a layperson without a computer science degree to accomplish, SEO is an interesting blend of creativity and logic in the frame of a digital marketing tool.
The first step in any SEO campaign is always to identify a goal. With a goal (or goals) there’s no roadmap or baseline to measure success against. Goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) and work toward the larger organization’s top KPIs or goals.
After setting a goal and gaining a base knowledge of SEO, it’s time to pick the keywords and keyphrases you want to rank for. The easiest way to start this process is to think of yourself as the searcher and brainstorm words and phrases you’d use to find your company. Start broad (for example, a broad LMP keyword would be “outsourced editorial team”) and begin to narrow down into your unique selling points. After choosing keywords, map them to a page on your site for relevance. For example, we mapped the keyword “why is SEO important for business” to this page while this blog’s mapped keyword is “remote work culture ideas.”
Once a list and map has been made, it’s time to optimize your website with those SEO keywords. While learning how to use SEO keywords is a subject we can spend hours of time discussing, a (very) expedited list of how to go about SEO keyword insertion is:
- Make sure your keywords are in your title tag and meta description.
- Put your keyword somewhere in the URL.
- Ensure the keyword appears above the fold of your page.
- Cover comprehensive and relevant content on and around the topic you’re writing about.
Why is SEO important for business?
We’ve already discussed what SEO is, how to use it, and why it’s a great marketing tool. However, you may be looking for additional concrete reasons why SEO is important for businesses to invest in. Let us share some statistics to help describe the power SEO has in the digital marketing space to drive real results.
- For lightningmediapartners.com, after investing in our internal marketing team, we’ve seen a 314% increase in organic sessions and 159% increase in organic session duration from March 2021 to September 2021.
- According to Hubspot, SEO leads have a close rate of 14.6%, compared to outbound-sourced leads, which have a measly close rate of just 1.7%.
- The Content Marketing Institute found that 57% of marketing executives say on-page content development was the most effective SEO tactic.
- Search Engine Journal reported that 49% of marketers found organic search had the best ROI of any marketing channel they used.
- According to Google, after searching on a smartphone for something nearby, 76% of people visit the business within one day.
SEO is important.
SEO is a multi-faceted tool that helps businesses gain visibility, build trust between you and consumers in your expertise and ability to create solutions, and improve lead generation and quality. It doesn’t cost ad dollars and strategically-created SEO content can yield impressive results year over year.
If you’re looking for an SEO-optimized content marketing strategy or plan, give us a shout. We’re passionate about creating great SEO-optimized content for digital publishers and small businesses alike.