SEO is a wild world. It’s confusing. It’s fast. It’s complicated.
And even though SEO has made huge advances, many entrepreneurs are still left with questions about what it is, how it works, what’s changed, and, most importantly, how to make their businesses viable and profitable in 2016.
I’ve structured this article in the form of six questions that entrepreneurs frequently ask about SEO.
This is your SEO survival guide.
1. How important is SEO today?
Short answer: It’s still very important. Give it time and attention, but don’t let it swallow your entire approach to digital marketing.
SEO is only one component of digital marketing. Digital marketing is a big area.
Here’s why digital marketing is such a big area. I define digital marketing as “any form of marketing products or services, which involves electronic devices.”
In today’s digital-driven world, that includes at least seven major categories:
- Search engine optimization
- Search engine marketing
- Content marketing
- Social media marketing
- Pay-per-click advertising
- Affiliate marketing
- Email marketing
There are, obviously, several ways to divide it up.
The point is this. SEO is but one part of a big family of digital methods. SEO fits in the big picture.
2. What are the biggest mistakes that entrepreneurs make regarding SEO?
Short answer: Thinking that SEO doesn’t matter, and thinking that SEO can be solved with a magic bullet.
There are two major mistakes, one on each end of the spectrum — the doesn’t-matter end of the spectrum, and the secret-sauce end of the spectrum.
Big mistake #1: Many entrepreneurs ignore SEO.
These entrepreneurs know about digital marketing. In their minds, SEO has evolved to the point that it basically takes care of itself automatically.
This is a dangerous mistake. To ignore SEO is to open your website to the perils of unoptimization and a flawed digital strategy.
Big mistake #2: Many entrepreneurs think that SEO is a magic bullet that will solve all growth problems, produce first-result rankings instantly, and provide massive visibility and market domination.
These people have too much trust in the power of SEO. Most of the time, this mistake stems from a lack of awareness with how SEO has changed over the years.
There was a time when it was true. SEO was the magic bullet that could blast a business to the top of the search results, dominating the industry and owning the niche.
All the entrepreneur had to do was hand over the keys of his website to an SEO professional wearing a black hat, and boom — the magic happened!
3. What’s the main thing I need to know about SEO?
Short answer: Have a user optimized website, and start producing lots of high-quality content.
The core of SEO is user experience. This may come as a surprise to some, thinking that SEO is a medley of technical tactics, under-the-hood hacks, and a few well-placed backlinks.
SEO might include these strategies, but at the core, SEO is about delivering an optimized experience to the user.
If someone wants to “optimize their website,” I will immediately tell them to optimize it for the user. In other words, you should look at SEO as a form of user experience.
What is user experience? Basically, it’s a user’s broad interaction with a digital interface.
Defined in the web context, user experience includes things like content, information, interface, functions, and even colors and layout.
If there’s one thing that you should know about SEO, it’s this — make a really, really good website for your user. Make it look good, work great, and provide all the value and accessibility that your user needs.
4. What is the single most important thing I should be doing to improve my site’s SEO?
Short answer: Produce high-quality content.
There are a lot of things that you could be doing. But there are only so many hours in the day, dollars in the budget, and things you want to do or research yourself.
What should you focus on?
Here’s where I’m going to push you into content marketing.
Not only does SEO overlap with user experience in a big way, but it also overlaps with content marketing in a big way. Some SEOs, as a matter of fact, fail to see any substantive difference between SEO and content marketing. In their minds, today’s SEO is content marketing.
5. What are some of the biggest changes in SEO?
Short answer: The primacy of mobile, and the importance of high-quality content marketing.
One major challenge that entrepreneurs face is their lack of information about how SEO has changed and what that means for them and their business.
Some entrepreneurs know about the algorithm changes that wrecked businesses, banished websites to the penalty box, and surprised webmasters with a drop in traffic.
Is that kind of thing going on? Is there still a risk of getting hit with a search penalty?
What I really want to say is don’t worry about it, you’re okay, everything will be all right, just chill out.
But I can only say that if you’re not pulling out the old school tactics of link wheels, keyword stuffing, and indiscriminate link building
Don’t do the dirty stuff — the techniques that SEOs call “black hat SEO” — and you’ll be okay.
We’re now in the era of mobile first optimization. Social networks are driven by mobile usage. Shopping is a mobile activity. Therefore, SEO should keep in mind the importance of mobile.
The second major shift is the content marketing angle. SEO seems nearly swallowed up by content marketing.
It was a long time ago that Bill Gates wrote “content is king,” and not much has changed.
In the world of SEO, that’s certainly the case. Content is king, and you won’t have a successful SEO strategy unless you are focusing on creating and improving your content.
6. Should I hire an SEO?
Short answer: It depends.
Maybe now you’re wondering, “Okay, but should I hire an SEO for my business?”
If you have digital marketing experts already on your staff, they may be able to point to the right direction in digital marketing. If you are a solopreneur with limited time to spend on SEO and marketing, it would be worth your while to hire an SEO consultant or an agency to perform a full audit and/or optimization.
Many great digital agencies have chosen not to hire a search engine optimization specialist.
They ensure that they have the right foundation — technical SEO. Then, they focus their efforts on creating high-quality content.
If you hire an SEO, make sure that they do something besides simply optimizing your robots.txt and title tags. They should be able to provide value in SEO strategy (keyword research/focus), content marketing strategy, and off-page SEO methods and process.
Entrepreneurs still can’t ignore SEO. It’s important to the health and success of your business.
In spite of its vastness and complexity, you can handle SEO. Although it has some technical aspects, it’s gotten a lot easier to control than it was a few years ago.
Once you wrap your mind around where SEO is today and what you need to do, your business will begin to take off.
Are you an entrepreneur? What’s your experience with SEO — what is important to know, and what do you not need to worry about?