If you have a hard time getting your head around the benefits of SEO or search engine optimization, a desert analogy might help.
I was scanning discussions on Moz's Linkedin page earlier today. I saw Christopher Jan Benitez, a virtual assistant at PortPrep, ask how to explain SEO benefits to non-SEO people. He wanted a brief, 3-minute-or-less explanation.
A website without SEO is like a shop in the desert.
It doesn't matter what the store sells, if no one knows about it, it's not going to earn you any business.
You Have To Be Visible
If you want people to know about your desert shop, you need to get on a map and do some advertising.
It's the same with a website. If you want your website to earn business for you, it's going to have to be easy to find. Find where? According to Retailing Today, eighty-one percent of consumers go online before heading out to a store. Where do they go online? Statistica, one of the leading statistics companies on the Internet, says seventy-seven percent of search engine users go to Google.
If you want people to be able to find you, you have to be visible on Google.
Google's equivalent of a map is their index. When you search on Google, you're not actually searching "the Internet"; you're searching Google's index or inventory of Internet content.
Google's index is similar to the index you find in a book. A book's index contains the words in the book and the page numbers on which the words appear. Google's index contains the words on the Internet and the address of web pages on which they appear.
By Francis C. Weigl (Collection Kuhn) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
If you're not in Google's index, you won't show up in Google search results.
The other thing you have to worry about is rankings. It's not enough to just get indexed by Google. If you want your website to satisfy your goals and objectives, you're also going to have to earn a page one ranking.
There's tremendous value in having a page one ranking. Google only displays 10 results per page and the vast majority of people - 48 to 95% - click on a page 1 result.
Earning that page 1 ranking isn't easy. The search engines use ranking algorithms that change daily and there can be boat-loads of competition. The Indexed Web contains at least 4.79 billion pages (September 2015). Not everyone is going to try to rank for the same search topics, but in a competitive industry, it can take years to achieve a page 1 ranking.
Let's look at our desert shop as an example. Assuming our shop sells Prada handbags, a Google search for "Prada handbags" returns over 11 million results. If we want our shop to earn a decent Internet business, it's going to have to be indexed by Google and work towards outranking 10.99 million other pages, all while the rules are shifting underfoot.
SEO or search engine optimization can help with both indexing and rankings.
SEOs know how Google works. They know what a website needs in order to be found and indexed by Google. They can ensure your site is designed and built for search engines using best practices that mitigate the impact of future algorithm changes.
SEOs know what it takes to rank well on Google. They can help you figure out what needs to be done and work collaboratively with you to enable it.
High rankings are of no value unless visitors convert. SEOs know how people search and what it takes to encourage positive outcomes. They will help you set goals and measure progress so you can see improvement over time.
So that's it. A website without SEO is like a shop in the desert. If you want people to know about your shop, you need to get indexed and ranked highly by Google. SEOs can help you do that and more.