There's a lot of mystery surrounding SEO like thick clouds that the average website owner can't see through. For most online businesses, once you understand what's important in the key search engine algorithms, SEO comes down to the basics that have always been and will continue to be important. The problem arises when people try to "game the system" and get more traffic or visitors to their website. On the other side of the equation, key search engines (e.g. Google, Bing, MSN) build up and change the complexity of their algorithms adding more layers to what we don't know or understand. The perception of extra steps or added complications serves to add to the mystery and mist surrounding SEO.
Key SEO Drivers
There are a few key factors that make great SEO today. These same factors have made great SEO for a long time. And, that's it! There is no need to over-complicate the process or try to out-guess the top search engine companies. Of course, you can if you want to but that's a bit like trying to beat the house at any casino on the Las Vegas strip. You might have a good run for a little while (and see more traffic and conversions from your site) but you know that when your actions are discovered, you will either be completely banned (both Google and Las Vegas do this) or you will have to start completely over.
Impact of SEO on Close Rates
Without advocating one way or the other, what we can share is that if you stick with the basics and the known contributors to today's SEO results your site will be visited by organic traffic and these visitors will be looking for what you offer. In addition, SEO is important not only because of the potential traffic to your website but in today's markets (both online and offline), search traffic based on great SEO converts at a much higher rate than traditional outbound or direct marketing efforts.
That's precisely why SEO is so important. In today's online marketing and business environment selling anything without using sound SEO practices is like ordering pizza without cheese. You can do it, yes, but the final result will be less than you want and much less than you anticipated.
SEO vs Everything Else
And, there's another point of comparison between SEO and other marketing tactics both online and offline. Over the past several years, it's become apparent that SEO is the leading contributor to site traffic for any and all websites. Yes you can pay for ads. There are also a number of other supporting tactics you can do -- things like backlinks, blogging content and direct marketing such as email. While these can be effective and should be considered as part of an overall marketing strategy, the fact is that unless SEO is done correctly traffic will be much less.
According to Rand Fishkin, CEO of seomoz, SEO is responsible for a much larger share of inbound traffic than any other tactic. Together, SEO and Social make up nearly half of all visitors to the typical website. When these two are working together and the work is done properly, you can count on significant levels of traffic (relative to your category, product or niche). After all, this is the traffic and visitors that ultimately wind up being your customers.
What do I do?
So what exactly constitutes great SEO? And is it really easy?
The current best-in-class paradigm suggests there are 4 things you have to do:
1) Set your website up correctly. There are a number of free resources you can tap into that will show you how to set up your website, how major search engines evaluate and scan your site, and optimum time to keep your site up and running.
2) Do your homework on keywords and search-related research. This step is one of the easiest and with free tools from Google Keyword Planner or any reliable paid services, you should have your keyword work done in 30 minutes or less.
3) Be very careful about building links and backlinks within and to your site. In today's search environment, the quality of the link tends to be more important or at a minimum, as important, as the quantity of links and backlinks. Quantity is important, yes, but you would be better off spending more time building a few top-quality links or referrals.
4) Social marketing is here to stay. It's important though to keep in mind what social networks do. They connect people and topics and ideas. Brute force selling or old-school marketing tend to dampen the effects of a good social campaign. Focus on likes and reviews to build up your base of confident, satisfied customers and viewers. Then the referrals and close rates you seek will build themselves.
SEO really is very easy. At least the part of SEO which we know lasts over time. If you do your SEO work properly the first time, it will continue to serve up traffic and targeted visitor to your website. If you also include a proper maintenance schedule -- review of keywords, link building and polish, social campaigns -- over time, with the first version done correctly the maintenance will be much less costly and time-consuming. SEO is not mysterious or hidden behind clouds of thick fog or mist. It simply is part and parcel of good marketing.