What is SEO?
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process that a business needs to take to optimize its website to get organic traffic from a search engine results page. A business that understands how to use SEO effectively can boost its visibility in search results.
There are two categories for SEO: On-page SEO and Off-page SEO. On-page SEO strategies are used on business’ website and refer to any optimization that make the website more user-friendly and valuable to users. Factors of On-page SEO include: URL, title tag, meta description, keywords on the website and the content.
On the other hand, off-page SEO strategies are used off the business’s website and aim at improving website ranking in search engine results pages. Off-page SEO generates links and ratings so that site credibility and rank can rise. While both strategies aim at making a business’s website more user friendly and easier to find, businesses can typically only control on-page SEO.
How Does it Work?
A technical explanation of how SEO works might be complicated to understand but here is the high level overview: all search engines use special tracker software that collects information from websites, including title tags, backlinks, page speeds and social signals. The software analyzes the website’s code and through a sophisticated algorithm, decides the ranking for the website for relevant keywords that a user enters on a search engine platform. Google reportedly uses over 200 ranking factors in their algorithm, with the top five most important ones being responsive page design, page speed, internal links, on-page optimization and accessibility of website.
For example, a brokerage located in Vaughan might use SEO to optimize its website and rankings on Google for relevant keywords such as “Vaughan realty” and “Vaughan brokerage” by including a lot of links of their website, improving page speed, ironing out any bugs, eliminating all dead links on their website and using clean, effective code to construct their website. Doing all this will likely result in the brokerage placing on Google’s first page, which will result in good site visibility.
Is it Cost Effective?
While SEO is more cost-effective than many traditional marketing channels, it could often be more expensive than some other digital marketing channels, such as email and SMS marketing. SEO pricing can vary depending on location, niche and type of business. Due to SEO’s changing nature, businesses need to regularly use SEO services to optimize their business’s website and presence on search engine platforms. Due to this, most SEO firms charge businesses a monthly retainer for some or all of their services.
In the US, typical range for monthy retainer falls in the $501-$1,000 range. SEO agencies charge more than freelancers and consultants, with hourly rates being around $70/hr for freelancers and $135 for agencies. A big factor in pricing is the experience of the agency/party offering services. As expected, more experienced parties charge significantly more for their work than less experienced parties.
To help bring costs down, businesses, particularly in North America, often outsource SEO work to countries like India and Brazil, where the average rate for SEO services is significantly less than the global average.
That being said, certain drawbacks of SEO can significantly affect costs. Small businesses with limited budgets for SEO will have a difficult time competing with big competitors with significantly higher budgets. The chances of ranking high on important keywords will be slim for these businesses.
This is particularly the case in industries such as insurance and finance, which are dominated by titans with access to significant funding. Certain keywords that may go unnoticed by these big players may pose small businesses the opportunity to be seen but by and large, it will be difficult to stand out on search engines unless budgets are dramatically increased.
Another point to consider when it comes to pricing is the type of keywords that are most relevant to the business. If a business is associated with keywords that are hardly searched for by consumers, the ROI for implementing SEO will be considerably low. In other words, a business that invests heavily in low-volume keywords might give it a competitive edge for those keywords, but it might not get the necessary traffic necessary to recoup its SEO investment due to the unpopularity of the keywords.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
As can be seen, there are both benefits and drawbacks to SEO. There are plenty of benefits of having a good SEO strategy, including increased traffic, high ROI, brand awareness, and improved website user experience. Top ranking pages for popular keywords on search engine results pages receive a majority of user traffic via impressions and clicks.
With a recent study showing that 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine, there is no doubt that being at the top of searches pages yields obvious benefits to businesses. Having good SEO also creates relevant title tags and descriptions, which help improve click-through rate. SEO agencies are able to track every aspect of their strategy and they have gotten good at quantifying metrics such as rankings, user traffic, click-through rate, engagement and sales conversions. Businesses that use an effective SEO strategy see a very good ROI.
Even if they do not see a lot of traffic or conversions, businesses can use the metrics provided by SEO agencies to obtain use information such as demographic information or consumer preferences. Brand awareness is also impacted, with businesses ranking in top positions of search results pages getting more exposure and a greater perception of trustworthiness. Lastly, user website experience is improved by implementing SEO, which makes it easier for users to find information of the website, which may lead to more conversions in the long-term.
Some drawbacks of SEO include: the hit-or-miss nature of keywords, time and competition. Certain keywords are unlikely to deliver the traffic that businesses are looking for, such as generic keywords.
For example, if a user searches “best smartphones” on a search results page, they might end up on a big electronic vendor’s website instead of a review page that specializes in reviewing smartphones. There are several ways in which keywords may not be the best fit for a business, so it is imperative that metrics are collected and keywords are monitored to measure ROI before committing additional resources on SEO.
Another drawback of implementing SEO is the time it takes to build a good SEO campaign. Organic search takes time and effort, and businesses seeking immediate results are better off using alternate marketing channels that might yield quicker results, such as social media marketing.
Lastly, competition exists and will continue to exist on search platforms. If the business is new and not yet established, there may not be as much awareness around the business’s products or services. Consumers will not be searching for the business; if they search up for its products/services, they are likely to steer away since they have no heard of the business. In this case, SEO might not be the right strategy.
Established competitors offering similar products and services are likely to rank higher than new businesses and steal user traffic. Ensuring that a business stays SEO optimized is key to staying ahead of the competition.
SEO is undoubtedly an asset in today’s Google search-obsessed world where users search up queries on the fly. It can offer many benefits to a particular business. That being said, it is not perfect and has a few drawbacks that businesses need to be aware of before committing long-term resources to it.