If you’re a business owner or someone responsible for marketing a business, you likely already know you need to show up on the first page of search results, as close to the top as possible, to drive organic traffic to your website. How to successfully do so is another story. A winning SEO strategy begins with understanding the game, so let’s start with what search engine optimization is and why we play.
What Is SEO and Why Is it So Important for Companies?
One of the greatest successes of the internet is the ability for any person with access to it to search for and find the information they’re seeking within seconds. This may seem trivial to Millennials and Gen Zers who grew up online, but for those who remember long days amidst stacks of books in the library, having information available all the time, nearly instantly, from virtually anywhere is a huge leap toward making work and life easier.
But this utility of the internet is only as good as the technology that underlies it. Our chosen search engine takes in our search query, interprets our search intent, sifts through its index of the world wide web to find relevant web pages, rank orders these pages by how well they match our intent, and displays them for us on a search engine results page (SERP). When you consider this, it’s even more amazing that most of the time, when we search the web we find the information we’re looking for without scrolling past the first result page.
The reality is, most people are looking for a simple, low-effort solution, so they’re going to click on what’s right in front of them at the top of the first page. For a business, SEO is important because you want your website to be there front and center when someone needs what you offer. By optimizing your site, you’re helping people who are looking for information about your products or services in your target market to quickly and easily find your website online – and you’re setting yourself up for a potential conversion at the same time.
How does a business get their website to appear higher in search results so they capture more of this prospective traffic than their competitors? This brings us back to SEO strategy.
Foundations of a Winning SEO Strategy
To win the game of search engine optimization, you need to understand what keywords your target customer is searching for and position your business to appear at the top of the first page of results. Taking this one step further, you want to dominate the first page of search results, taking up as many spots on the page as possible.
If you head over to Google Search* and type in a search query that’s related to your services, you’ll likely see the following results in this order:
- 3-4 advertisements
- 3 map location results
- 9 organic results
- 2-3 advertisements
*We’re using Google Search in this example because it’s far and away the most commonly used search engine, with over 90% market share (Statista).
How Can a Business Occupy as Much of This SERP Real Estate as Possible?
We’ll go into depth on how to compete for each of these placements in future articles in this series. In the meantime, below we’ve provided an explanation of each result type and suggested the first setup step as an action item to tackle before the next article drops.
Many queries produce search ads in addition to organic results. Ads are displayed competitively based on a variety of factors, including search context, bid amount, ad quality, and more.
Action Item: The first step in getting started with search ads is to create a Google Ads account.
Map Location Spots
If your business has one or more physical locations, creating a business profile with Google will help people searching in your geographic area find your closest location.
Action Item: Create a Google Business profile.
By creating content that provides the information, answer, product, or service that your target customer is looking for online, you can help your website climb to the top of search results.
Action Item: Conduct keyword research to determine how customers and prospects are looking for your services or products online. If you have created a Google Ads account, you can use the Keyword Planner tool to carry out this research.
In addition to the SERP opportunities outlined above, there may be other ways to appear on the first page of results, depending on your product or service offerings.
- Featured Snippet – Featured snippets are excerpts of text that appear at the very top of the results page in the answer box or position zero, along with a link to the full result. If you can get your page into the answer box, you’ll win a significant portion of the traffic for that search term.
- People Also Ask – These are questions related to your search term that people commonly search for on Google. For each of these questions, clicking the dropdown carrot next to it displays the corresponding answer box result and link. So, if you can snag position zero for a set of related keywords, all roads lead back to your website.
- Popular Products – For search queries that indicate an interest in purchasing a product, search engines may display popular product results on the first page. To appear here, start by visiting Google Merchant Center.
- Videos – For some queries, SERPs will display a few relevant video results in the middle of the organic listings.
Next in this series, we’ll be diving into strategy and considerations for appearing in each of these placements. In the meantime, tackle the Action Items suggested above, check out our blog for more digital strategy tips, or learn about our search engine optimization services.