What is SEO and Why Do I Need It?

Jessa Brestin

Getting traffic for your website used to be easy. There were two methods that worked: You could pay for advertisements that brought people directly to your site (for as long as you kept shelling out cash), or you could use an approach called Search Engine Optimization—better known as SEO. With SEO, customers could enter a keyword relevant to your site into their search engine and your business would pop up in their results (on the first page, hopefully, if you’d implemented your SEO successfully). Because this was such an exceptional way to gain visitors companies were willing to pay quite a bit to have SEO professionals come in and optimize their sites. As for how SEO actually works its magic—it basically comes down to arranging your site’s content in a way that makes it easy for search engines (like Google) to understand.

However, both fortunately and unfortunately, search engines have come a long way in the past few years. SEO firms will still promise to rank your website on page one of Google for certain keywords, but these days there really isn’t a page one of Google for any keyword. What you search is incredibly customized: by your location, search history, context, connections, time of day, and anything else that Google or Bing or Yahoo can come up with that might help them find things that are relevant to you specifically. In other words, everyone has his or her own page one of Google. And on top of that, people in recent years have begun to use exceptionally long and specific keywords. When they’re wondering where to go to get a haircut, they won’t type “haircut”. Usually, their search will look more like “Where can I go to get a good haircut in Kearney Nebraska for under $20?”

In short, SEO isn’t nearly the breadwinner that it used to be. The majority of searches have no exact match. People are unpredictable in what they search. Google is continuing to move towards an infinitely personalized approach to searching. Thus, the structured approach that SEO brings to the table is becoming increasingly ineffective.

So Does SEO Even Matter?

Although SEO is no longer very helpful in getting your website ranked, that doesn’t mean its value has been entirely lost. Keywords are still important for what they were originally designed for—to help Google understand your website and your business, and to help guide it toward bringing you people who want what you have and just don’t know that you have it yet. Keywords help your website get visitors who actually want to be there, and who won’t just turn around and leave. They help you get visitors who have never heard of your company.

That said, the most important thing you can do to get your website noticed is to provide good content. Don’t write your articles based on the keywords you use in your SEO—decide which keywords to use in your SEO based on what you’ve written. Include relevant information, pictures, etc. Make use of social media—Facebook, Twitter, and so on, to support your business and increase traffic on your website. If you truly want your website to succeed, remember that the most important aspect of running a website is quality and activity. SEO can be helpful, but it can only do so much.

Where Do I Start?

If you’re interested in learning more about how to improve your website’s SEO, or if you’re curious about how your website is faring SEO-wise, download our Get SEO Fit guide.

See also: How to Know If Your Website Is Getting Traffic