Disappointed by your website’s traffic?
The problem may lie with your SEO efforts. Prospects typically find your website in five ways:
Through a search engine (organic traffic)
Through another website (referral traffic)
Through paid ads (paid traffic)
Through social media (social traffic)
By typing your website into the URL bar (direct traffic)
If you aren’t a well-known brand with a major social media following, the most cost-effective means of increasing your overall traffic is to use SEO best practices.
1. What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to a set of tactics that increase your organic traffic. Traditionally, this meant improving your website’s visibility in search engines such as Google. The goal was to rank first out of the “10 blue links” on the first search engine results page (SERP). The most visible website received the most organic traffic.
Today, website visibility is a bit more complicated.
For example, Google now uses Featured Snippets which can answer a prospect’s query on the SERP. It is the most visible aspect of the search result.
But will your website earn organic traffic from a featured snippet?
Let’s say your Featured Snippet completely answers the prospect’s query. They have no reason to visit your website now.
No traffic for you!
If, on the other hand, the Featured Snippet only provides a partial or truncated answer, prospects may be interested enough to visit the web page in question. That leads to organic traffic (traffic from search engines).
SEO maximizes the organic traffic you receive from search engines.
2. Why Is SEO Important?
If your prospects don’t already know your brand, how are they supposed to find out about you? Social media has limited organic reach, and paid traffic can be prohibitively expensive.
Search Engine Optimization stands out as being a cost-effective means of driving traffic.
More importantly, SEO drives traffic that is interested in what you have to offer. When done properly, SEO provides your prospects with the information they need to make an informed choice. SEO can also drive ready-to-convert traffic to your sales or product pages.
3. How Does SEO Work?
Prospects use search engines to answer questions (also known as “queries”). Google’s task is to find the best answers to each query.
For instance, the query “how to bake an apple pie” will result in a search engine results page (SERP) with apple pie recipes. The query “Spiderman real name” will result in a SERP which explains that Peter Parker is Spiderman’s actual name.
SEO writers like to say that Google uses over 200 ranking factors to decide whether a particular page is the best answer to the query.
The reality is a bit more complicated.
Yes, Google probably uses over 200 ranking signals. However, these ranking signals are weighted by machine learning. For any given SERP, the weights of each ranking signal might be different.
That means that, even if you put a gun to a Google engineer’s head, they couldn’t tell you what makes a particular page rank for a particular query. They can only speak in generalities.
4. What Are The Three Categories of SEO?
SEO practices can be broken down into three pillars:
On-Page SEO refers to changing the content of a web page to better answer queries. This involves activities such as keyword research, keyword placement, and altering HTML tags.
Off-Page SEO refers to all optimizations that occur outside of the webpage. In practice, this is the creation of links from external sources to your site. These are called “backlinks.”
Technical SEO refers to improving technical aspects of a website such as site speed, crawling, and indexing.
5. Why Are Backlinks Important?
If the owner of a website is a spammer or scammer, how can Google figure it out? Website owners are in complete control of on-page and technical SEO; nothing stops them from replicating all the signals of a “trusted website.”
But what if Google’s “trust” was determined by something that is (supposedly) outside of a website owner’s control?
That’s where backlinks come into play.
Think of backlinks as “trust votes.” The more votes you have, the more Google will trust you. However, the quality of backlink matters as well.
Imagine that Google has to decide between two articles on World War 2 history. One has a link from the New York Times while the other has links from various… shall we say… erotic locales.
Which should Google trust more?
With all else equal, Google will give more visibility to the article with a backlink from the New York Times.
As your website gains more quality backlinks, Google trusts it more as a general authority. As sites gain authority, Google becomes more and more likely to give it visibility.
6. Should I Buy Backlinks?
Few tactics are as tempting as buying backlinks. It’s quick, easy, and may temporarily result in a visibility boost.
The most important word in the prior sentence is “temporary.”
Buying links is known as a Black Hat SEO tactic. In essence, black hat tactics are SEO tactics that go against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
If Google catches your website using black hat tactics, your entire site may be taken off the search engine.
That means zero organic traffic regardless of your technical and on-page SEO.
The only way to get your website back into Google’s index is to delete the backlinks you bought.
The best way to get backlinks is to write content that is so compelling and informative that other websites naturally link to you as their resource.
7. How Long Do I Have to Wait For SEO to Work?
For a new website, it can take from six months to a year before SEO results in increased organic traffic. This is largely because new websites lack quality backlinks.
Websites with a strong backlink profile can increase their organic traffic much sooner. That’s because Google already trusts these websites.
8. Should I Use SEO, Paid Ads, or Both?
It depends on your priorities and resources.
SEO has a higher return on investment than paid ads, but those returns take longer to appear.
If you need sales today, use paid ads.
If you can hold out for a few months, use SEO.
If you have the time and budget, you can lso combine SEO and paid ads to buttress both short- and long-term traffic growth.
9. What's The Difference Between an SEO Agency and an Inbound Marketing Agency?
Your prospects encounter your website as organic, paid, social, referral, or direct traffic. SEO agencies are only responsible for increasing organic traffic.
Inbound marketing integrates SEO with best practices for paid, social, referral, and direct traffic.
An SEO agency’s duties stop once the organic traffic reaches your website.
An inbound marketing agency’s duties don’t stop until your prospect has converted into a client. The best inbound agencies take this a step further and turn those clients into evangelists for your brand.