If your business is relatively new to online marketing, or in the past has concentrated its marketing efforts on non-digital mediums, search engine optimization may be a new concept for you – and a mystifying one at that. What is it? How does it work? Why should I care? We’re here to cut through the confusion and arm you with the basic information you need to start utilizing this powerful tool to boost your business’ inbound marketing efforts.

Confused about SEO?

Search engine optimization (“SEO”) refers to the process of improving the ranking of a website or a web page in search engines’ “organic” (unpaid) results. It involves taking into account how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms (keywords) used, and which search engines (such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing) are preferred by the targeted audience. In general, the higher ranked, and more frequently a site appears on a list of search results, the more visitors it will receive from a search engine’s users.

How It Works

“Optimizing” for search engines may include tactics ranging from editing website content, html and coding to increase the site’s relevance – and thus improve its ranking – for certain keywords. It can also include promotion of a website via social media channels, blogging, other PR activities to increase the number of inbound links to the website. Today more than ever, effective SEO requires an integrated multi-faceted effort which takes into account website design and development and inbound marketing efforts such as blogging, email and social media.

Why I Should Care

With billions of dollars potentially at stake in an ever-expanding digital economy, businesses can’t afford to not optimize for search. Here are our top 3 reasons why:

1. Search Engine Marketing Brings Customers Information – It used to be that if you were looking for an unfamiliar business, product, or service you would go into the phone book and scan the names in the book until you came across one which looked familiar. Maybe you would ask a friend or read a local paper or periodical to see if the consensus made your investment of time and money worth it. But that was cumbersome and not always fully reliable. Now all one needs to do is punch up an approximate location and the product or service they’re looking for and the information is all right there before them. If you want your business to even be on their radar you need to come up favorably somewhere near the top of the list. This is why search engine optimization needs to be a part of any business’s marketing strategy. Consider a search query to be yesteryears phone book, newspaper review, and discussion with your neighbor at the end of the driveway all in one.

2. Search Engine Optimization Adds Relevance to Your Products – When you use search engine optimization effectively to link your business with certain critical keywords in your industry, your business will appear in search results for these keywords along with other relevant articles, information, and resources. Customers searching for information relating to what you do and for which you are strongly optimized will find your business along with the information they’re seeking, or the questions and problems they’re trying to solve. Thus, by the power of association, search engine marketing helps your business gain visibility at a time when a consumer’s demand and interest are already piqued.

3. Search Empowers Quick, Informed Decision-Making In Your Favor – The internet has made decision-making both easier than ever, and, in some ways, harder. With so many resources only a few keystrokes away, consumers can quickly suffer from information overload.  Most people aren’t willing to take the time to scroll through multiple pages of search results to size-up the existing options – particularly if they find relevant results in the first 5-10 hits.  Thanks to increasingly sophisticated search engine technology, today they’re more likely to encounter relevant results on page 1 than ever before.  So businesses which effectively use good SEO techniques to rank high in organic search results can expect a much greater flow of relevant traffic to their websites, and corresponding increases in leads and conversion rates. On the flip-side, businesses who ignore SEO may find their website traffic rapidly drying up.

In sum, search engine optimization is a powerful tool, particularly when approached as part of an integrated online marketing campaign that embraces a business’s website, its social media presence, its blogging efforts and its email marketing. Those that choose to ignore SEO do so at their own peril.

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