The main function of any website is to attract targeted visitors and increase brand visibility online. Let’s be honest: there are many ways to achieve this, but the most effective (and cost-effective) in the long run is SEO promotion. Let’s take a detailed look at how search engine optimization contributes to the development of your business, what it consists of, and when you can expect to see the first results.
SEO: how does it work?
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a set of actions both on and off the website that are necessary to improve the rankings of a resource in the organic search results of Google for relevant queries, and as a result, increase its visibility to the target audience. We divide SEO into two stages: SEO optimization and SEO promotion. After all, without technically correct SEO optimization, further SEO promotion is not possible.
With quality SEO promotion, your website will be on the first page of search engines, which means it will receive more traffic and targeted actions from visitors. In comparison, websites that are not optimized or promoted for search engines often do not appear in the search results and, therefore, do not receive organic traffic.
A complex sorting formula that takes into account dozens of parameters is used to generate the search results for a query. Ranking algorithms are regularly updated, supplemented, and upgraded with the goal of providing the most relevant answers to user queries. The exact algorithm for generating search results is not disclosed by search engine employees; only general requirements and criteria for an SEO-optimized resource that allow it to reach the top ten results are communicated. With each new Google update, the rules for marketers and SEO specialists become stricter, adding more work for them and business owners. The strongest ones win—the ones who are ready to adapt and constantly work on their website. But as a reward, they receive constant free organic traffic, improved rankings, and top positions.
In practice, it is nearly impossible to bring a website to the first page of search results in highly competitive commercial niches without active SEO optimization and promotion, even if its content and technical implementation are perfect.
SEO optimization of a website includes the following processes:
- Fixing technical errors on the site.
- Analyzing the indexing of target pages.
- Forming a relevant semantic core, grouping thematic words, evenly distributing keywords that the website should be promoted for.
- Implementing analytics systems and monitoring results.
SEO promotion involves:
- Identifying criteria that have the greatest impact on the site’s ranking in search results and working on improving the corresponding parameters.
- Working on website usability and behavioral factors.
- Building up the external link profile.
- Regular optimization of content components such as text, photos, and videos.
- Continuous collection and analysis of statistics on search engine referrals and visitor actions on the site.
- Adjusting the SEO strategy based on the analysis of statistics and its dynamics.
- Constantly searching for new entry points to the site through semantic targeting.
- By implementing these processes, a website can improve its visibility in search engine results, attract more targeted traffic, and ultimately contribute to the growth and development of the business.
Who needs SEO website promotion?
Search engine optimization should be included in the marketing strategy of any business whose services and products have a consistent demand in search engines (you can review the demand dynamics, for example, on Google Trends). It makes sense to engage in SEO promotion of a website if:
- You operate in an established market with many online competitors.
- Your products are in demand among a wide audience (business coverage is at least a city or region).
- You have a long-term development plan and are willing to wait for results for several months at least.
- You are seeking marketing tools that are effective and reliable in consistently driving traffic.
- You are ready to invest time and finances into your website, constantly developing and improving it.
- You plan to stay in the market within your niche and expand over time.
Speaking about types of websites, SEO promotion is particularly relevant for:
- E-commerce websites.
- Service-oriented websites.
- Informational resources, such as news portals.
Which business is SEO not suitable for?
The main disadvantage of SEO is the time it takes to see results, which makes it less feasible for startups whose primary goal is to test demand, establish business processes, and quickly attract their first customers in order to have the finances for further development. In this case, it is better to prefer contextual advertising, which, when properly configured, can bring in customers within a few days.
SEO promotion of landing pages or small websites consisting of a few web pages would also not be cost-effective. It is very difficult to incorporate the necessary amount of content and cover a large segment of the semantic core that would allow competition with multi-page portals (which Google prefers). In such cases, quality PPC advertising would help drive traffic. The same applies to websites with exclusively seasonal products (e.g., only New Year decorations) and short-term promotional offers.
SEO is not suitable for small businesses specializing in the sales of specific innovative products such as pens with disappearing ink, solar-powered power banks, etc. It would be more optimal to focus on SMM promotion and social media advertising. Local businesses, such as coffee shops in residential complexes, rarely engage in search engine optimization as their main focus is building a customer base among residents of the housing complex and neighboring houses.
When should you pay attention to SEO-promotion of the site?
It is optimal to start search engine optimization (SEO) for a website during its development stage. And here’s why:
- Typically, creating a website without the involvement of an SEO specialist is the work of programmers and designers who are responsible for its visual appearance, functionality, and performance but may overlook certain types of errors considered by search engines in ranking. These errors can only be identified through an SEO audit.
- The semantic core is the foundation of a website. Keyword research allows for evaluating demand in the niche and enables the inclusion of relevant headings and meta-tags for web pages. When the semantic core is formed independently, developers or content managers often rely on intuition, which may not yield optimal results.
It is also important to understand that SEO is a long-term endeavor. Initial results from SEO efforts may not be visible until 3-4 months after starting the optimization work. The process of developing a website to reach the top rankings typically takes 6-9 months. By creating a website optimized for search engines from the beginning, business owners can attract organic targeted traffic more quickly.
It is possible to eliminate errors, gather a relevant semantic core, conduct clustering, reshape the structure, and optimize the content. Experienced specialists know how to rank even small projects that have long been present online. However, it is important to consider that this usually requires more resources (time, finances, and the involvement of additional specialists).
Benefits of SEO website promotion for business in the long run
Besides the main benefit and goal of SEO, which is to increase website traffic and subsequent profit growth through targeted organic visits, the following advantages are achieved through search engine optimization and promotion:
- Improved technical condition of the website. To achieve a high ranking in search results, a website must meet search engine standards. During SEO optimization, specialists work on improving web page loading speed, responsiveness across devices with different screen resolutions, and eliminating errors such as content duplication or incorrectly configured redirects.
- Enhanced behavioral characteristics. User-friendly navigation and relevant content are key factors in search engine rankings. Therefore, the task of an SEO specialist is to create a user-friendly resource with a clear structure, useful and up-to-date information. The easier and more informative the website is to use, the higher the chances of appearing in the top search results. Consequently, search engine-friendly websites have lower bounce rates, more internal URL clicks, and longer session durations.
- Increased brand recognition online. You can shape the queries for which your website will be ranked by search engines. This allows you to work with a broad list of keywords not only to target “hot” demand but also to increase brand recognition, strengthen reputation, and establish expertise. Typically, this involves creating a blog, a news section, expert columns, and similar content.
- Generate traffic even without active marketing efforts. With SEO, your business can receive website traffic even during pauses in online promotion. This provides valuable support in the form of targeted visits when changing marketing strategies, testing new approaches, or during business slowdowns due to external factors (for example a pandemic like COVID-19).
Another significant argument in favor of SEO is its relatively low long-term cost. In the first six months of SEO work, when results may not be immediately visible, the costs can be significant, which discourages many entrepreneurs. However, over time, SEO becomes more cost-effective compared to other digital approaches because the achieved results are long-lasting, and the budget required for SEO decreases. Additionally, SEO brings both targeted traffic and comprehensive website improvement.
What does SEO include and who is involved in website promotion?
Search engine optimization (SEO) and website promotion are handled by an SEO specialist. They perform an audit, develop an SEO strategy, and create a step-by-step plan of actions, most of which they execute themselves. Additionally, web developers, site administrators, and content managers/copywriters may be involved, but it is the responsibility of the SEO specialist to provide them with specifications and oversee task execution.
In general, SEO website promotion in search engines involves three major tasks
- internal optimization;
- external optimization;
Each of these areas consists of various actions that need to be performed in a specific sequence. Let’s consider them step by step.
Stages of search engine promotion
1. Analysis of the niche and competitors websites
At the initial stage, it is important to analyze the products and services of the project and thoroughly study the resources in a similar field that rank highly in search engines. Pay attention to:
- Structure of competitor websites: to understand how many landing pages need to be created and assess the volume of content required.
- Page hierarchy: to implement the correct URL structure.
- Usability, content quality, backlink profile, age of the website, and its traffic.
2. SEO Audit
After the general analysis, an audit of the website that requires optimization takes place. This includes examining the sources of traffic, visibility in search engines for different query frequencies, identifying technical errors, page loading speed, responsiveness, and the number of redirects, among other factors. SEO audits are conducted using specialized tools such as Netpeak Spider, Screaming Frog, Ahrefs, while also analyzing reports from Google Search Console.
Based on the results and evaluation of the website, a strategy for further promotion and a step-by-step action plan are developed, along with estimated volumes and costs of technical improvements and content preparation.
3. Integration of Analytics and Webmaster Tools
During the SEO audit, the specialist requests access to the project’s analytics (Google Analytics) and webmaster tools (Google Search Console) or independently connects the website to these tools.
Google Search Console (GSC) allows you to understand which queries display your website in Google, their average position and click-through rate (CTR), monitor trends (ranking/traffic increase or decrease), identify pages with low CTR, and discover errors that may negatively impact rankings. Google Analytics provides valuable behavioral metrics, such as user actions on your website after clicking from search engine results, which links they click on, how they navigate through the information, and whether they complete desired actions.
4. Collection of the semantic core
The selection of a maximum number of relevant keywords is the foundation for increasing targeted traffic. The size of the semantic core can vary depending on the project, ranging from a few hundred search queries for small projects to thousands for e-commerce websites or news portals. The keywords are clustered into groups based on their frequency. The size of the semantic core is determined individually based on the niche and specificity of the website. The compiled semantic core is necessary for:
- Developing the website’s structure.
- Generating (using templates or manually) meta tags such as Title, Description, Keywords, H1 and H2 headings.
- Writing optimized texts and alt attributes for images.
- Implementing proper internal linking.
- Building the backlink profile.
- Conducting future visibility analysis.
The process of compiling the semantic core is time-consuming and can take several months depending on the website’s size. Often, it is distributed among sections and categories to avoid hindering the progress of promotion and parallel work.
Keyword research is conducted using thematic services such as SemRush, Ahrefs, Serpstat, and others.
5. Development of the website structure
Based on the collected semantic core and analyzed keyword frequency, the SEO specialist prepares recommendations for creating new landing pages and works out the hierarchical structure of the website, considering the following factors:
- Priority sections/categories.
- Structure of competitor websites in the niche.
- Technical capabilities of the content management system (CMS).
To create and present an optimal website structure, it is convenient to use Mind Maps (available in open access). By constructing a diagram of relationships, all necessary elements of the website can be designed, including sections, subsections, categories, and even articles with their corresponding keywords.
Optimizing the website structure requires a significant amount of time. In larger projects, new filter pages for certain categories may be created even a year after the start of SEO promotion. However, the main work of expanding the structure should be conducted much earlier.
6. Internal technical optimization
Based on the conducted SEO audit, a series of measures are taken to improve the technical condition of the website, including:
- Setting up proper URL structure (friendly URLs).
- Working with technical files such as robots.txt and sitemap.xml.
- Configuring automatic generation of Title, Description, and H1 headings based on templates for categories, products, filters, and location-specific pages.
- Implementing schema.org microdata.
- Optimizing images.
- Improving server response time and webpage loading speed.
- Setting up 301 and 302 redirects.
- Eliminating and preventing possible duplicate pages.
- Fixing code errors.
- Configuring multilingual support (if applicable).
The goal of internal optimization is to ensure that the website fully complies with search engine requirements and is prepared for effective promotion.
7. Content creation for pages
Text content should be unique, highly informative for visitors, and adapted to specific keywords. Additionally, search engines value websites with various types of content, so pages with images, infographics, and videos tend to rank higher than those with only text.
It is important to supplement each text with meta tags (Title, Description), H1-H6 subheadings, and internal links to other web pages within the website. Internal linking helps distribute the website’s internal weight, increases the duration of user sessions, and improves user engagement.
8. External Optimization
To enhance your link profile, you can negotiate for the placement of materials on third-party thematic resources, publish articles in various media outlets, and utilize forums and aggregators as free sources. The key point to remember is that it’s not the quantity of external links that matters, but their quality. The more authoritative a resource is that links to you, the higher the value of such a recommendation for a search engine. And the most valuable links are those added directly by users.
Where to order SEO promotion?
When the decision to pursue SEO promotion is made, entrepreneurs face an important question: “Whom should I trust with search engine optimization?” The options include finding a freelancer, hiring an in-house employee, turning to an agency, or possibly handling SEO independently. Each option has its nuances, which we’ll explore in more detail.
This is a path often chosen by beginners with limited promotion budgets. It is indeed significantly cheaper (if we don’t consider the time you invest), and you act as both the client and the executor, which means you have complete control over all processes and are responsible for the final result. However, it’s important to understand that “intuitive” optimization of a website for search engines or following instructions from open sources is unlikely to be effective. To truly grasp SEO, you’ll need at least several months (excluding the time required to see initial results). In the end, you may end up spending valuable time without any guarantee of effective outcomes.
Engaging a Freelancer or In-House Employee
A freelancer works independently and remotely to accomplish assigned tasks. Finding a specialist is not difficult, but there is high competition on freelance platforms and social networks.
The main advantages of hiring a freelance specialist are relatively lower cost compared to an in-house employee or agency, as well as flexibility in collaboration. During the course of the work, you can quickly discuss changes in settings (e.g., if there are changes in priority services) and set a new direction for the project’s development.
However, it’s important to consider that it’s somewhat of a “lottery.” Freelancers come in all types, and you may end up with an irresponsible specialist who constantly misses deadlines or manages multiple projects with low interest in yours, or you may find an experienced, reliable, and punctual worker. Since contracts are rarely signed in such cases, there is a risk of wasting money and time. Additionally, the completion time for tasks will be longer compared to engaging an agency or an in-house specialist, as there is only one person working on the project, often part-time. It’s optimal to approach a freelancer when the website is still in the development stage, so that by the time it’s launched, all the necessary SEO settings are in place. Freelance SEO specialists can also be employed for periodic tasks, such as conducting an SEO audit.
If the project is large (or there are multiple projects), hiring an in-house employee is necessary. An in-house specialist becomes part of the team, which makes them more motivated and invested in the project’s development compared to a freelancer. An in-house employee is fully dedicated to the promotion of your websites and is always available for discussion or quick fixes. The only conditional downside is the cost of their services. When hiring an in-house specialist, you need to provide not only a salary but also set up a workspace and purchase specialized software.
Opting for the services of a marketing agency is an optimal choice for projects that are not highly budget-constrained, aiming for SEO promotion, and seeking guaranteed results within a relatively short period of time.
A digital agency typically provides comprehensive marketing services. The project is handled by a team of professionals, and unqualified workers are rarely encountered. Usually, specialists with at least three years of experience are responsible for optimization since digital companies value their reputation in the industry. It’s important to understand that if you decide to approach an agency, you should have complete trust in the specialists. Companies typically work with their own trusted tools and methods, and not all of them are willing to consider your suggestions and strategies. The client pays for the result, not the process. The advantages of collaborating with a marketing agency include:
- More guarantees: Before starting the collaboration, a contract is signed between the client and the agency (if the firm operates solely based on oral agreements, it’s a reason to question its reliability), in which the company provides guarantees for completing the work within the agreed timeframe. This means that the specialists won’t suddenly disappear or become unresponsive, as can happen when working with a freelancer.
- Wide range of services: Typically, digital agencies offer additional services such as copywriting, design, and more, saving you time on searching for additional specialists.
- No additional expenses: The client pays a fixed sum, which includes the services of the specialists as well as the use of paid tools and services. On the other hand, when hiring an in-house employee, separate budget allocation is required for these tools or cheaper/free alternatives need to be utilized, which can also affect the outcome of the work.
- Relatively quick results: Several experienced specialists work on the project, not just one, which allows for visible growth in traffic and conversions within 3-4 months after starting the collaboration.
The main drawback of SEO promotion through an agency is the cost. The price of agency services can be several times higher than that of freelancers. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you will achieve results more quickly.
How to make the right choice in selecting an SEO Specialist?
Regardless of the path you choose for SEO promotion — hiring a freelancer, an in-house employee, or an agency — pay attention to the following points.
- Reviews: The importance lies not in the number of stars but in the details of the reviews and client profiles. It’s optimal to review the websites of clients who have recently left feedback and Google their services using thematic queries. In the case of an agency, reviews (or a list of clients) are usually provided on the homepage of their website, while for a remote specialist, they can be found in their profile on a freelance platform. When choosing an in-house employee, it’s better to involve an experienced SEO professional in the interview process.
- Competencies: Ideally, an agency should have a team of specialists in various areas (in addition to SEO, there should be PPC specialists, copywriters, designers), each responsible for their own set of tasks. In contrast, a freelancer is often a “jack of all trades,” who is familiar with SEO, can write content, and assist with social media management, but may lack in-depth knowledge in any one area.
- Promised timelines for achieving top search rankings: Do not trust specialists who promise to reach the top of search results within a month, as it is technically impossible. SEO is a long-term game. Visible results may only be noticeable after 3 months of work, and reaching top positions takes at least six months. A specialist who keeps their promise may resort to using gray or black hat SEO techniques, which can result in search engine penalties.
Keep in mind that slowness in SEO is normal. Even if there are no noticeable results after 3-4 months, but the specialist provides quality, transparent reports on the work done and clearly explains the reasons for slow progress, it is recommended to delve into the details and expect an improvement in search engine rankings.
How to track and measure the results of SEO Promotion?
To assess the quality of work done by an agency, freelancer, in-house employee, or yourself, practical evaluation is necessary. Professional specialists usually don’t wait for clients to demand reports; they regularly provide them and explain the progress. An SEO specialist is doing things right if:
- There is an increase in website visibility in Google search results. You can review the dynamics in the Google Search Console webmaster report.
- The website ranks for the desired keywords. You can check this in the Google Search Console (under the “Queries” tab) or using position tracking tools like Serpstat.
- There is a tendency of improving positions for priority keywords. The simplest way to check the effectiveness of SEO is to analyze the position history of your website’s web pages for the keywords in your semantic core. It’s not necessary to rank in the top positions; if you observe a consistent growth trend, you are on the right track. However, if there are insignificant fluctuations in positions over several months, it may indicate natural changes in the search results, and your SEO strategy may need revision. You can check the positions of your main search queries in the Google Search Console (under “Performance” → “Search results”) or using specialized tools like Semrush or Serpstat.
- There is an increase in organic traffic. Increasing website traffic is the main goal of SEO, which is reflected in the previously mentioned metrics. If the number of impressions and positions is growing, but there is no increase in organic clicks, it is worth reviewing the settings (possible reasons range from poorly selected keywords to irrelevant snippets). You can track the growth of organic traffic in Google Analytics (under “Traffic Sources” → Organic Search).
- User behavior on the site improves (average visit duration, page views, bounce rates). Positive changes in behavioral factors are the result of quality technical and content optimization. These metrics are available in Google Analytics.
- There is an increase in direct traffic. This is an indirect but clear indicator of quality SEO optimization. It indicates that your website is valuable and users return to it directly without searching again. Search algorithms also take this into account. You can monitor the dynamics of direct traffic in Google Analytics (under “Traffic Sources” → Direct).
How much does SEO promotion cost and where is the budget spent?
The cost of SEO promotion depends on several factors:
- Competition in your niche and the level of optimization of websites of similar companies.
- The current state of your project.
- The type of website and the number of web pages (existing or required to be created), and accordingly, the size of the semantic core.
Taking these factors into account, the required timeframe and scope of work are determined, which directly affect the number of specialists needed and their level of involvement. When approaching a marketing agency, it’s simple: you pay the rate set by the contractor (the more work the website requires, the higher the price). If you decide to hire a freelancer or an in-house specialist, keep in mind that in addition to the salary of the SEO specialist, you should allocate a budget for:
- Technical improvements to the website with programmers.
- Copywriting work — optimizing landing pages, writing blog articles.
- Acquiring external links.
Note that the overall cost of SEO work can be quite high. However, websites are typically optimized comprehensively once, and then the promotion process begins, which is a long-term but less expensive phase. At the same time, the amount of traffic to the website gradually increases. Therefore, if you entrust the task to experienced professionals, you will ultimately obtain one of the most cost-effective channels for attracting targeted visitors.