If you’ve ever wondered why your marketing director cares about your website SEO so much – or if you’re unsure why SEO even matters – I wrote this column for you. My high-level overview won’t give you the tools to conduct SEO yourself, but it will shed light on why you ought to share your marketing team’s enthusiasm about this increasingly critical, website traffic generator. For starters, search-engine optimization, or SEO, helps people who are actively seeking information. Note that “actively seeking” phrase. If someone’s not online, not searching, SEO does nothing. SEO doesn’t go out and tap someone on the shoulder and say check this out. It’s not an ad. It acts as a response to an action a person initiates. That is SEO’s key benefit. Someone needs something. Is hunting for information. Wants help. And your SEO can be there with the solution, drawing him or her to you. HubSpot reports that 80% of a website’s traffic starts with a search query. SEO connects you with the right people. It’s not about falsely attracting people to your website just to gain clicks, but about attracting folks genuinely interested in your services or products.

Search Engines Care

Search Engines Care About the Words You Use

“Optimized” just means your website content has been created to attract both humans and search bots. Use words and phrases people actually use when they’re doing a search. Do they search “aircraft” or “jet’? “Fixed-base operator” or “FBO”? Think it doesn’t matter? Consider this. A quick look using Moz Pro’s keyword planner tool shows that in one month’s time, there are 200 searches for “fixed-base operator” versus 30,000 for “FBO”; and 500 searches for “aircraft sales”, but 11,000 for the phrase “airplanes for sale.”

Science of SEO

Not Rocket Science, But Definitely Science

Smart tools exist to help you. They include Moz Pro, Google AdWords Keyword Planner, Google Analytics, Google Trends and Google Webmaster Tools. (Sensing a trend?) They let you see what terms actual searchers are using and provide additional keyword intelligence. Conducting this analysis takes time and thought. Use a keyword planner tool and let it guide your word choices. Don’t worry about being a slave to it, though. Artificial intelligence is one of the biggest trends today. Bots are getting smarter and smarter. They can now take human search and connect the dots without marketers having to use keywords word-for-word.

Know Your Customers and Give Them What They Need

If you optimize your website for the customer first, your site will be optimized for search. Hallelujah. As a CEO you probably already spend a great deal of your time thinking about your customers. How you can help them. What their challenges are. What questions they always ask your sales team. What problem your product or service solves for them. Your sales staff can answer some of these questions. Consider going directly to customers, too. Send a quick survey. Conduct some focus groups. Then use this information to make your website the answer to your customers’ prayers. Optimizing for the customer also means optimizing for a great user experience. That requires streamlined navigation, appropriate calls to action, helpful downloads, engaging video and more. Provide clear organization and information hierarchy. People love site maps. Search engines do, too. They help bots find and add your content to their databases.

Aviation Serves Mobile People, Your SEO Should, Too

Consider mobile versus desktop usage. Most search is done on a mobile device. Last year mobile racked up nearly 120 billion searches compared to just over 80 billion on a desktop. Something anyone in aviation ought to pay attention to – more than half of travel-related searches are on a mobile device. If you haven’t made your website mobile friendly make that your next priority. I won’t go into details here, but you essentially have three choices: responsive design, adaptive design or a separate mobile site. Talk about it with your marketing director.
Aviation serves mobile people

Keep It Real

A word of caution. There are all kinds of articles out there suggesting ways to generate quick web clicks. Don’t be swayed. Good SEO practice isn’t about planting click bait just to jack up your numbers. Trying to trick Google into ranking your website higher often backfires, as Google will penalize sites when it catches them being sneaky. Plus, if you lure people falsely, they may come to your site, but they’re not going to stick around. And they’re sure not going to request more information, buy a product, sign up for your enews, contact you directly – or any of the myriad actions you might want from a bona fide visitor. As CEO, you don’t need to know about meta-keywords (which Google now ignores anyway), H1 headlines or alt tags (which someone else will be writing). Just know that your website is your most important piece of marketing collateral. And it’s worth taking time to make it more findable. It’s not a once-and-done activity. SEO requires ongoing adjustments and refinement. Partially because search constantly changes. And you must change with it. You note I mention Google more than the other search engines. It’s because Google scoops up 80% of search. Yahoo captures another 9.5%, Bing 8.5% and the rest scrape the other 2%. So, Google matters. Pay attention to its guidelines for best practices. Google can make or break your website’s success.

Organic Search for the Long Haul

Paid search serves a purpose if you need results fast – say to generate a bump in sales. But organic search – what people key in when they’re looking for something – ought to be where you put your greatest effort. It accrues over time and represents up to 95 percent of most search traffic. Your communications department should ensure the site has good page titles and text throughout the site should be relevant and real – not rendered as graphics, which the search bots cannot read. Your anchor text ought to be relevant to the searcher. Provide things easily and quickly that people are most apt to want. A name. An email address. Deeper information about that new product you just launched. One of the best ways to improve your findability through search is to keep your content fresh. Blog posts, recent news postings and other frequent updates directly affect how Google indexes your site. Google’s algorithm rewards sites that offer good, timely data. SEO’s devils are the details. That’s also where you reap the rewards.

Support from the Top – Which is Where You Come In

Your team will appreciate if you value SEO and align it with your corporate objectives. SEO requires collaboration across multiple departments and disciplines – and a clear leader to consistently champion the process. Be that leader.

This column ran in the June 8th issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.