As you might already know, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Wikipedia defines SEO as “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine's unpaid results—often referred to as "natural", "organic", or "earned" results.”
What does this mean in layman’s terms?
Here’s a quick analogy: When you enter a keyword into a search engine like Google, you are basically running in an elaborate contest to determine which pages are the most popular. In this scenario, Google, Bing and Yahoo are the judges, and each individual page on the Internet are the contestants. The prize for winning this contest? Free (and hopefully relevant) traffic.
Therefore, SEO is the process of improving your pages so that they correspond to the judges’ criteria.
So why is this important? Let’s forget the optimization of your pages for a moment and focus on what’s most important: THE RESULTS.
If you aren’t driving any free traffic to your website, it means you are solely relying on paid advertising. Although this strategy can work in the beginning, it is not a viable long term solution.
Without doing a deep-dive into any sort of statistical analysis, let’s suppose that visitors from paid advertising and organic searches are converting at the same rate (and therefore have the same value.)
For this example, we will compare Google AdWords (the text ads you see during a search) with the organic results (no cost) below them.
If you’re ready to pay $1,000 to get 200 users (who would have searched for “dress shirts”), you’d be paying a $5 cost-per-click (CPC). What if instead, for the same search query, you could get users to your website for free?
Analyzing results is the easiest way to understand the value of Search Engine Optimization. Here is a simple example:
As you can see above, similar to paid advertising, when we can determine the cost-per-click for any given keyword, we can determine its value. There are tons of tools to help you determine CPC, as well as the number of users driven by any given keywords.
In this example, you’ll also notice a "Before and After" column. The “Before” page was not optimized for the target keyword "dress shirts"and thus did not get any traffic. Once SEO strategies and tactics were applied, the page started driving visitors and is showing a value of $500 /month.
While this is a very simplified example of how to value your SEO, the underlying theory is the same even in the most complex data analysis.
So back to the original question... Why is SEO important?
If we add together all the keywords that companies rank for and determine a value for their SEO, you’d quickly see why organic search is a key component to any company’s success.
Whether you have a small website that gets two hundred dollars of organic traffic per month, or an industry-leading business driving millions of dollars of organic traffic, proper SEO pays for itself and then some. That’s because it’s not a “one-time-thing” like advertising, which stops when the funds run out. SEO friendly content is the gift that keeps on giving.