There are a billion articles and blogs on search engine optimization, but most of them target webmasters, digital marketers and technology people. I struggled with whether or not I should write yet another article on SEO – especially since it’s not my specialty – but decided to when I found that most articles explained how to do SEO, and didn’t explain what SEO is, and why a CEO should care. That IS my specialty.
There are a lot of terms and parts to SEO today. Each of these has it’s own specific definition, but from a CEO perspective they can all be lumped together. I look at it from a personal computer point of view. A personal computer has a processor, memory, hard drive, graphics engine, keyboard, mouse, screen, etc. – but who cares? All a CEO cares about is that it’s a PC and that it runs the applications he or she needs.
SEO is kind of the same. There are a lot of terms thrown about. There’s search engine marketing (SEM), Pay Per Click (PPC), Content Marketing, Link Building, Social Media, Conversion Optimization, Authorship, A/B Testing and more – but they really all are methods and parts of search engine optimization, and they are all focused, eventually, on maximizing what your website does for your company.
My First Introduction to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
When I owned my last company I had an awesome marketing manager. A Brit by the name of Gavin Cooper. He’s working at another company in the region now and they are lucky to have him.
Anyway, we were a fairly good sized technology company. It was 2008 or 2009 so Google had been around for a while, but almost 100% of our business was acquired using our direct sales force, partners, government contracts, reputation and word of mouth. Who cared about the Internet? We connected people to it. We secured it. We transmitted information over it. But use it for serious marketing and lead generation? People just wanted to check out your website once they were introduced to you, not find you using it.
At the end of an email he sent me about our marketing plans, he included this:
PS In addition if you do regularly visit message boards, forums and blogs I encourage you to comment and to post links to our website and blog as part of your signature. Doing this will help us boost traffic and Increase our a search engine ranking position (SERP) (A large part of SEO is still the number of links you have coming into a site.)
SERP what? SEO what? Who the hell cares??
I ignored his request because I didn’t understand the process. More importantly, I didn’t understand what I would get out of the investment of time and money. Boy was that a mistake.
So What is SEO Really?
I had an awesome opportunity to work for a great company – Internet Marketing Ninjas – that focused on the nitty gritty of digital marketing for big names you would recognize. These guys were one of the leading companies in the country and maybe even the world. Its 100 employees would work daily to increase traffic to your website, and then get that traffic to convert into sales. And that’s what SEO is really all about.
The CEO of IMN – Jim Boykin – gave me an awesome and short description that made SEO completely clear to me, and I’ll share it with you. Here’s what he said.
You have a website today. It might have 10-15 pages. Internet users might go onto Google and type in 10 or 20 different phrases and your site will show up in the results. Maybe it will show up on page 5 of the Google results. Maybe it will show up on page 105.
Why does this matter? Because according to Chitika, a marketing consultant, 61% of all clicks in a Google search go to the top three results. If you expand this to the first page – the first ten results – the number of clicks goes to 91%!
If you don’t show up on page one of Google, you have only a 9% chance of being clicked on.
If you’re past page two, the opportunity to get clicked is absolutely miniscule.
Search Engine Optimization does two things (three, sort of).
First, it radically increases the number of search terms that people can type in to find your website.
Second, it pushes as many of these search terms onto the first page as possible.
The third part of this isn’t really SEO, but it’s just as important and should be invested into at the same time – and that’s modifying your website to make a clear path to encouraging visitors to do something there – buy a product, fill out an information request form, etc. This is called conversion optimization.
You can actually find out how your website looks from a search engine perspective by going to SemRush. I find the information so fascinating that I bought a subscription, but they’ll tell you a lot for free. Most sites that have never done any SEO will have a lot of “Nothing Found” messages in each section – and that’s bad.
So why should a CEO care?
Because the more traffic that comes to your site, and the more your site is optimized to push people in the right direction, the more leads or sales that come in. This translates into dollars, plain and simple. And unlike a direct sales force, your website is working for you 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.
Does it work? Absolutely and unequivocally. At a certain firm I was deeply involved with, they ranked in the top three Google search result positions for some very “competitive” terms and, as a result, would receive 30-40 qualified leads per day for their $5k-$10k/month services. It was absolutely amazing.
And sales is just about numbers. The more leads you get, the more calls you do, the more proposals you put out there, the more deals you close, the more cash you get.
My company doesn’t focus on SEO, but we definitely incorporate it into the tactical growth plans of companies we’re working with and we bring in the right resources to make it happen. That’s why I figure this primer should be helpful – because you first need to understand the underpinnings of SEO before you can commit to investing in it.
I’m thinking about writing up some basic information on the kinds of investments you need to make in order to do SEO right. This includes content, pay-per-click, links, social media and other areas. If you have an interest in hearing more, please comment on this post.
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