It feels like just yesterday that everyone was talking about how 2020 should be spent focused on exciting things like automation, industry events, and analyzing the competition. Then the coronavirus swept onto the scene, and the world shut down nearly overnight. Throughout all of the mayhem, traditional business planning was left by the wayside in most areas with one important exception: e-commerce. With everyone quarantined at home, the online marketplace became an essential part of many companies’ survival in the midst of the crisis.
As businesses great and small attempted to find their way online, a new emphasis began to build around one of the most important digital marketing strategies in existence: search engine optimization or, as it’s commonly referred to, SEO.
A Brief History
In order to understand the current importance of SEO, it’s worth backing up a bit. The Internet has been around for decades, ever since it found its genesis in the 1960s as a concept being developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. From these beginnings, the interconnected network of computers grew into a global phenomenon that was most commonly accessed via the World Wide Web. As the importance of the Internet grew, more and more information became available, and it became necessary to find a way to organize and search for specific items.
Throughout the 1990s several early versions of search engines began to be developed, such as the Archie, Gopher, and Wandex engines. The arrival of these search engines created a natural response for businesses to exploit this new digital superpower in order to do what they do best: create revenue. As early e-commerce pioneers began to sell things online, they studied how the search engines worked and began tailoring their efforts in response.
While the entire evolution is far too complex to lay out in detail, the point is, SEO was largely born as a reaction to the birth of these search engines. Initially, the entire SEO industry felt a bit like the Wild West as savvy folks took advantage of any and every weak point in the search engine algorithms to help their own content rank higher in search engine results.
Eventually, Google began to push the SEO community toward following their guidelines. This began a long-running series of events where SEO would be altered just enough for a site’s pages to rank, and then Google would update the guidelines yet again, pushing everyone once more to react. The details could fill up thousands of words, but this leapfrogging activity has defined the basic behavior of the entire SEO world, right down to the current time.
Why SEO Is More Important Than Ever
Of course, the question still stands: Why is SEO more important than ever right now? Small-and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) don’t have the capital of larger companies to funnel into a massive online marketing budget. So why should they allocate their precious marketing cash towards optimizing their content rather than spending it on pay per click ads or social media campaigns?
The emphasis doesn’t come from SEO itself, nor the search engines or even the internet. It’s because of the e-commerce marketplace. Never have so many companies simultaneously committed to conducting business online. The sheer busyness of the e-commerce industry at the moment has made SEO an essential part of any company’s marketing strategy.
To put it another way, if you want to be found online, you need SEO to help boost you above the competition.
What can you do to improve your SEO? The world of search engine optimization is incredibly vast and can feel very overwhelming. Fortunately, there are some basic SEO tips that can quickly and easily help the search engines better understand your online content and, consequently, give your site a huge boost in the search engine rankings:
Include links: Google loves quality links. Make sure to embed hyperlinks into your text that point to other pages on your site (internal links) as well as other quality websites (external links), especially those with reputable domains such as .edu or .gov.
- Incorporate keywords: There are many free keyword tools available, and you can even type in a search term and look at Google’s “Searches related to search” suggestions at the bottom of the search engine results page. Integrating these terms into your content can help Google better understand what you’re offering.
- Use headings: Whenever possible, use H2 and H3 headers to break up your content. This will make it more readable and also give you a chance to include keywords in your headers where they can have a greater impact.
- Always stay user-friendly: It’s easy to get lost in the weeds with SEO. However, as you incorporate things like links and keywords into your content, make sure that the content itself still remains of the highest quality for your readers. Always prioritize the readers first and the search engines second. This isn’t just a nice idea, it can also boost things like your site’s dwell time, backlinks, and overall traffic, all of which help your SEO.
- Be mobile-friendly: Mobile-friendly sites are absolutely critical at this point. Use a responsive web design to ensure that your site can be read on any device.
As you invest in your initial SEO efforts, make sure to set up a tool like Google Analytics and set goals in order to ensure that you’re making a difference in your site’s traffic, sales, and overall success.
Don’t Neglect SEO
There are numerous things that must be attended to when setting up an e-commerce operation. However, the importance of your site’s SEO can’t be allowed to slip through the cracks throughout all of the bustle.
Good SEO is an absolutely essential step in being heard online, and with so many companies rushing into the e-commerce space, it’s unlikely that its importance will diminish any time soon.
By: Indiana Lee, Digital Ink contributor