Does Your Business Really Need SEO?

09/06/2016 10:20 am ET Updated Sep 07, 2017

Not so long ago, SEO was just a cool buzzword used by people in-the-know. If you could figure out a neat little SEO trick, you'd be able to push yourself ahead of the competition and grow your business at an exponential pace.

But now, everybody and their dog seem to be doing SEO. Is it even worth it? With so much competition, can you still get an edge?

What is SEO?
Before we can answer this question, we need to understand what SEO is. SEO stands for search engine optimization. Every day people use Google to find information. Most of the time, they click on one of the first three results that come up.

How does Google know which sites should be ranked first? They have an algorithm that attempts to understand what the websites are about, and how popular they are. SEO is essentially optimizing your website so that Google can understand it, with the goal of promoting your business to show up when consumers search for the products or services that you offer.

What Factors Determine Your Rankings?
While there are hundreds of different factors that can affect your rankings, the two most important ones are content and links.

Your content needs to be phrased correctly so that you rank for the correct search terms. For example, let's say that you own an Italian restaurant. You have the best spaghetti in the whole city, but only your existing clients know about it. If your page is called "Leo's Italian Food: The Best Pasta in The City," you might think that it's clear you have spaghetti. However, Google is not that smart. Unless you actually use the word "spaghetti" on your website, Google has no idea that you serve it. A good SEO agency will take the time to find out what users are searching for on Google, and make sure that your website is phrased appropriately.

Content tells Google what your website is about. But we still need to show them that your site is popular. Remember, Google wants to put the best website first. How do they know which one is the best? By the number of pages, that link to your site! Let's say that your spaghetti restraint is really taking off. Food bloggers are posting a review of your delicious meals, and including a link back to your restaurant's website. Local tourism agencies are posting a link. Maybe even the local newspaper puts a story about your business online. Google thinks "hey, this restaurant is getting a lot of attention. We better make sure people can find them when they search for a good spaghetti restaurant online".

An SEO agency will make sure that your website is listed online everywhere they can. They'll reach out to blogs and see if they are interested in writing a feature about your business. They'll get you listed in local restaurant directories. There are hundreds of different ways to build links, and these strategies will change for each different client.

Do I Really Need to do SEO?
Many businesses might be doing fairly well without any SEO work. They might think "Hey, this is working for me. SEO must be an unnecessary marketing expense." The simple fact is that functioning businesses are the perfect candidate for SEO. You already know that your pricing works, and you know that customers like your product. SEO is only effective if you already have a functioning business.

"You can get more traffic, more phone calls from potential clients, more sales... whatever you're trying to do, digital marketing can help you do more of it. But digital marketing isn't what's making you money. You need to have a profitable foundation with a quality product or service to build off of - once that is in place, more eyeballs on your brand through digital marketing efforts means an uptick in revenue and brand recognition for you." according to MezzoLogic.

But the problem is that SEO is no longer a marketing technique used by a few savvy companies. SEO is now the industry standard for any business with an online presence. Ignoring SEO means that you're falling behind. If you don't focus on promoting your business online, it won't be long before one of your competitors pushes you out of the way.