Search engine optimization, or SEO, is vital for small and medium-sized businesses looking to thrive online. SEO is the practice of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing your website’s visibility to search engines.
And when people consider SEO, they usually have one search engine in particular in mind. The search engine giant Google controls nearly 75 percent of all searches on desktop and laptops, and over 90 percent of all searches on mobile. One company has become the overwhelmingly dominant means of getting found on the web, so getting found means playing by their rules.
Being invisible to Google means being invisible to most users searching who might be searching for your product or business. How, then, do you get found? How do you play their game?
Basics of link building
There are several components to SEO, but at its core, SEO is about getting reputable websites to link to yours. This is called “link building.” So, what is link building in SEO?
The link building company Link Graph frames it like this: “Picture your website like a resume for your business, and links from other sites like references. The better your references, the more likely search engines are to think your site is worth promoting in organic search.” In other words, link building is filling out your site’s resume with reputable references.
Google has built a sophisticated (and very successful) business working out the relevance of a website on the anarchy of the internet to a user’s search term. To collect data on various websites, Google sends out automated programs called “spiders” which find websites, read through the web page, and develop a profile based on what they find. This profile includes data on which other web pages are linking back to that initial web page.
When it gets this profile data, Google then matches the indexed page with its large database of keywords, and ranks the result with an algorithm called PageRank. Among the factors that PageRank takes into account when ranking a webpage are the length of time the web page has existed for, the number of web pages that link to that webpage, and metadata in that page’s code.
Additionally, if a page with a high PageRank score links to a page with a low score, the second page’s score will go up. Link building optimizes your webpage by taking advantage of the PageRank algorithm. When it sees that your lower-ranked webpage has highly-ranked web pages linking to it, it pushes you a little higher in the search results.
How to use link building
What, then, can link building do for your business? Like many marketing techniques, SEO can seem a little difficult to quantify. The fact is that there are easy ways to quantify the return on investment of an SEO campaign. There are standard techniques, like tracking month-over-month webpage visits or quarterly sales data — by what percentage did visits and conversions go up before and after the SEO campaign?
Beyond these standard means of tracking campaign returns, there are a bevy of tools that offer you more granular insights into the success of an SEO campaign. Search Engine Journal has a process to calculating ROI for a campaign: they suggest setting up Google Analytics to track for ecommerce businesses and conversion tracking for lead-based businesses. They also suggest quantifying every lead your website lands you with a dollar value.
How do you do that? When your leads become conversions, divide the total dollar value of your conversions by your total number of leads to determine the value of each lead. Once each lead has a dollar value, you can then determine the return of an SEO campaign by multiplying each lead it generates by that dollar value.
Techniques like this not only help you know what your money is buying (and where it’s coming from), but they also allow you to leverage your knowledge and know-how towards success.