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SEO: It's Like Ad Placement For Free



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Ad placement for free, you say?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of optimizing a website’s content so it ranks as high as possible on search engines. Bored already? I can’t imagine why. Is it because this topic falls flat to everyone not wearing an oddly specific graphic tee? Probably. So, let’s not talk about SEO — let’s talk about what it’s going to do for your business.

Driving Traffic

If you were to sit with me in a board room, you’d hear me talk about the importance of driving digital traffic. You’d hear me scream about the death of print media and emphasize the brilliance of companies like Google and Facebook.

There is a reason I am so passionate about these topics and it’s not because I live and breathe social media. It’s because they have done what other companies have failed to do: use their inbound traffic. In order to create conversions or sell a product, you need to have inbound traffic. How do you get it? Should you rent a billboard or pay the Goodyear blimp to drag your banner?

The Problem

Although paying for ads is an effective way to get them in front of people, it doesn’t mean that it’s an effective way to sell a product. People often remember viral ads but may have a hard time linking them to specific products.

During an episode of Mad Men titled “The Crash,” Don Draper spent an entire day trying to find an ad he did on soup, only to realize it was for a completely different concept than he remembered. The copy was good. The ad was brilliant. But the memory displays the issue with conventional advertising: Even the creators don’t remember. You may remember five Super Bowl ads from this year, but can you remember the products they represented? Probably not. But branding can help.

The Solution

Branding is about customers pulling from their memory while making a purchase. In other words, it’s about remembering a brand. Exposure helps you to be remembered. New toothbrush technology? Quip. Comfortable shoes? Allbirds. If you search those keywords, purchased ad space will replace branding — or at least assist it.

When working in print media or ad campaigns, branding is what will result in persuading a customer to complete a purchase. But it takes a lot of money to establish a brand. What’s worse, it takes even more money for someone to alter their current habits to try something new or different.

Digital advertising has altered this process. Instead of relying on what you know or what you’ve been exposed to, you can get on your favorite search engine and be directly persuaded without even thinking about it.

The Role Of SEO

SEO is a detailed recipe consisting of many small parts: keywords, structure, image alt tags, meta descriptions, backlinking and, most importantly, mobile optimization. OK, backlinking is what’s most important, but mobile optimization is at the forefront. So, why is mobile optimization so important?

Google puts mobile indexing first. In other words, your phone is king.

Starting in September, Google will index all sites for mobile before anything else. This means your website needs to be optimized for mobile use. If not, say goodbye to high search rankings. If you’re publishing specific content for desktop, make sure the same keywords are optimized for the mobile version.

Next, tackle backlinking. People talk about black hat SEO and ethics as it pertains to Google ranking. There are differing opinions, but the best thing you can do is have strong content and share that content with others. Every time another site links to your site, you receive a backlink, and your ranking improves — or should improve. If you’re getting links from poor sources, it probably isn’t going to help you.

You can direct everything else with some research and a lot of time. You can identify keywords used to find your product/business on Google Search Console. You can separate those keywords and use them on individual pages throughout your site. You can create image alt tags, meta tags and meta descriptions. You can do this! I strongly believe anyone can master SEO best practices if they’re willing to do the research.

If not, hire an expert, but don’t take their word for it. Vet them. A lot of businesses charge an insane amount of money for basic SEO practices. Ask about the duration of time for the project. If it’s the initial setup of a small site (less than 20 pages), it shouldn’t take more than a handful of hours, and it should be charged accordingly.

If your expert dives into the use of third-party platforms for combing data, look them up. Can you use them yourself? Probably. Using platforms like SEMrush is great for a small business, but if you’re implementing it for a $20 million company, you’re missing traffic, insights and big data.

What’s Next?

If you’re a small to medium-sized business, look into plug-ins like Yoast for WordPress, and take control. These tools can walk you through basic optimization, which you can do on your own. Additionally, submit your site to Google Analytics and Google Search Console (they walk you through it). After that, you can watch your rankings to see the traffic you’re missing out on so you can alter and improve. Or just save up for that Super Bowl ad.

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