The Internet has become engrained into our daily lives. Whether you are using it to check your email, update your social media account, read news articles, or just browse the web, the Internet facilitates almost every aspect of modern life. When you search for something, you will receive the most relevant answers thanks to complex algorithms. Even though it may seem like a simple search query to you, businesses put in a lot of work to ensure that you will find their website as opposed to a competitors through a process called SEO.
SEO stands for search engine optimization and the implementation of SEO controls how well a website ranks in search engines like Google and Yahoo. SEO is a complex practice, which can place you at the top of search results for given keywords in a search engine. Businesses can utilize certain SEO best practices to increase the visibility of their website, usually broken up into Onsite and Offsite practices. Studies have shown that SEO can have a better ROI than traditional forms of marketing such as TV and print ads. Onsite SEO can involve optimizing your website through technical changes or strategically chosen keywords in the copy, whereas off-site can include the creation of citations or PR pieces.
While I may be making it sound like SEO is usually thought about in terms of marketing and sales, it actually has more of a practical application in our everyday life. We all use the Internet, most of us on a daily basis. Whether you are looking for an answer to a question, a website to purchase a product, or directions to a specific restaurant, you use a search engine to locate that pertinent information.
Let’s say you are planning on taking a vacation in Hawaii, but you don’t know where to go. You pull out your phone, laptop, or tablet, and head on over to Google. The first thing you choose to do is to narrow down your destination to a particular city. You have never been to Hawaii, so you have no idea what the different cities have to offer. Searching for ideas, you type in “popular Hawaiian destinations”. You see a blog titled “Top 10 Places to Visit in Hawaii” on a Hawaii travel site. This blog would be an example of a website’s onsite content strategy. Content marketing for SEO is one of the best ways to interact with potential customers and funnel them to your business by ranking organically for generic terms people search during the initial research stage.
You look through the list and are drawn to #4 – Honolulu, the best island for drinking Mai tai’s on the beach. Sold! Well, that and its historical significance, flourishing art scene, and pristine beaches of course. Next you search “flights to Honolulu” and you notice that your eye gravitates to the results that are formatted differently from the rest. This specially formatted listing is due to special schema markup called rich snippets. With the implementation of rich snippets, you can maximize exposure by providing vital information about a page within the SERP itself. This is essentially additional information that is displayed as part of your listing, including itineraries, prices, reviews and site links. They can make a big difference in your click through rate, and more importantly, give you the advantage against your competitors.
Now that you have a destination, you need a hotel that is affordable and close to Waikiki. Once again, you turn to Google to narrow down your choices. You search for “affordable Honolulu hotel near Waikiki”. Google shows you a list of affordable accommodations with 5 star ratings and reviews from customers. This is an example of local SEO when a business claimed its profile on Google+. It is a complete advantage in local SEO if your business has physical locations, as local results remain more dominant for searchers from a visual standpoint, especially with the incorporation of Google+ reviews.
Thanks to SEO, you booked everything with ease and thanks to your mom you made it to the airport on time. After sitting through 6 hours of flying, you check into your hotel and go straight to the beautiful sandy beaches of Waikiki. However you worked up quite the appetite, so you whip out your phone and look for nearby restaurants. You find a restaurant which serves local cuisine, but you aren’t really sure what that entails so you go to their website to look at the menu. The website is easy to navigate and all the text is readable on your tiny iPhone 4 screen. Luckily for you, this website is mobile responsive. Having mobile friendly websites not only pleases Google, but it maximizes usability across the board for visitors on different devices.
Now it’s time to research some activities other than drinking Mai Tai’s on the beach. You search “things to do while in Honolulu” and one of first websites is from TripAdvisor with a list of activities ranked from best to worst. Perfect! At the top, you find a highly rated company that rents out snorkel gear so you can swim with the fishies. This is an example of link-building, an offsite SEO tactic where a website links to your website. It is common that potential travelers will seek external sources for what they perceive to be “unbiased” information from sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor, or even an outside travel blog.
Voila – you have just subconsciously used SEO to help plan your vacation. Customers may not think twice about the exact keywords or phrases they use when trying to find information, but when businesses implement SEO for their website, they have to try and figure it out through expansive keyword research. The traveler’s journey online to discover their journey in real life opens a wide range of SEO possibilities.
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