Author: Kyle Place
Establishing yourself online is often one of the first priorities for a new brand—that’s the easy decision. The much tougher decision usually follows right after: Do you create a website and invest in SEO? Would it be easier to just run paid ads for your site? Or, could you possibly get away with managing your entire online presence through a social media profile?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution because the correct answer depends on your industry, your audience, and your particular business model. Even so, there’s a very good reason why so many brands emphasize SEO as a crucial marketing channel.
Let’s take a look at why SEO is considered to be a must-have and what you need to keep in mind to get the most from your investment in it.
Table of contents:
01. People use search engines to discover niche content
It would not be an understatement to say that search runs the world (almost). This is truer in some industries than others, but most people turn to Google to find a product/service or to do some research before taking action on something else (e.g., looking up business hours or comparing prices).
And, we have a pretty good idea of the level of demand in search for any given topic (based on its search volume—how often a specific term is searched per month). This is true for all types of needs—products/services, brands, news, and anything else.
However, it’s important to remember that search volume is not the end goal. The largest search volumes are almost always ambiguous with an unclear intent. As the clarity of the search improves, the search volume almost always decreases. To illustrate this concept, here are some keywords and their corresponding search volumes:
Monthly search volume
Low: What is this person actually looking for?
Medium: Now we know they are looking for a website, but for what? To shop? To build one? For inspiration?
eCommerce website builder
High: Now it’s clear what this searcher is looking for: platforms they can use to build an eCommerce website.
This concept also applies to in-person businesses as well: Many local companies want to rank high in search results for the service(s) they provide plus their location (i.e., neighborhood, city, county). This is because the value and relevance from those searches (and more importantly, who those searches are coming from) is greater, even though the search volume is less.
Here’s an example for local SEO:
Monthly search volume
Low: Roofing companies (and the needs of the people searching for them) vary by location. This means that someone searching this term in Anchorage, Alaska, will likely see different results than someone searching from Miami, Florida.
Roofing company Miami
High: Search volume of “only” 720, but is much more relevant for roofing companies in the Miami area.
In addition to ensuring your own website appears in search results, it’s important to create and optimize other business profiles across the internet. This can include (but is not limited to):
When people search, they look at all types of results, so make sure your brand is in as many of them as possible to help establish your site’s online visibility.
02. Users expect high quality content that builds trust
Content oversaturation in the search results is one of the biggest issues facing internet users today. The impact is twofold:
Users grow increasingly more efficient at filtering out low-quality content.
Going the extra mile to create high quality content allows you to stand out and build trust.
The quality of your content includes (but isn’t limited to) its grammar, structure, format, and the level of expertise behind it. It could also mean creating content for every stage of the customer journey.
Most searches online begin with research. Let’s say you have a plumbing related issue at home but aren’t sure where to start with fixing it. You think you might need a plumber, but you’re not sure.
This might be a potential user search journey for this situation:
How to fix a running toilet
How much does it cost to fix a toilet
Best plumbers in Miami
A plumbing company could have an instructional video in the search results, transparent prices and costs for your work, and then testimonials or reviews on your site (or a third-party site like Yelp) that show up when your target customer is in the final stage of their journey.
Imagine the positive impact for a brand if—for each query (search term) and stage of the customer journey—they had a comprehensive piece of content that satisfied the user’s intent. The brand would be able to prove again and again that they’re trustworthy, know what they’re talking about, and are worth doing business with.
Content has the ability to shape your customer journey and to help capture their interest, trust, and business. Investing in high quality content is good for your audience and your brand, and will help you rank better in search results.
03. SEO helps your content reach new audiences
Owning your own website means that you own your own content. This is different from how social media platforms work and it’s worth taking into account when planning your marketing.
What does this mean and why does it matter?
When you rely only on third-party platforms or social media to promote your business, that content is subject to the whims of the platform: Facebook, Instagram, etc. dictate the format and length of your content, the type of content that is permissible, and most importantly, you are relying on the fact that your audience is also on that platform.
Conversely, having a website (that ranks) increases your visibility and allows your content to be shared no matter where your audience is. By pursuing SEO, you make it far easier for the widest possible audience to discover your brand, products/services, blog posts, etc.
To top it all off, the unfortunate truth is that social media platforms don’t last forever (when was the last time you heard someone talking about MySpace or Google+?). When another new one becomes popular, you may have to re-establish yourself on that platform.
While a strong social media strategy can be extremely valuable, the intent and the nature of user interaction is very different. A web page from two years ago can still rank well in Google, but a social media post from two years ago is so far down the timeline that algorithms no longer provide visibility.
04. Online visitors drive offline conversions
There’s a direct relationship between online consumer behavior and offline marketing, which is especially relevant for brick-and-mortar businesses.
Traditional advertising campaigns can influence branded search, brand awareness, and create a buzz around your company. These campaigns can also compel people to go to Google to look for your brand or visit your website directly.
Online growth can lead to offline conversions as well: One of the most obvious examples is with restaurants. Restaurants that follow local SEO best practices can gain more visibility in search and attract more people. This is true for many local businesses—the businesses that show up in search results for kids trampoline park or rock climbing gym are more likely to perform well offline, too.
The bottom line is that users search online for offline products and services.
05. Market research improves your business’s offerings
Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) is a free tool by Google. Site owners must first verify their sites, but after that, a whole world of potential opens up. (Note: Wix site owners can verify their site in seconds with the Wix GSC integration.)
In addition to the vast technical insights that GSC provides, you can learn so much from the Search Performance report.
Here, you can see the number of clicks and impressions to each page of your website. Even better, you can see this information for the exact query that someone searches to get to your site (and which page they landed on).
Here are some tactical insights you can gain from this:
Which service is your most popular service
If you are local, what location people are looking for
What kind of questions people are asking
Device (desktop/mobile) and country data
You can also use GSC to identify areas where you’re missing content. Sometimes, you may see a broad (or even specific) topic that is getting decent impressions but no clicks, despite the associated page barely touching on the topic.
Oftentimes, the best course of action is to create a new piece of content targeting that particular topic to satisfy those searchers.
Google Analytics is another free tool by Google, but it provides a different set of data than GSC. In Google Analytics, you can see pageviews, conversions, bounce rate, and other useful metrics that can help you understand your audience and how they interact with your site so that you may better optimize it.
(Note: Wix users have built-in access to Wix Analytics, which also provides similar data.)
The time on page and bounce rate are especially helpful when learning how well your content satisfies user intent. More advanced site owners can even set up conversion tracking to see where people are converting and help drive traffic to the best converting pages.
06. SEO can include UX (double the benefit)
An often-overlooked benefit of SEO is its contributions to user experience (UX), which is central to optimizing for conversions. UX is one of the most important aspects of web design and SEO contributes greatly to its goals.
Here are a few nearly-universal examples:
Navigation: At the most basic level, a site’s navigation should take SEO into consideration. Based on search and analytics data, you can identify your most popular products/services—these should be easy for users to reach via your site navigation.
Accessibility: SEO and accessibility almost always go hand in hand. Your headers and subheaders, color contrast ratio, alt text, etc. serve a dual purpose—more context for search engines (hopefully leading to improved rankings) and better accessibility for those who need it.
Conversion rate optimization: Properly structured landing pages, blog posts with clear calls to action, and intuitive site structure can come together to help you get the most out of your SEO efforts by making it easy for visitors to transition from searching to browsing to buying.
07. The potential ROI
For most types of websites, the benefits of SEO can far outweigh the investment. This might be expected since SEO is a marketing channel, but SEO is unique when compared to other marketing channels (particularly paid channels).
This is because successful SEO requires you to create content that helps build your authority. This content is then indexed and ranked by Google.
That means one amazing piece of content can generate traffic for months and even years, which means more potential customers without any additional marketing expenses.
Here is a real life example: Moz has consistently ranked in the top three search results (usually position one) for the term keyword research since at least 2015 (eight years at the time of publication).
Perhaps even more important is the fact that each additional piece of relevant content helps further build your authority. Each additional related blog post, article, product page, etc. can actually strengthen pre-existing content on your website and will help indicate your brand’s relevance when you create more content on that topic in the future.
08. You need SEO to stay competitive
No matter how creative, unique, or “outside the box” we sometimes want to be, it’s a mistake to overlook opportunities to market in the same channels as our competitors. This is true in many marketing channels and is certainly true in SEO.
When a potential customer is searching on Google for a product or service (or researching at any level of the funnel), you want to be there. If you aren’t in the search results, your competitors will still be there and they will happily turn your potential customers into their actual customers.
In some aspects, search is a zero-sum game. There is limited real estate on the Google search results, so it is either you or them.
Competing against other brands in the search results can even be useful. Through competitor research, you can discover some amazing content ideas, strategies, formats, and even which specific keywords are driving traffic for your competitors. The goal on top of this should always be to add creativity, uniqueness, and value to your content to really set you apart from the competition.
How to ensure SEO is worth the investment before you get started
If you're willing to put in the time and effort, SEO can be a great way to improve your website's visibility and traffic. However, it's important to remember that it's not a magic bullet—and, if not planned and implemented correctly, you might not see the gains you expected.
01. SEO is cost effective, but you’ll still need resources
While SEO certainly can pay off in the long run, it may not be the best channel for those who need quicker results, like PPC can provide.
The reality is that SEO takes time and securing the resources and people to implement a good SEO strategy can be tricky.
While organic traffic is indeed free, creating content that performs well is not free. You need to weigh out the cost and potential gain. A careful analysis is necessary because (in addition to your own available resources) your competition is another factor to consider.
If optimal effort does not go into it then the optimal results won’t come out of it.
02. Plan ahead for SEO maintenance
SEO provides long-term value—but not infinite value.
While SEO is part of the “long game,” it requires maintenance if you want it to continue to perform for you over time. You need to optimize and tweak content, add internal links, and update your content to stay relevant.
In the example above on Moz ranking for keyword research, the keyword research process has evolved between 2015-2023 and you can bet that the company updated its content to reflect this and offer the maximum value to its readers.
If you can’t plan for ongoing optimizations, content updates, and new content, then (as I said earlier) a competitor that can will overtake you in the search results. New competitors arise all the time and the last thing you want is to be ranking well but let it fall between the cracks and suddenly drop off because someone else created content that’s more relevant.
03. You know your audience
Finally, part of being relevant is knowing what your audience prefers. If your audience doesn’t search for things on search engines, then SEO is probably not the best option.
Sometimes YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Reddit, Quora, Instagram, or one of the other social media platforms or communities might be better for reaching your target audience.
When possible, combine your strategies on those platforms with SEO for brand perception but also to take advantage of rich search result features. For example, Google now shows TikTok and YouTube Shorts directly in search results and Quora has special features to show threads.
Leverage SEO’s endless potential for your brand
Overall, SEO can and should be approached holistically. There are many SEO strategies and ways to take advantage of organic search results, with the ultimate objective always being to grow your business. With this in mind, your goal should always be to create content that satisfies the intent of your audience and provides useful information or solves real problems.
In execution, you’re going to focus on the measurable SEO benefits that align with your business’s KPIs, but it’s important to remember that SEO often accomplishes a greater mission: SEO is not just an acquisition tool, but also a powerful tool for branding and perception as well. Use it to not only tap into existing demand, but also to generate demand specifically for your brand and maximize SEO’s potential for your business.
Kyle Place "E-E-A-Ts," sleeps, and breathes SEO. As an in-house SEO at Wix.com he creates organic growth strategies that satisfy the users (and search engines). Kyle also worked in an agency, helping both local businesses and SaaS companies to expand their online presence.