Most businesses these days have a website. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that if a business exists and doesn’t have this basic online presence, it’s probably not doing as well as it could be. Along with the de facto requirement of maintaining websites for their companies, most business owners also have at least an awareness of what SEO is, and that one of the benefits of SEO for their business is it that might get their websites ranking highly on Google, and other search engines like Bing and Yahoo. And, while this is obviously an attractive goal, when business owners do some research and discover that SEO not only looks really complicated and time-consuming, but is also a costly activity that has no clear endpoint, many allow it to fall by the wayside, or decide not to engage in SEO at all.

This is a mistake. While it’s true that doing a quick search for SEO-related topics on the internet unearths a lot of jargon-filled articles that talk about a lot of different sub-areas and metrics that you’re led to believe simply must be attended to, it’s actually not that involved. It’s like all the crazy statistics and Sabermetrics around baseball — you can drown in numbers and complicated calculations but, at the end of the day, baseball is a pretty simple game.

So it goes with SEO. If you can stick to a pretty straightforward formula, you will reap all the benefits of SEO for your business without it requiring too much time or money. Of course, there is also a place to expand the scope of a company’s SEO efforts, but today we’ll focus not so much on the how of SEO (that’ll be for the next post), but on some of the benefits of engaging in SEO for your business, whether it’s a solo gig or a large company.

So, without further ado, let’s get into it:

Improve your website’s user experience

Have you ever been to a website that takes forever to load, or loads with broken images, or buttons that don’t work. It’s annoying, and most of the time, visitors leave those websites immediately and go looking for something else. I know I do. And search engines know this, too. That’s why, when their search crawlers pursue the internet looking for web pages to include in search results, broken, slow websites are ranked much lower than websites that perform well. Paying attention to SEO means paying attention to your website – making sure it’s fast, making sure everything on the website’s pages works properly, like links and buttons, and making sure the content on your website is clear and easy to get to. Practicing good SEO habits means making sure your website, often the first impression potential customers get of your business, is ship-shape.

Get more insight on how customers find you

Do you know how your customers find you online? If you’re a business that’s been around for a while, there are still plenty of folks out there who you might not be reaching because your website isn’t an effective generator of leads. If you’re a new business, you might still be refining who your customers are and how they’re going to find you and your products or services. Using tools like the Keywords Everywhere extension for Chrome, or Moz’s Keyword Explorer will help you figure out what people are searching for when they’re looking for something that your company offers. Collecting a list of terms and phrases that people type into search engines (called keywords) will help guide the types of content you feature on your website. Over time, the benefit of engaging in this SEO tactic (called “keyword research”) will allow you to refine your content to target exactly the kinds of people you’d like to have as customers by creating content they’re likely to discover through search. The more qualified the leads are that you have coming to your website because you created targeted content through researching customers’ search habits, the more sales you’re going to see.

Organic search beats out ads as the primary source of web traffic

Every once in a while, I’ll click an ad on a search results page I’m looking at. Mostly I don’t – and that’s pretty clearly what most other folks do as well. While search engines are making it increasingly more difficult to discern paid ads from organic search results (I’m looking at you Google), people still overwhelmingly click on organic links that were generated purely from the search terms they used, not ads. If you want to know the reasons for this, you can talk to a psychologist. My money is on the fact that a lot of people don’t like to feel like they’re being sold something. People want freedom of choice, and the trust that what they’re choosing is high-quality content that will give them what they’re looking for. Make sure your business has the best chance of popping up in organic search results – ideally in the top five results. Do well in organic, and you can the dollars you allocated for ads.

Organic SEO is cheaper than running paid ads

While many business owners look at SEO as a cost, it’s actually an investment. Over time, with consistent efforts, the dividends of paying attention to SEO, and SEO-centered content and marketing, will not only result in increased traffic to your website and increased sales, but it will also strengthen your company’s brand and raise the trust that search engines like Google have for your brand. That translates to better rankings which creates a positive feedback loop that can last as long as it’s maintained. Contrast that with running ads which is more of a short term tactic to drive immediate sales with no eye towards anything beyond the end of the current ad campaign. In short, your costs for doing SEO remain more or less the same, while the dividends from these activities increase. Ads, by contrast, can provide an expensive shot in the arm with no lasting effect.

Stay ahead of the competition

A final benefit of SEO for your business is that it allows you to stay ahead of your competitors. When I do an audit for a potential SEO client, I’d say that, at least half the time, it’s pretty apparent that their competitors are doing the bare minimum SEO-wise, if anything at all. The beauty of this is that all you need to do to beat your competitors is a little more than they are. Make sure your website is in good shape, and publish a high-quality blog post every month, and you’re on your way to world domination. Well, maybe not entirely. But it will help you build momentum that will carry your online presence past your peers.

Wrapping things up

There are many benefits to SEO from the fairly obvious, to the more abstract and intricate. The five benefits we just discussed are some of the basics and, as such, you don’t need to invest a ton of time, effort, and money into a complex SEO strategy to address them.

Engaging in just a handful of specific SEO tactics, consistently over time, will allow your company to realize each of the benefits listed above, and, in the next post, I’ll touch on some things that a business owner, employee, or trusted SEO provider, can do to get the SEO ball rolling for your business.

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