When I started my internet marketing journey in the early 2000s, SEO was king. It seemed like every business with even a toe in the digital pool was eagerly looking for the latest and greatest SEO solutions. The goal of the game was to get his business to the top of Google’s organic search rankings by any means necessary. At that time, Google’s algorithms were still maturing, which left the door wide open for improvised digital marketing companies to invent creative (read: unethical) ways to serve their customers. It was a virtual arms race of SEO trickery.
Understand the past of SEO
In the short term, shady digital marketing companies and their unwitting clientele enjoyed easy SEO results that quickly put them at the top of the world’s most relevant search engines. However, Google has improved its algorithmic process and quickly punished companies for abusing its system. Many organizations have realized that their once stellar rankings have fallen straight into the gutter. Additionally, these businesses found that their web presence lacked real content and genuine links pointing to their website.
These unfortunate victims of bad SEO practices struggled to recover. Fast forward to today, and SEO remains a bit of a dirty word in many circles. But SEO isn’t just alive and well, it’s thriving. These days, responsive website development, reputation management, and meaningful content distribution reign supreme as key solutions for optimizing a business’ presence on search engines.
Improve your SEO
Let’s go into some details. Responsive website design is essential for a good user experience. When websites don’t perform well on smartphones, users quickly leave the site to locate a working search result. Worse still, Google analyzes and records this user behavior. Websites with high bounce rates will lose their rankings and be kicked off the first page of Google. If you’re a small business owner, you need to ask your customers for feedback right away. If they say your mobile website is confusing or obnoxious, you need to take immediate action to remedy the situation.
The importance of having a good reputation is as old as time. As such, having a good online reputation is an essential asset for any business. Online reviews are a manifestation of a business’s reputation and are now the single most important ranking factor for local businesses. The reason why businesses with more quality reviews outperform businesses with fewer or no reviews is that Google assumes that consumers would prefer to work with businesses with high ratings. If your business website is not ranking well, take a look at your reviews. Do you have a place where customers can leave reviews online? Do you have an effective strategy in place to collect customer feedback?
Finally, distributing quality content is another avenue to increase rankings on today’s top search engines. For small businesses, the most beneficial type of content often comes from their own websites, blogs, social media posts, videos, and newsletters. When companies produce meaningful content designed to truly inform and provide value to users, they improve their website rankings. Companies that don’t create quality content associated with their online presence are pulling the rug out from under them. Marketers and businesses of all sizes need to focus on producing authentic online content across multiple platforms.
Consumers trust brands more when they appear naturally at the top of a search. At this point, people understand that companies with high search rankings probably got there for a good reason.
One of the biggest pushbacks I get from clients right now is that it takes too long to implement effective SEO. They are used to the instant gratification of PPC campaigns and wish the SEO was similar. Still, properly executed SEO takes time, but it’s worth it. When a business ranks organically, they can expect to see an exponential increase in traffic to their website, with long-lasting results, often surpassing the PPC campaigns that came before them.
Businesses can and should take some basic steps for their SEO gains, with or without a digital marketing team behind them. To avoid Google penalties and increase organic rankings, you need to ask yourself a few basic questions: Is my website aesthetically pleasing and free of excessive ads or popups? Also, is the content on my site written with the intention of genuinely helping my customers find what they are looking for? If you answered no to any or all of these questions, you need to act quickly.
Modern SEO campaigns are multi-step processes that could be thought of as planting virtual marketing seeds in a digital garden. If a business uses proven SEO methods to properly cultivate the soil that is its website and digital footprint, it can expect to reap the rewards of a bountiful online harvest eventually. To continue the metaphor, black-hat SEO was like randomly created genetically modified digital crops. In the long run, these digital marketing aberrations grew and turned into mutated species that destroyed the online presence of thousands of unsuspecting businesses.
It’s no wonder businesses today are still wary of SEO, and I don’t blame them. But just because SEO has a complicated history doesn’t mean it’s unworthy of redemption. Do search engines still matter? Yes, in fact, 40% of all e-commerce transactions begin with a search engine. Do organic rankings really matter? Yes, the majority of consumer clicks go to businesses in the top three organic search results.
So, is search engine optimization important? Absolutely, and unless some seismic shift occurs that completely replaces the search engine, SEO will remain a staple of any good digital marketing campaign. Businesses just need to make sure they’re here for the long haul.