These days, every business has a website. From prestigious law firms to local plumbers, business owners benefit from increasing their online presence and improving their brand image. That takes more than just excellent web design skills, though. It also requires an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
The term SEO refers to the process of improving individual pages' rankings in search engines like Google. When people search for keywords related to the business, search engine algorithms attempt to return results according to their relevance and authority. This may sound simple, but there are hundreds of ranking factors that impact how far up on the search engine results page (SERP) a site is displayed.
Google has never released an official list of its ranking factors, which change all the time. There are, however, some factors that have been well-established as having a significant impact on SERP rankings, and it's those areas that SEO experts focus on.
The fact that there is no official list of Google ranking factors doesn't mean that SEO agencies are flying blind. Through a combination of experimentation, patent searches, and general common sense, it has been possible for industry experts to get a good idea of what Google's algorithms prioritize when it comes to user experience. As of 2022, the most important examples include:
The quality of the writing, images, and other content found on a website and its blog is crucial to determining SERP rankings. While it used to be the case that simply having the right keywords in the right quantities was enough, Google's algorithms have become more sophisticated in recent years. Now, it's clear that content must be helpful and authoritative as well as relevant. If articles, videos, and infographics aren't appealing enough to users to keep them on the page, they won't make it look good to Google, either.
As of 2021, Google has fully implemented its new mobile-first indexing policy. What that means is that its search algorithm indexes and ranks content from mobile versions of websites. Site owners need to make each page mobile-friendly and ensure that its content is identical to the desktop version if they want to improve rankings.
Inside the SEO industry, on-page experience is referred to as user experience or UX, and it has an ever-increasing impact on page rankings. The good news here is that while some SEO ranking factors can't be 100% controlled, business owners can always have their websites optimized for improved UX. That might mean revising site architecture, switching to a more secure HTTPS website, or increasing focus on Core Web Vitals.
Load speeds can be considered an on-page ranking factor. However, they're important enough to merit separate consideration. Slow page speeds increase bounce rates, reducing the amount of time that users spend on sites. Faster-loading pages, on the other hand, improve UX and increase a website's chances of ranking on the first page of search engine results.
Link-building has long been accepted as one of the keys to successful SEO. What the average business owner may not realize is that there are three different types of links, each of which must be optimized.
All three of these types of links must be tied to descriptive anchor text for maximum effect.
Technical SEO requires at least some knowledge of coding because it deals with the behind-the-scenes aspects of site optimization. Technical SEO professionals optimize factors such as:
It can be difficult for local or newly established businesses to compete with large franchises and corporations on a national scale. The good news is that there's usually no need to try. Most local businesses draw the majority of their customers or clients from the immediate area surrounding their storefronts, which makes local Chicago SEO a very effective tool.
Local SEO involves creating targeted content that will appeal specifically to users in Chicago, or even in one neighborhood of the city. An effective local SEO strategy also requires optimizing companies' Google My Business pages, submitting information to local directories, and creating location-specific service pages.
Some business owners assume that because there's so much information out there about how to get started optimizing websites, creating content, and increasing visibility, that means they may as well try to handle SEO themselves to save a few bucks. Unfortunately, what these well-meaning and budget-conscious business owners don't realize is that it takes a good deal of training and expertise to master the art of search engine optimization.
Think about it like this: a business can succeed or fail on the basis of its owner's knowledge and acumen, and it can take years for entrepreneurs to master the skills required to get new companies off the ground. SEO is no different. It requires specialized knowledge, expertise, and dedication to keeping up with constantly changing industry practices and standards. An SEO expert wouldn't just pick up a hammer, buy some nails, and try to build a house, so why would a home builder be able to tackle search engine optimization alone?
Now that it's clear why business owners need professional help, it's time to consider what makes an SEO agency stand out. The first thing to realize is that the answer to this question may not be the same for every business, so don't take claims of superiority across the board at face value. It's better to work with a firm that has teams capable of providing industry-specific services and offers many options at a variety of budget levels.
Business owners should also keep in mind that the firms that offer the lowest prices may not provide the greatest value. It makes far more sense to partner with a professional company that offers competitive pricing for high-quality services than it does to try to cut corners by working with amateurs. The risks extend beyond simple poor quality of service and inadequate results. Budget SEO companies may employ black-hat link-building practices, create low-quality content that reflects poorly on the business, and otherwise damage their clients' online reputations.
To find a company that offers competitive prices for services that provide a high return on investment, look for:
Industry professionals should be willing and able to answer questions before onboarding new clients, as well. They begin by getting a clear idea of business owners' goals, then recommend effective means of achieving them.
Just as every business is a little different, so is every SEO strategy. When new clients reach out for help, the process always begins with a full evaluation of the company's unique needs. From there, SEO experts can perform a comprehensive audit to determine the current site's effectiveness and find areas that need improvement, then recommend specific services that could help.
Business owners shouldn't expect to see results overnight. Because the goal is to boost organic reach, even the most effective SEO strategies take some time to produce results. Over time, though, the combined efforts of an SEO agency's team of experts will begin to show up in improving metrics and increasing traffic to the site.
While it's true that hiring a professional SEO agency requires something of an investment, it will pay off in the long run. Unlike pay-per-click (PPC) ads, which only generate returns while the campaigns are up and running, effective SEO strategies increase organic reach and help companies rank higher in the SERPs for years to come.
It's relevant to note here, however, that while the bulk of an SEO agency's work involves making initial changes to site architecture, content, metadata, and links, the process of optimizing a website is ongoing. Content must be updated periodically to keep it fresh and relevant, and changes may be required periodically to keep up with updates to Google's algorithm and ranking factors. Working with a company that provides not just initial consultation services but also ongoing help with keeping everything up-to-date will allow business owners to get the most out of their new partnerships.
Interested in learning more about Chicago SEO practices or want to discuss strategies for boosting a business's rankings? PosiRank's team of experts is here to help. Schedule a free consultation online or call (240) 547-4736 with any questions.