Why Search Engine Visibility Matters

In a previous article, I talked about the fact that local consumers Internet usage can no longer be ignored and established that most consumers now use the Internet to search for local products and services as opposed traditional sources such as the physical Yellow Pages.

In this article, we’ll be discussing why search engine visibility matters and how to increase your website visibility within the search engines, including search engine optimization.

Let’s begin with a couple of search engine use statistics:

  • Surveys show that 85% of Internet users find websites through search engines
  • 98% of people searching for something online never go past the first page of search results

This just further illustrates how crucial search engine visibility is for you as a business owner when it comes to connecting with your local customers.

Since most people nowadays will go immediately to online search engines to find local businesses and service providers — for example, restaurants, repair companies, lawyers, chiropractors, plumbers, etc. — it stands to reason that increasing your search engine visibility ought to be one of your marketing priorities.

How Search Engines Work

The three largest search engines in the world are Google, Yahoo and Bing. Google is the largest, with over 250 million searches for products and services performed per day on Google alone.

Since you are reading this article online, I assume you have used a search yourself and understand the basics. However, let’s cover off the search engine basics anyway. If you want to find something online, here are the steps

  • You go to your favorite search engine and enter a few words into the search box to describe what you’re looking for … let’s say plumbing repair Winnipeg.
  • The search phrase you enter consists of what are commonly referred to as your keywords.
  • The search engine returns and display search results based on the keywords you entered.
  • You scan the list of search results and decide which result you want to click on in order to be taken to that web page.
  • Sometimes, you may choose to view the next page of search results or, if you aren’t seeing what you are really looking for at all, you may enter a new set of keywords or search phrase.

Understanding Search Engine Visibility

Now, let’s switch hats and put yourself in the position of being the local business owner who wants to show up in those search results for that search phrase. As you no doubt know, the higher your website ranks on the list of search results, the more people will click on your link, and the more traffic and attention your business and your website receive. So it goes without saying that you would like to have your business show up on the first page of search results, ideally at number one.

It’s important to understand that there are generally three different types of search results that are displayed on the search results page displayed back to you when you input a search:

  • Sponsored or Pay-Per-Click Advertisement Results – These are typically the first 3 listings on your search results page at the top of the page and another set of listings in the right side bar. These listings are paid, normally on a cost per click basis, meaning your pay each time someone clicks on the advertising listing.
  • Local Business Results – Each of the major search engines offers a local business directory and the top results from the local directory are included on the search results page when appropriate for the keywords used. Inclusion in the local business directory is free.
  • Organic Search Results – The web pages that the search engine determines to be the best match for the search phrase used are also listed, ten to a page. These organic search listings are also free, and highly coveted … which is why search engine optimization is such a sought after skill or service.

On average, organic search and local business results receive approximately 85% of all clicks, with paid advertising responsible for the remaining 15%.

Your goal as a business owner should be to continuously improve your search engine visibility for the keywords and search phrases that make most sense for your business. Since 85% of search engine generated traffic comes from organic search results, that’s where your long-term focus ought to be … and it includes adding new content, onsite and offsite, that is optimized for specific search phrases that you want to rank for.

Paid advertising also has a place in your online marketing strategy, particularly where there is lots of search engine competition. The advantage of pay per click advertising is that it can be tweaked on the fly to provide immediate term impact.

The key thing to remember when it comes to search engine visibility is that you want to appear on page one of the search results because 98% of consumers don’t go past the first page when doing searches. And you want to appear on page one for as many relevant keywords as possible.

That leads to a logical next question …

How Do You Improve Your Search Engine Visibility?

I’m going to set pay per click advertising aside in answering this question. Since there’s 3 types of search result listings that appear on a search results page, and we’ve disqualified one of them, that only leaves two areas to focus on:

  • Improve your organic search results
  • Improve your local business directory listing results

These may seem obvious, but you’d be astounded how often the point is missed. 🙂

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

In my experience, search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t well understood by most business owners … and in fact, it’s a topic that tends to scare them. Do you fall into that category?

Simply put, search engine optimization is the process by which you increase the visibility of your website or a particular web page for a given set of keywords. The higher your website or page appears on the search results listing page, and the number of different times you appear on the same search results page, the more times people will click through to your website. There are a range of SEO techniques that can be applied and a well thought out search engine strategy considers how the search engines work, what people are searching for, the actual search phrases and keywords used, and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience.

If you’re like a lot of business owners, your temptation may be to shy away from SEO because it feels like some huge monster that’s going to eat you alive. However, in reality search engine optimization is something that can help you generate significantly more leads, more customers, and more sales — often at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising methods.

I’m going to save an in dept discussion about search engine optimization for another article, but you should know that it includes both on-site optimization and off-site optimization techniques.

On-site optimization should include the keywords that your business would like to rank for as well as a few other key components. Keyword research is a critical part of the SEO process because the keywords you target mean everything. When you get it right, you can see very significant results. On the other hand, when you get it wrong, it becomes a waste of time, energy and money.

Off-site optimization is focused on getting relevant backlinks to your website and establishing an authoritative presence across the Internet. This may include articles, press releases, videos, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and more. Each piece of offsite content should contain a link back to your website or specific relevant web page. Over time and in aggregate, your website will rank higher in the search engines while gaining increased online visibility.

While you can try to do SEO yourself, most businesses opt to hire a professional internet marketing consultant or SEO specialist to help achieve faster results.

Local Business Listings

When it comes to local search optimization and increasing your search engine visibility, claiming your local business listings within the search engine directories is the single most overlooked step by most businesses. The listing itself is free.

It is worth your time to claim listings in all three of Google, Yahoo and Bing.

In my experience, most of the local business directory listings that are claimed are poorly optimized and so with a few hours of effort, you can properly optimize your listing so that it begins to rank ahead of others. The benefit is that you now you have immediately created a second potential listing on the search results page, in addition to your website.

Again, as with SEO, it is worth your time to hire a professional internet marketing expert to ensure your listing is properly set up and optimized.

In Summary

Given that you’ve made it to the end of this article, it should be pretty clear to you why search engine visibility matters. When you increase your online visibility, you improve your authority within the search engines, increase your search rankings, increase your website traffic, and build credibility with the online consumer.