The truth is, if you’re selling something—anything—and have an online presence, your business needs an SEO strategy. In fact, it’s the cheapest and most scalable way of getting people to your website. But why is this true? We spoke with Garit Boothe and Bryan Driscoll, two SEO experts whose work we admire, to explain it more precisely.
At its core, SEO is among the most sophisticated types of marketing—and it can have the most profound influence—because most consumers don't know it exists and can’t identify it as a marketing tactic. “People are generally more open to being influenced when they don't think that they're being sold to,” says Boothe. “So when someone clicks on your website from a Google search, they think that they found you! They don't know that you put considerable effort and resources to show up there.” And even if the person searching for your products has heard about SEO and understands the concept in the abstract, they’re probably not actively thinking about your company’s SEO strategy while they’re seeking out a new dog bed or CBD oil.
“SEO is the component of online marketing that’s like owning a house,” Driscoll says. “Yes, it’s really slow to rank and grow traffic, but once you rank with SEO, you get effectively free traffic. When you put money into Google pay-per-click or Facebook paid ads, you immediately get traffic and sales, but once you pull your money away, your traffic is back to zero. With SEO, on the other hand, you sow those rankings, then reap the benefits forever. Generally, you’ll want a blend of strategies, but you shouldn’t ignore SEO.”
Think of it this way: if you had a business based on foot traffic, you’d want to be located on the main street, not a side alley. And it’s really the same thing online. “Sometimes marketers and business owners wonder how many resources should go into SEO vs. social media or paid advertising,” Boothe says. “According to 2019 data from internet metrics company Jumpshot, 66% of all website referral traffic comes from Google, whereas Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon all provide 5% of referral traffic or less. So if you want to tap into the internet's overwhelmingly largest source of traffic, you need to have an SEO strategy in place for your business.”
“The amount of branded search traffic your website receives quantifies how much your current and potential customers are thinking about you,” Boothe says. In other words, SEO can help you think about some important metrics to look at, like how many times per month do people search for your business on Google. Is that number growing? Is it steady, or does it fluctuate?
A lot of eCommerce companies make mistakes in their meta descriptions. You know what meta descriptions are even if you don’t recognize the term: they’re the little snippets of text that show up under a page’s title on your Google search results. “Mistakes with meta descriptions are common,” Driscoll says. “For instance, a page will have stock descriptions that say, ‘Home—[Brand Name],’ then they’ll pull just a little bit of generic content from their homepage. To start with, that’s not going to rank very well, but more importantly, you’ll get a low click-through rate because the description doesn’t actually explain anything about what the page is.” A better strategy? Creating SEO-friendly meta descriptions that people can read and understand, and that can drive them to click through to your site.
6. Passive income is everyone’s favorite kind of income.
As anyone reading this knows all too well, most types of marketing require a lot of work to maintain—but that’s not true when it comes to SEO. “Once your website is ranking for desirable keywords, very little maintenance is required to keep that traffic flowing,” Boothe says. “That’s why private equity companies and small family investment firms are increasingly interested in SEO-heavy websites to add to their portfolio of assets. Passive income is real through SEO.”