Think of any product. If you wanted to buy it right now, what would you do?

You would pull out your phone or computer, open a web browser and do a search for that product.

That’s why SEO matters.

Your business has to show up when someone types in the product or service you offer into a search engine. If your website doesn’t show up on a quick search, how do you expect to convert motivated buyers into happy customers?

To make your website show up, you need to understand what SEO is, start optimizing your page titles and meta descriptions, create valuable content and then start building a network of backlinks.

What Is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization and is the practice of tweaking your website to rank higher on the search engine results page (SERP) like Google. The higher your rank, the more likely someone will click on your website. Getting started doesn’t have to be complicated, you just have to know where to begin.

The beauty of SEO is that once you’ve optimized your site you can start saving money by getting more direct traffic to your website. Instead of paying for every visitor to your website through advertising, customers will start finding your business because you’re solving their problems.

Get started with on-page SEO

Google crawls and indexes all of the websites on the internet using complex algorithms and robots. It sounds complicated, but the more simple it is for those robots to understand your website, the better you’ll rank.

Page titles and meta descriptions should be included on every page of your website so search engine robots can quickly consume the information they need. The same concept goes for alt tags on the images throughout your website. Filling in the alt tag information tells the crawling robot what the image is so they can judge how relevant it is to the rest of the page, which will rank you higher on SERPs. Carefully entering all of these important details can impact how many potential customers are landing on your website.

Publish valuable content

Besides helping your Google Analytics by using keywords inside of your content, you have to make sure that your content itself is valuable to your viewers. If it isn’t relevant, not only will Google notice, but so will everyone who visits your site.

Valuable content comes from knowing your audience. It should answer any questions they may have about who you are and what you do. It should also have a clear and concise voice, with short sentences and a distinct lack of slang or inappropriate jargon. Write to your audience and for your audience.

Content can take many forms. Consider publishing blog posts about industry trends, best practices or top products. Or, you can showcase customer testimonials to help your SEO ranking, especially if you link them to their original source — these are valuable for your visitors because they can see the testimonial is coming from a real person.

Most important is to keep your content up-to-date. A regularly updated website, with fresh content, can move up the SEO ranks quickly. An additional plus is that it not only gives new visitors plenty of content, but it can also keep current visitors coming back.

Page load time matters

As you are creating content you need to think beyond what you are saying to how you are presenting your message. The layout should be easy to read and navigate, and most importantly, it should load quickly. Most visitors now expect a website to load within two seconds. If yours doesn’t, you need to rethink your website, your website builder and potentially your website host. Even if you think that your customers won’t notice if it takes a few extra seconds to load your website, you can be sure that Google will.

The concept of a backlink, a link on a website that points back to yours, works on the same principle as a referral from a friend. If five of your friends tell you to try a restaurant in your town, you’re probably going to make a reservation. Google and other search engines use that same principle when looking at backlinks. The more legitimate and relevant that the websites that point to yours are, the more reputable your business is to the algorithm and the higher your rank in SERPs.

The process of getting backlinks can be as simple as writing a guest post on someone’s blog within your network and asking for a link back to your website. If you’re putting in the effort and time it takes to create useful content on their website, they’ll likely return the favor with a backlink.

“Do I really need to worry about SEO?”

It may seem like there are other things you can focus on that will have a more immediate impact on your business, but SEO is a truly powerful tool in the modern marketplace. Paying for every visitor to your website through advertising can be a big burden to your bottom line, so why not make sure the chance of people finding your business on their own is as high as possible?

With the right alt tags, page titles, meta descriptions and keywords, you can impact the number of people finding you. Take for example local searches — you want to include as much relevant information about your location and availability as possible. That way, the next time someone is searching for a coffee shop nearby, your store is much more likely to show up at the top of the SERP. Then they’ll start heading your way instead of to a competitor.

SEO is always important

Oftentimes, Google and other search engines change their algorithms, so it’s hard to always have a 100% optimized website for SEO purposes, but having a basic understanding of SEO, a baseline of optimized page titles and meta descriptions, valuable content, and a network of backlinks will always be important.

To make sure your SEO efforts are making a difference, frequently check Google Analytics for the top metrics, track your rankings for keywords and phrases, measure what percentage of your traffic comes from organic searches, and track and analyze your traffic for behavior flow and conversions.

Tracking, measuring and analyzing all of these parts of your SEO will allow you to make informed and appropriate changes to your website and enable you to improve your SEO over time.

As long as people search for anything on the internet, there will always be a need for SEO — especially for small businesses. SEO can help your bottom line in the short term, as well as the long term. So, set up a baseline as soon as possible. And start improving your SEO, and moving up to the top of your customers’ search results right away.