If you’re like many business owners, you ascribe to the same basic philosophy: if you build your site, your dream customers will come.
There’s just one problem: your site is not Field of Dreams. The 1919 Chicago White Sox won’t come if you build it, and your ideal customer won’t come either.
That’s because building a site and bringing customers to it isn’t an accidental process. If you want customers to find it, you have to go the extra mile to make sure that customers come to you.
That’s where professional SEO comes into play. Here’s what it is, why you need it, and why it makes all the difference in your success.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the art, science, and sorcery of increasing the quality and quantity of your search traffic through organic search results.
Or, in plain English, it’s that thing you need if you want your traffic to look more like Times Square on New Year’s Eve than an ice cream stand in a South Dakota corn field.
To understand why SEO makes such a difference, it helps to know how search engines work. Hint: nothing at all like a street storefront.
How Search Engines Work
The short answer: a modern miracle.
The long answer: a lot like a library.
Search engines have two key components:
- A database
- Algorithms computing which results to return and rank
The difference between a search engine and any other form of database is that the database entries consist of trillions of web pages, and algorithms have to compute hundreds of factors with varying weights to deliver the results that are most relevant. Oh, and it has to sort trillions of options and return results in a matter of milliseconds.
We said that search engines are a lot like libraries. Picture the largest library in the world, with billions upon billions of books to choose from. There’s just one problem: it doesn’t have a central filing system.
Search engines don’t have the time or server power to rank pages every time you make a unique search. To save time, they don’t search the whole web with every unique query. Instead, they search the Search Index, which is like the index at the back of a textbook, except that there’s an entry for every word seen on every webpage the search engine has indexed.
The Search Index is compiled and updated with the assistance of web crawlers, a software that crawls sites and bounces through hyperlinks the same way a human would follow links off a page. When a crawler finds a page, it renders all of the content on a page like a browser would, takes note of key signals, and sends the information to the Search Index.
When someone enters a search query into Google, Google refers to the Search Index for words relevant to the query and ranks pages based on what it finds in the Search Index, where pages have already been put in order based on the strength of key signals.
How SEO Works
This is where SEO comes into play.
We don’t know all the factors search engines use to rank one site over another, but the basic premise of SEO is simple: showing search engines that your content is the best result on the web.
That’s because, at the end of the day, search engines have the same simple goal: providing the best possible experience for their customers (web searchers). They do this by providing the best, most relevant content to their visitors.
What Goes Into SEO?
To be clear, search engine optimization and search engine marketing are two different things. Search engine marketing is when you pay to have ads rank for specific queries.
SEO is free…kind of.
SEO relies on organic search traffic, i.e. traffic that you get “naturally”. That’s why SEO is free-ish. Technically, you’re not paying to have your page rank at a specific number. You’re paying to strengthen your site so that when web crawlers index it, the ranking factors are strong and your ranking can improve over time.
However, keep in mind that search indexing accounts for hundreds of individual ranking factors, and those factors are changing all the time. So is their relevance in the algorithm. Which means that SEO isn’t a one-and-done deal. It’s an ongoing investment.
White Hat vs. Black Hat
At this point, it’s important to distinguish between white hat and black hat SEO.
When done right, SEO takes time. A not insignificant amount of time. And that can be frustrating for sites who want to see results faster. We get it.
That said, although search engines don’t disclose every ranking factor used to rank one site over another, they are clear about what is not allowed. Search engines are in the business of providing quality content to their customers, and if sites try to cheat by getting bad content ranked first, search engines will catch on and penalize them heavily.
Black hat SEO involves breaking the rules of SEO in order to shoot up the rankings quickly. Essentially, you’re tricking web crawlers into ranking your site higher, even though your content is poor quality. It also means you’re cheating out a site with higher quality content from ranking as high as it should.
White hat SEO, on the other hand, is the process of slowly but surely improving your site so that you can see real, durable results. You’re attracting traffic that you want to keep, and traffic that will want to stay with you because they recognize your content as high quality.
The Problem with Your Site
With that in mind, let’s talk about what’s wrong with your site–and the mindset that if you build your site, the right customers will find their way to you.
Why Your Business Needs a Professional Site
Your business needs a professional site for the same reason that you need a professional office or storefront. If you want to attract customers, you have to appeal to them.
Let’s say you’re looking for an apartment to rent. And let’s say you’ve narrowed it down to two buildings, each with the same monthly rent. You’re going to visit the apartments to make your final decision.
The first apartment is clearly old. The carpet and flooring is dated, the sinks were good quality in the 70s, and the paint is not in bad condition, per se, but it’s clearly aging. The rest of the building is the same way–it’s not bad, but it’s not good either.
The second apartment is clearly new. It’s been updated recently. All the appliances are pristine. The whole building is clean, sleek, and putting its best foot forward.
Which one do you pick?
The second, obviously. Customers make the same judgment call when they visit a site. If anything, increasingly web-savvy searchers are suspicious of an outdated site. Even if there’s nothing outright sketchy about it, they’re suspicious on principle, because an outdated site, like an old suit, implies that you don’t care that much about presentation.
Which begs the question: why would you care about your customer experience?
The Problem with Your Site Mindset
Now, if you’re like many business owners, you know that your site needs to be fresh to attract new customers.
Like many business owners, you’re not a web designer or an SEO expert. And like many websites, your site is not Field of Dreams.
That’s because your site is not like a physical storefront, where customers can run across your storefront by accident and wander in. When someone finds a website through Google or other search engines, it’s because the the search engine made an active decision to rank the site there.
And much of the time, the site owner made deliberate investments to ensure that they ranked well.
Why It Isn’t Enough to Build a Site
Once upon a time, in the Stone Ages, perhaps, building a site was enough to attract visitors. That was before there were over 1.5 billion websites on the Internet. And while less than 200 million of those sites are active, web searchers won’t wade through millions of sites to find one.
Unfortunately, building a site is no longer enough to get traffic. When the competition is looking for ways to outrank you, when customers distrust an outdated site, and when search engines are actively looking for ways to disqualify you, building a site and leaving it alone won’t get you found.
It will get you lost and forgotten in the heap.
Signs Your Site Needs Help
One of the most common questions from businesses big and small is whether your website needs help.
Most of the time, the answer is yes.
There are some obvious red flags, like your hilariously 2005 logo or your dinosaur loading speed. But many sites that should get TLC go neglected because site owners think they’re free and clear, when in reality, the site is crying out for help.
If you don’t believe us, here are a few signs that your site needed help like yesterday.
Your Bounce Rate is Sky High
A bounce is a single-page session on your site and exits without triggering any other server requests during the session. Your bounce rate is the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users only visited a single page, i.e. didn’t look at anything else on the site.
If your bounce rate relies on visitors viewing more than one page, a high bounce rate is bad. For example, if your homepage is the gateway to the rest of your site and visitors often find their way to the homepage but your bounce rate is high, that means that users aren’t going any further and are not engaging with the rest of your content.
However, if you’re a single-page entity like a blog, a high bounce rate is normal.
That said, if you’re trying to attract customers through your site, it’s generally a good sign if they spend more time on the site and engage with more than one piece of content. This means they’re taking the time to peruse and let information sink in.
On the other hand, if they’re landing on your site and immediately bouncing away, it means that users are seeing something they don’t like right away and you won’t get another chance to impress them.
You’re Not Getting Enough Traffic
For many sites, the red flag of despair is the same: not getting enough traffic.
There are a number of reasons why this might happen. Maybe you’re not targeting the right traffic. Maybe you’re targeting the right traffic but not appealing to them. Maybe you’re not targeting at all.
Regardless, the net result is the same. If your site doesn’t have enough traffic, you’re not getting in front of people, which means you don’t have an opportunity to convert them.
Your Site Can’t Keep Up with Traffic
Conversely, if your site is getting healthy traffic but can’t keep pace with the incoming traffic, that’s an equally concerning red flag.
In a perfect world, this is the result of your site exploding upwards into the public eye. Most of the time, though, it’s because your site is old. Its code and design are outdated, which means it can no longer handle the demands of the traffic placed before it.
Worse, if your site can’t handle the traffic presented to it, you’re actively deterring customers. That’s because users will often leave web pages in ten to twenty seconds unless the site has a clear value proposition. Users will leave even faster if the site takes too long to load.
You’re Not Ranking
Last but not least, the biggest red flag for many websites is a plain and simple failure to rank where you want.
Even if you have tried SEO before on your own, poor ranking performance is a sign that your site isn’t getting in front of your customers. If your customers can’t find your site in the first place, they certainly won’t convert or come back in the future.
Common Services Offered By SEO Professionals
This is where professional SEO comes into play.
SEO is not a new concept. And while it is constantly evolving, even the fundamentals of good SEO can generate a shift for your site. You could learn them on your own, if you really wanted to.
The real question is if the countless hours of work you’ll have to put in is worth less than bringing someone in to do it for you.
SEO professionals often offer services such as:
- On-Site optimization
- Keyword research
- Content management
- Link building
- Local search optimization
- Mobile optimization
- Marketing analytics
If that’s all Greek to you, that’s your first sign that a professional SEO service is the right choice. It can take a while to learn everything you need to address with your SEO–and in the meantime, your competitors are sailing right past you, taking customers and making sales.
Why You Need Professional SEO Services
The truth is, if you want your business to have a brighter future, it’s time to invest in professional SEO.
That said, if you’re like many business owners, you may resist the idea of professional SEO. After all, it’s one more cost you don’t need, right?
It’s an Investment, Not a Cost
This is actually one of the biggest reasons you need to change your mindset about SEO: it’s not a cost. It’s an investment.
SEO is all about the long game. It’s about growing your site slowly but surely over time. But the fundamentals of SEO are also the fundamentals of a good website. After all, search engines want to provide the best user experience to their customers–one of the best ways to do that is by rewarding sites for providing an outstanding user experience.
As such, a natural consequence of SEO is a better site. A site that loads faster, runs more efficiently, and offers higher-quality content.
Why wouldn’t you want to make that investment for your business and your customers?
It’s All About Building Your Brand
Branding is usually clumped with traditional marketing strategies, but the truth is that SEO is the 21st century evolution of branding–and your site is the new face of your brand.
Your brand is who you are as a business. Learning your brand is how customers get to know your business’s personality. This means your brand is how they’ll learn to relate to your business on a personal level, and how they’ll recognize your brand out of the sea of other brands they see each day.
Smart SEO isn’t one-size-fits-all. It’s a highly tailored process that forces you to really think about what your site is and what you want it to be. Your SEO won’t work if you don’t target it, go after the right keywords, design for the right sensibilities, provide content that your customers are actually looking for.
Invest in the Experience You Need
That said, providing a highly tailored SEO experience is harder than it sounds.
It’s not enough to know what ranking factors are currently working. You have to know what’s outdated and what’s being phased out with each new search engine update. That also means that you have to know how to leverage analytics to your advantage and interpret the data in front of you to know whether something has changed.
That alone is a full-time job. Google alone is known for tinkering thousands of times per year, never mind the other search engines on the market.
Oh, and while you’re learning which way is up, you also have to learn how to apply it to your site in a way that feels uniquely you.
Or, you could hire a professional SEO service to handle it right from day one.
Instead of wasting months trying to figure out SEO, you can get exactly the SEO experience you want and work towards success right away. And you’ll always have the tools to know whether your efforts are working.
Focus on What You Do Best
Last but not least, professional SEO services take a weight off your shoulders.
Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’re not in the SEO business. But you’re fantastic at the business you are in, whatever it may be.
And the truth is, the more time you spend fighting SEO, the less time you have to focus on what matters most: your customers.
You’ll still hold the reins. But instead of wasting time on something you can’t master, you can focus on what you do best (helping your customers), and a professional SEO service can focus on what they do best (helping you). Put them together and your website is unstoppable.
The Professional SEO Services Your Site Needs to Thrive
If it’s time for your site to get an upgrade and make it back to the front of the race, you’re going to need great professional SEO services to get there. That’s where we come in.
You know your business, and we know SEO. Our team has decades of experience in digital marketing, bringing the expertise you need tailored to fit your unique business needs. Our goal is simple: 7x ROI or better.
If that sounds like your speed, let’s talk about how we can make your business outstanding. Click here to get in touch today.