Search engine optimization, or SEO, is all about helping your customers find you. Your customers may not even know you exist. You may be around the corner from a customer. You may have your sign on the building. But is that where your customers are looking? During the 2013 holiday season it was estimated 65% of shoppers researched purchases online. 56% of all the people in the world own a smartphone. China will represent 30% of the mobile phone users in the world by 2017. Your customers are online. If you want to be found, you need to be where they are, but contrary to what Woody Allen says, merely showing up is not enough.
What Is SEO?
For the uninitiated, SEO means any activity undertaken to get positive results from search engines, outside of paid advertising (that’s what SEM is). To understand what SEO is, first we need to understand what search engines are and how they work. Google is the largest and most well known search engine in the world, but it doesn’t dominate in every market. Due to government intervention, Google is almost nonexistent in China where Baidu is the king of search. Yahoo and Bing are other well-known search engines, although their market share is far less than Google’s.
All search engines want to make give people what they want, otherwise people won’t use them anymore. If you went to Google and typed in “Utah internet service provider” when trying to get new service hooked up at your home and instead of getting Comcast or Digis you got PCCW, which is an ISP in Hong Kong, you might try Yahoo next time you need to search for something. For that search Google would want to show Comcast and its competitors, but if those companies aren’t managing their SEO correctly, Google might not be able to know what they’re about, and they might not show up where they should.
Managing SEO correctly means telling Google and the other search engines what your website is about so that the search engines know when to show your website to someone performing a search and when not to show your website. There are lots of things one can do to tell Google what one’s website is about, and all those activities are part of SEO.
Why Do I Need SEO?
Here’s a simple example. Let’s say your company manages a hotel or chain of hotels in Phoenix, Arizona. You cater to locals but also tourists from across United States as well as internationally. You do some research and find out there are between 12,000 and 15,000 people typing “phoenix arizona hotels” into Google each month, and tens of thousands more when you include Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines. You get a lot of business from aggregators like Hotels.com, Booking.com, and Travelocity, but you don’t like giving up 40% of each sale. Why are these aggregators able to charge such a steep fee? Because they have invested heavily in SEO. As a hotel can you compete? Sure. You even have an advantage, because unlike the aggregators, and unless your hotels are part of a larger chain spread outside of Phoenix, you only need to focus on one geographic location. By investing in SEO you can cut out the middleman and engage your customers directly.
Or, to give another example, let’s suppose you’re an orthodontist in Salt Lake City, Utah and you’d like to pick up more business from new folks moving to the state from California. You would want to make sure you show up in local search results on Google and other search engines, because local search accounts for roughly 50% of all searches.
Why Should I Hire An SEO Firm?
Maybe you shouldn’t. There are situations when it’s better to do SEO yourself, or hire an in-house team to take care of it. And there are times when it makes more sense to hire a company like ours to take care of SEO for you. If you know you need SEO, and you’re not sure where to start, contact us and we’ll help you figure it out.