It is safe to say that these days most business owners have caught on to the concept that they need to have a presence on the Internet. After that, however, things get fuzzy. How do they optimize their presence on the Internet so that it serves them well, rather than simply being another chore or another expense that seemed like a good idea, but did not have very tangible benefits?
The answer is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). That is the name of the strategy that companies use to ensure their business gets tagged by search engines – like Google and Yahoo! – in order to have them appear very high on the list of user searches.
By example, let’s say you sold dishwashers. A user, looking for a dishwasher, types the word into a Google search on his or her computer and hits “enter”. Would the name of your business appear first in Google’s list of responses? If it did, statistics show that 60 percent of all users who typed in the word dishwasher would click on your business link.
Or would your business appear last on a list? In that case, a user surfing the Web would be confronted with a list of more than 50 million potential websites to visit before they eventually – maybe a few years down the road – came across the link to your business.
Obviously, a business owner would be pleased to have 60 percent of all searches lead to increased traffic on their website. This is where SEO comes into play.
SEO is, essentially, an Internet marketing tool that is like having your billboard appear next to a highway, while all the other billboards of your competitors drop into the background. You want your billboard to be visible. But on the Internet, that visibility — that is to say, your search engine ranking — can change from day to day or from moment to moment, as your competition might also be improving their SEO strategy and, essentially, elbowing their way to a higher position on the list of search responses.
Look at some of the strategies for SEO in San Francisco, which has become somewhat of a tech haven. Discover the benefits of high ranking searches and you’ll find they are all positive and present business owners with new marketing paradigms. This is not your grandfather’s marketing universe, to put it one way.
Studies show, for example, that customers tend to trust businesses that appear high on search engine lists, just because of their exalted position.
That may be simply out of a cultural norm to see things at the top of a list as the most valued or the preferential recommendation.
Brand identity is also enhanced through SEO marketing because consistency in your Internet presentation includes tag lists and meta descriptions. Solid SEO strategies do not use random keywords in hopes that random customers click onto their websites. Better searches are focused and targeted. Users, after all, would be frustrated to type in a keyword in a search engine and come up with a hodgepodge of irrelevant results. In turn, businesses benefit by having visitors who actually intended to find them.
Studies also show that visitors directed to your business through SEO strategies are twice as likely to have their visit converted into a sale. The percentages are low: Random visits generate sales 2 percent of the time, while SEO generated visits generate sales 4 percent of the time. Given the costs, however, SEO searches are said to be the favorable strategy.
Let’s talk costs. SEO strategies can be done at practically no cost, except that there are now businesses that specialize in SEO services – and you can bet some of your competitors are out there paying to have the best SEO strategies they can find, which means turning to a professional.
Given SEO searches are a daily competition for a position on results lists, bear in mind that trying to cut too many corners and doing it yourself, while feasible, might not be the best strategy if many of your competitors are paying to have dedicated services keep their position as competitive as possible.
Here are some keywords that define a professional SEO service: Rankings, tag words, optimized tags, increased traffic, increased click through rate. These are services that can improve your “conversion rates,” which means turning a casual visitor into a paying customer.
And that, frankly, is the name of the game.