It’s tough for any business owner to wrap their minds around the concept of spending money to at least just stand still. But it shouldn’t be given the fixed costs they pay each month for rent, utilities and the myriad of other bills that come in the mail even if the entire staff is on vacation and nothing productive is being accomplished.

And while you wouldn’t just expect to pay for your utilities every third month, you also shouldn’t think of SEO services as a bill to be paid once and then to be forgotten about. It’s as vital to your business as keeping the lights on. And work has to be done each month to maintain your position against the flood of competitors.

Whether you strive to just maintain your standing or get further ahead, your prominent presence for all the searchers depends on obtaining and maintaining optimal search engine optimization.

In 2020, consumers spent $861 billion online with U.S. merchants and a recent study revealed that the first organic—not purchased—result in a Google search received a click-through rate of 28.5%, second received 15%, third 11%. Because Google is so trusted to provide that thing that we are searching for, only 8% even venture into page two and beyond.

GOOGLE

Google uses over 200 ranking factors in their algorithm to produce all those search results. You might skip all this and hope that the world returns to “Asking Jeeves,” but if you’re a reasonable business owner, you might as well sync your website to the search engine that accounts for 92% of all the searches in the known universe.

Google tweaks their algorithm constantly, hundreds of times a year with major changes coming quarterly. Their mission is to give the best answers to their customers. By changing their algorithm, they force webmasters to create better sites, experiences and content.

Anyone can get to page one if their name is unusual and the person “out there” is searching for it specifically. But do you turn up on page one when someone in your town types in “great hamburger” or “best tax specialist?” That’s when you start gaining traction, when Google thinks of you specifically when the searches are anything but specific.

WHAT YOU NEED

What moves your website into those coveted top three spots on Google? There are a lot of moving parts that tell Google that your website is the ideal match for a user’s search. The problem is that as the internet world changes, so too does Google’s algorithm and so SEO is never something that’s perfected, the target is always moving.

Here are some of the most important aspects to improving your SEO:

Keywords: You’ll need to create a keyword strategy to target terms your target customers are searching for. And in this competition, websites that have been around for longer than yours are already established as the best matches for those words and you might need to come up with some “long-tail keywords” which are longer and more specific keyword phrases. This involves a bit of trial and error. And time.

Content: Creating relevant and helpful content in the form of videos, blogs, e-books can draw in readers and viewers and establish your business as the expert in your field. One strategy is to “out blog” the competition. That means that you need to write more in-depth content that helps your readers find solutions to their problems. This content should be filled with compelling images, examples and clear instructions. According to the SEO expert Neil Patel, “content marketing costs 62% less than other marketing mediums. All while generating 3x the number of leads.”

Back links: Relevant and helpful content gets you “back links,” or links from other websites back to yours. Google loves these and with each one you solidify Google’s impression of you as a relevant and useful website that they should send their searchers to. Google consider backlinks as highly relevant “votes” for your page. Pages that achieve a high number of backlinks will have high organic search engine rankings.

Mobile readiness: Your website’s ability to show up and be used effectively on mobile devices will greatly affect your SEO as half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices. Google makes mobile page loading speed a key metric.

UX: A better user experience or UX leads directly to longer website visits Focus on the user experience. Dwell time: the amount of time that passes between the moment a user clicks a search result and subsequently returns back to the search engine results page. Obviously, two minutes tells Google that your site was more valuable to your user than if they spent two seconds there.

Speed: The faster your website loads, the fewer drops you get and Google loves a fast-loading website.

THE COST

The most common billing from a marketing agency is retainer based. This pricing model is popular because it gives added value to the customer (it’s less expensive than their typical hourly rate) and it allows the agency to budget a steady flow of income. You might be offered a package for $3,000 to $5,000 per month and that gets you a discount on their normal hourly rates, a lot of expert advice, keywords, content, and the regular technical adjustments that your website needs.

But, any great firm will work with you to give you what you can afford, even if it’s just an hour-by-hour relationship. There is always something that can be done; some strategies can keep you from falling down in the rankings and others are building up a strong base that ensures you rise and appear more often in searches.

CONCLUSION

Effective SEO work is time consuming , requires a knowledgeable team that’s on top of the latest—latest meaning the past 30 days—trends and the value of this is great enough that if you aren’t going to pay the market price for these services, your competition probably will.

Some SEO tweaks, you can perform in house, others will require outside help. If you are serious about not just standing still in a rapidly changing web world, but taking ground from your competition, then committing to an ongoing SEO plan with an expert marketing firm is a sound conclusion.

Every business struggles to overcome the normal ebb and flows of their particular business cycle. You don’t want to add to that an irregular SEO plan which has the direct consequence of creating irregular success in your customers finding your website and giving you their business.

With offices in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, Ca., New Target provides digital strategy, digital marketing, web design, web development, branding, website hosting, and creative services for prominent nonprofits, companies, and government.