What is SEO and how can three little letters cause so many headaches and wasted hours?

Being a small business owner means wearing a lot of different hats, often several in one day. Being a smart leader means knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Play to your strengths and assign your shortcomings to specialists who excel in those fields. But just because SEO is something you don’t understand doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn about it.

If you know you’re terrible with numbers, you’ll hire an accountant or bookkeeper to run the financial part of your business. But that doesn’t mean you turn a blind eye to things like cash flow and payroll. Of course not, a working knowledge of all parts of your business makes you a better business owner, and it protects you from disaster down the line. You need to know enough to realize what’s a good job and what’s a bad one when you see it.

What is SEO?

The simple fact of the matter is that SEO – short for search engine optimization – is your small business’s great equalizer when it comes to challenging the competition for high placement when potential customers are utilizing Google or other search tools to seek out information. SEO involves using keywords – single words or phrases that people are searching for on the Internet – on the pages of your website to attract more visits and to rank higher in search engine results.

Populating your website with SEO keywords can seem laborious, but give the job to the right person and do the proper research and your investment will pay off with high rankings on Google and more and more visits to your websites by consumers who are seeking somewhere to spend their money and have their problems solved.

Knowing SEO isn’t just a passing trend or a niche for computer experts. Here are five reasons that every small business owner needs to know what SEO is and how it works.

Consumers use SEO to find your business

If you run a custom surfboards shop in San Luis Obispo, California, you need to include the keywords of what you do and where you’re located on the pages of your website. If a consumer types in “custom surfboards” on Google, they get more than 7.1 million results, most of them large-scale surf shops with branches across the country.

But how many of those are located to San Luis Obispo? Add the location, and the number of results shrinks to 2,440. If your website is lacking a healthy diet of those two key phrases together, your site will get passed by time and again for competitors.

Good SEO practices increase your business’s authority online

When you ask what SEO is beyond the realm of the search engine, authority is the overwhelming answer. You don’t want one-time customers regardless of what you sell; the ambition is to become that customer’s long-term solution to whatever problem your business solves. It’s not just about the products you sell; it’s about the way customers perceive your business.

If a consumer hears about your business, visits your website, and finds it to be a one-pager with nothing but your company’s logo, address, and phone number, it’s unlikely they’ll ever take you seriously enough to spend money. Using SEO keywords and offering value to your customers in the form of web content, blogs, articles, tips, etc., will not only bring them to your website, but it also will keep them there and keep them coming back.

Local SEO brings in more mobile traffic to your site

How many times have you been out around town and searched for a coffee shop, a place to eat, or a branch of your bank? Your smartphone takes your present location and searches for nearby areas that rank high based on the keywords you entered.

Your company can generate traffic in the same way by using local SEO. What is local SEO? It’s the practice of focusing in on a specific geographic region and using additional keywords based on it. For instance, our custom surfboard shop in San Luis Obispo might add terms if it’s on a major street in the city or is near a specific body of water that surfers frequent.

Using local names for particular neighborhoods or areas works great too. So beyond “custom surfboards in San Luis Obispo,” our shop can add terms like:

  •    “custom surfboards in SLO”
  •    “custom surfboards on Broad St.”
  •    “custom surfboards near Morro Bay”

Local SEO gets your more reviews

Websites like Yelp and its equivalents can be the lifeblood or the bane of your business’s existence. A slew of great reviews will see customers come knocking. A miserable review with no explanation from you will see your business dry up like a sponge in Death Valley. According to a survey done by BrightLocal, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they believe a personal recommendation, and 73% of consumers trust a business more if it has positive reviews.

Local SEO will have more people discovering your business in your area. And people that find businesses online are the ones most likely to leave a review after interacting with you. Most importantly, none of these review services cost your company to use. Free advertising is always welcome when you’re trying to grow your business.

Knowing SEO makes other business facets stronger

We’ve answered the question of what SEO is, but the long-range benefits don’t come into view until you’ve got the practice in place. Once your website has been optimized, you can turn your focus to delivering a similar message to customers via your marketing emails, social media posts, blogs and articles, and any paid advertising you might do.

SEO is a significant part of your company’s branding. It defines what you are, what you do, and how you operate. When all of those pieces are acting in harmony, the sum of their efforts is greater than the parts involved. This synergy leads to an overall image of your company as well as organized, authoritative, and trustworthy.


About the Author

James is an avid investor in real estate and the stock market. He has found an edge in his real estate investing with digital marketing.