Why is SEO important? This is a question I often hear from small business owners and startups.
Here are a few other forms of this question or statement:
Why should I worry about SEO?
I don't think SEO is relevant to my business.
How useful is it for me to spend time creating content for my website when I don't know how to measure the ROI?
These are all things you've probably heard if you're reading this article. I'm guessing you're also frustrated with the promise of SEO and how to get your business discovered on Google. Maybe you've tried to do SEO before but given up because it was overwhelming or too difficult to understand.
I won't lie to you.
SEO is complex, at the same time, hugely important to understand for small business owners, but also fraught with so much unknown. It can feel like a black box whose value is veiled inside a canopy of endless algorithm updates, spammy websites, and so-called SEO experts ready to get you "50 high-quality backlinks".
Because of this, the idea of taking a DIY SEO approach is daunting for so many, and the returns are so unpredictable that most of us ignore this valuable go-to-market strategy altogether.
Small businesses can't possibly rank in the top 10 of Google search engine results for relevant terms to their business, right? Right??
What if I told you it's possible? The heck with possible...you can seriously do this. It will take a bit of work and thoughtfulness. But I promise you this is achievable. How do I know? Well I've done this myself for two different businesses of my own, and we're doing it again now for this startup.
I've also seen a hundred other startups and small businesses achieve unthinkable results using our approach and software. How does an average of 260% more traffic and 332% more top 10 keywords on Google sound? That's our AVERAGE result.
Yes, I think we're very good at helping small businesses do SEO, but more importantly, all of those businesses are just like you. They started out thinking they want to use SEO to generate leads for their business but didn't know how or if it would even work.
You can see that it worked very well for them and I'm extremely confident it will for you also.
Kicking off the first article in our SEO academy on the topic of why is SEO important for your business is very important. We need to address both the potential value and upside of SEO while also understanding the downsides of either ignoring it completely or inadvertently penalizing your SEO results through poor design, website structure, or speed/performance limitations.
This isn't your standard run-of-the-mill bland SEO content. I'm here to educate you, but I'm also here to make it fun and engaging. If you're not having fun, please drop a comment here in the article or just reach out and connect with me on LinkedIn to let me know what you like or don't like!
Throughout the content, I'll be weaving a story into the articles to help teach important concepts. I've found that concrete examples help me visualize data and understand complex topics better. Hopefully the same is true for you. We'll soon meet Sarah in this article, but first I want to talk about what you'll be learning.
What will you learn?
In this comprehensive series of articles, I'm going to teach you everything you need to know about SEO to execute an effective DIY content marketing strategy.
We will learn how search engines work to index content and deliver it to your browser. We'll cover the core topics required to do SEO like keyword research, on-page optimization, technical SEO, link building, local SEO, and most importantly, how to measure absolutely everything.
Without data and analytics, you're flying blind. Why would you ignore all the rich pieces of information that help you decide what to write about and when? Information that helps you understand how Google thinks about your company and your website.
I will teach how to create and execute a high-performing content marketing strategy fueled by SEO best practices and built to attract highly engaged website visitors. These types of website visitors convert at high rates (more on this in a future article).
Before we get started, I want to introduce you to someone. Her name is Sarah.
Sarah is a freelance graphic designer who decided to start her own design agency. She created a website where clients can request quotes for various design projects. When Sarah first launched her design agency's website, she knew she needed to make a strong first impression on potential clients. She spent a lot of time thinking about the website's design and how it could showcase her skills and creativity. She focused on creating a visually appealing website that featured her portfolio, information about her services, and a contact form to reach her.
The website looks great.
However, Sarah has realized that simply having a beautiful website isn't enough to attract clients. She needs to get her website in front of more people and convert them into paying customers. That's when she decides to start learning about SEO and how it could help her improve her website's visibility in search engine results.
As you may have guessed, Sarah isn't real. She's the fictitious small business owner we will follow throughout this SEO journey as we learn important concepts and apply them to your business.
Let's get started...
What is SEO?
Let's start with the basics of what is SEO, and then we'll talk about why it's important, what type of mindset you should have for your business when it comes to SEO, and principles you should keep in mind as you're incorporating SEO into your GTM strategy.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.
It refers to the process of optimizing a website or online content to improve its visibility and ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). The goal of SEO is to increase the quality and quantity of organic traffic to a website through unpaid or organic search results.
This means ad traffic doesn't count. The good thing about paid ads is they can deliver website visitors within hours of starting a campaign. The bad thing about paid traffic is those same visitors stop coming as soon as you turn off the campaigns.
What are the components of a good SEO strategy?
SEO involves a variety of techniques and strategies:
- Keyword research involves identifying relevant keywords and phrases that people use to search for information related to your business or topic. By performing a search query, they find your business because you rank for the keywords.
- On-page optimization involves optimizing various on-page elements such as title tags, meta descriptions, headers, and content to make it more search engine friendly.
- Content creation involves creating high-quality, relevant, and informative content that satisfies user intent and targets the right keywords.
- Link building involves acquiring high-quality backlinks from other relevant and authoritative websites to improve a website's authority and ranking.
- Technical SEO involves optimizing the technical aspects of a website, such as its site structure, speed, mobile-friendliness, and security.
By implementing these techniques and strategies, businesses and website owners can improve their website's visibility and ranking in search engine results, drive more organic traffic, and ultimately grow their online presence.
Let's look inside Sarah's thoughts before we get into why SEO is so important.
Inside Sarah’s mind: thoughts on learning SEO fundamentals
Now that Sarah has started her freelance graphic design business, she's quickly realizing that she needs to learn more about SEO to attract new clients and grow her business. While she knows it will be challenging, she's determined to learn the best SEO practices and techniques to make her mark in the competitive design industry.
For her, it's not just about improving her website's visibility in search engine results. It's a critical part of her business strategy, and she views it as fundamental to her long-term business success. She also knows it's about learning and experimentation and will need to refine her approach until she discovers what works best for her business.
Sarah isn't thinking about ignoring a paid ads strategy. Rather, she's looking at small business SEO as a long-term complement to a well-executed paid ad strategy.
Why is SEO important?
The lifeblood of any business is a sales and marketing funnel that generates steady leads into the business. SEO is an ideal tool to help do just that.
SEO provides all of the following benefits:
- Increased visibility: SEO helps online businesses get more visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). By ranking higher in search engine results, businesses can reach more potential customers and improve their chances of generating leads and sales.
- Better user experience: SEO practices can help improve the user experience of a website. By optimizing a website's structure, speed, and content, businesses can make it easier for users to find what they're looking for and navigate the website more smoothly. This can lead to increased engagement, lower bounce rates, and better conversions.
- Cost-effective: Compared to other marketing strategies, SEO is a cost-effective way to generate traffic and leads. While it requires some initial investment and ongoing effort, it can ultimately lead to long-term benefits that far outweigh the costs.
- Targeted traffic: SEO helps businesses attract targeted traffic to their website. By targeting specific keywords and phrases, businesses can ensure that they're reaching people who are actively searching for the products or services they offer. This can lead to higher-quality leads and better conversions.
- Long-term benefits: Unlike some other marketing strategies, the benefits of SEO can be long-lasting. By building a strong SEO foundation, businesses can generate a steady stream of organic traffic and leads over time, without having to rely on paid advertising or other short-term tactics.
Before we go, let's discuss Sarah's website and her accompanying traffic mix without using SEO, along with her goals for the website.
The current state of Sarah’s website and marketing efforts
I'd like to assume a few things about Sarah's business:
- Sarah has a goal to grow her graphic design agency business to $10,000 a month in revenue
- Sarah has been freelancing on a freelance website like Upwork or Fiverr for the last two years
- She has a portfolio of work from those jobs that she now showcases on her new graphic design agency's website.
- She's built up a list of 100 client emails that she's worked with or discussed potentially working with over the last two years.
- Sarah maintains an email list from #3 where she sends out helpful tips and ideas about graphic design and the benefits for businesses (2 times a week). She has industry average open rates (25%) and click-thru rates (3%) from those emails.
- She's spending $150 a month in paid Google search ads.
- Her website consists of portfolio work, several landing pages talking about the graphic design projects her team can help with, and a contact us form.
- Sarah has Google Analytics configured and working but does not have Google Search Console connected to her website or know what the tool does.
- Sarah's website ranks for ~15 keywords in Google's top 100 search results, none in the top 20.
What traffic mix can we expect for Sarah’s website?
Let's make some estimates on Sarah's website traffic using a fairly optimistic set of assumptions:
- Sarah's email traffic: Assuming an open rate of 25% and a click-through rate of 3%, Sarah can expect to generate about 6 visits to her website from each email or a total of 48 visits per month from her email list.
- Paid Advertising: Assuming a cost per click of $2, this would give her a budget of 75 clicks per month. If she has a conservative click-through rate of 2%, this would result in approximately 1.5 clicks per day or 45 clicks per month.
- Regarding organic search traffic, Sarah's website currently ranks for 15 keywords in Google's top 100 search results, none of which are in the top 20. Without more information on the search volume of these keywords or the level of competition for these keywords, it's difficult to estimate the amount of organic search traffic Sarah can expect to receive. However, it's safe to say that the amount of organic traffic generated from these rankings alone is likely to be relatively low (5-10 clicks a month)
Overall, Sarah can expect to receive an estimated 100 - 150 visits per month from her current online marketing efforts.
Industry averages for conversion rates from website visitors hover in the 2-3% range. A conversion for Sarah would be someone filling out her contact form and requesting a follow-up call.
This results in 3-5 new contact form submissions per month. Sarah's experience tells her that she converts ~25% of contact form submissions into a contract and her average job is $500.
Some quick math, assuming 4 submissions a month means she's currently doing $500/month in revenue.
Sarah has some work to do. But now she has a plan.
Sarah’s SEO objectives over the next six months
- Grow her email list from 100 to 500 subscribers
- Book 20 client jobs per month at $500/job to meet her $10,000 goal
- Increase contact form submissions to generate enough sales funnel to close 20 jobs a month
The role of AI in SEO
Our world has undergone a massive shift over the last three months. It may not be obvious just yet, but the emergence of powerful large language models (LLMs) from Microsoft's OpenAI and Google's own LLM, Bard, has seismically shifted the world of search.
AI can quickly and efficiently analyze large amounts of data, identify patterns, and make predictions based on that data. With the right training, an AI system can learn to optimize a website's content, structure, and performance to improve its visibility and ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs).
AI can also help small businesses stay up to date with the latest search engine algorithms and best practices, allowing them to adapt and optimize their strategy for the best results. Additionally, AI can provide valuable insights and analytics to measure the effectiveness of SEO efforts, allowing small businesses to make data-driven decisions and continuously improve their strategy.
At Sage SEO, we look at AI SEO as an ideal marriage. Unlike most, we don't believe the power of AI is in its ability to write long articles. Rather, we see it as the glue to connect every aspect of a great content marketing workflow together with efficiency and data in a way no human could ever do.
We'll discuss this throughout our SEO Academy content and highlight how we're using it to make everything in SEO just better.
Hopefully, by now, you've got a good baseline of what SEO is and why you've come to the right place to learn about the topic.
SEO is a such a hugely vital marketing tool for your small business and one that is ignored by too many small business owners. By optimizing your website's content, structure, and performance, you can attract targeted traffic and generate leads at a cost-effective price point.
In this article, we have introduced Sarah, a graphic designer, and highlighted the current state of her website's online marketing efforts. We've also discussed the importance of SEO and the core components of a successful SEO strategy. We will continue to follow Sarah's journey as we learn more about SEO fundamentals.
Our goal in creating this content is to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of how to execute an effective content marketing strategy fueled by SEO best practices.
As always, comments welcome. And please sign-up to our email list if you'd like to be notified of upcoming articles like this one.