“You are now about to witness … the strength of search knowledge!”
Welcome to the regular Doctor Digital column, where we break down digital marketing questions that everyone is asking and explain them in language non-professionals can understand! Today we start at the very beginning with the most basic question:
Does Search Engine Optimization Actually Work?
Yes. But search engine optimization doesn’t work quickly. It certainly doesn’t work directly. And that can be frustrating for business owners.
So let’s break it down.
What is it SEO is trying to do?
- Put your website in front of people asking a search engine a question.
Whether it’s mobile search, voice search, video search or good old-fashioned Google search on a desktop, SEO services are trying to get your web pages in front of people.
What does that do?
- Increases the percent chance a person will click the link and go read your website.
That’s it. That’s all SEO does. It improves the odds you will get a click because you are shown in search results.
Search Engines provide answers to questions. That’s their primary function and always has been the point of a search engine. SEO Professionals and Business Owners alike need to always remember that basic truth.
Why aren’t you ranking for that generic two-word phrase that defines your business’ primary service?
Probably one of these reasons:
- It’s too generic so the traffic for it is all over the place
- It’s too competitive so ranking for it organically alone isn’t going to get you there
What do you do then?
Change the keywords. Go for a phrase that is relevant to your business and its goals, is less generic or competitive, and will be something that a searcher wants an answer for.
What does that mean?
It means your generic service phrase is just that: too generic. Your competitors all want to rank for that too. But searchers already know what you and your competitors do on a generic/basic level. They’re not searching for that.
They’re searching for answers! And to get their clicks, you need to give them answers to their questions. Deep, meaningful, useful answers.
Do that and you get the clicks.
SEO helps you do that.
Notice none of this guaranteed what happens after the click?
That’s because SEO is just part of the first step in the buyer’s journey, sales funnel, whatever you want to call it. SEO gives your website’s pages a better chance to be seen.
And then … click.
That’s step one.
After that, the rest of the digital marketing begins.
Branding. Trust. Engagement. Calls to Action. Reputation. These are the basics that are the cornerstone or an online marketing campaign. You’ll also hear about things like:
- SEO tactics/SEO practices
- Content Marketing
- Local Search/Local SEO
- Ranking Factors
- Link Building
- Social Media Presence
- User Experience (UX)
But these are just the nuts and bolts of the whole SEO campaign. And it’s easy to get lost going down that rabbit hole. The deeper you get with things like search engine algorithms and Google Search’s 200 ranking factors, the greater chance you have in forgetting the basics. Never lose sight of that with your SEO plan.
You want your high-quality content to be written for the right reasons, not just generic keywords. Which means you need to always remember the basic truth of what the search engine does. And then you’ll be crafting web pages with long-term value.
How Does SEO Work?
SEO is the long, slow, creativity fueled way of getting clicks that PPC just gets you for a high, upfront dollar amount. I had a colleague explain this to me in a wonderful anecdote.
You are hungry. You want an apple.
You have two options:
- Go to the grocery store and buy an apple
- Plant an apple tree
Both of those options produce the desired result: You get an apple to eat. Going to the store and buying an apple is PPC. It solves the problem quickly. And then that’s it. You’re done. You got your apple. You ate it. Next time you are hungry and want an apple? You need to go buy another one.
Planting the tree is the SEO strategy. It takes a lot of hard work and a long time to bear fruit. And for a lot of that time, you don’t see much for your efforts. But when it finally does happen, the full blooming tree provides you with apple after apple after apple. You can eat off of the fruit from that tree for a long time.
Neither is superior to the other. It depends on what you as a small business owner want from your online marketing.
They both achieve the same result, a click. They just do it differently.
So, Does SEO work?
Hell yes, it does!
Director of Search Engine Optimization for Results Driven Marketing, Managing Editor or TAPinto The Mainline, and the artist behind The World’s Friendliest Superhero, Steve Myers is a creative force in the digital marketing industry. Dubbed “Doctor Digital” by his colleagues, he takes a light-hearted approach to Search Engines and how they work, mixing in comics, hip-hop, and popular culture to help explain the complexities of AI, algorithms, and structured data.