By Kahl Orr, founder of Rise, a digital marketing agency that builds high-performing websites for some of the fastest-growing brands.

Investing in SEO for your business is a long-term strategy that can help you rank higher in Google SERPS and bring you more business for years to come.

You know SEO is necessary, but what does it mean? Why is it essential for your business? Is it worth the cost and time investments? 

Seriously investing in SEO can build long-term equity in your website. By treating your site as digital real estate and committing to this strategy, your return on investment can go up over time. The more you do it, the faster you will see results. 

It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Domain authority. What is it? Essentially, it's a score associated with your website that indicates how you rank in the search engines. The higher the score, the more likely you will rank higher in search results. Initially, building domain authority will take dollars and time. However, once you've crossed the threshold, having built up enough authority to be trusted by Google and other websites, and rank on page one for your target keywords, your traffic can become a gift that keeps on giving. 

Traditional digital marketing is one-to-one regarding what you pay for and receive. If you spend x, you get y. If you want more of y, you have to spend more of x. It's a solution that can drive immediate results in the short term. You can spend advertising dollars on Pay Per Click marketing and Google ads, but what happens when you stop? The prospect well runs dry.

It can take anywhere from four months to a year to do this the right way, but as you build your SEO and digital presence, you lessen your dependency on traditional paid marketing. SEO is largely equity building rather than a straight-up expense. Your marketing dollars aren't lost; they're parked in your digital presence in the form of quality content and domain authority. It holds value. It builds equity in your digital property, much like paying your mortgage. 

Investing and doing the work up front is a cost-effective strategy in the long run. Over time, you can spend less energy and ad dollars and still see significant returns in terms of leads and customers that Google keeps dropping into your lap. 

How to Build Authority

What does it mean to build authority? You can ask yourself, "Am I the authority on the topic or the keyword? Am I trusted on that topic?" How is that determined? 

There are too many websites for Google to evaluate manually, so they crowdsource the process by looking at the sites they already trust and that their users' behavior indicates they trust. They look at who those sites are linking to. If enough sites link back to you or feature and share content from your website, Google can better decide your trustworthiness and rank you higher. Intentionally forming mutually beneficial relationships with other organizations that link back to your website is called link building.

Cornerstones of Link Building

Constructing a solid backlink network takes some creativity, outreach and relationship building. Assess your vendors and clients and figure out if you can develop strategic partnerships where value is created by linking back to your website. Create reasons for stakeholders to link to you and build relationships with people whose audiences would gain value from linking to you.

Fundamentally important, the other primary element of authority building is creating valuable content. Focus on producing noteworthy articles that answer all users' potential questions. Don't be tempted to publish more frequently if the quality of the pieces will be lower. Link building is unproductive without high-caliber content to link to. 

SEO is an opportunity to make sure your company is found by people looking for what they want. The more authority you gain, the more users and opportunities you pull in. Once you rank high, publishing new content will reach more of your audience sooner. If it's good content, others are likely to share and link to it, which can help you rank even higher. It's not forced. That's why it's called organic. 

Investing in your digital real estate, your company's website, by spending marketing dollars on SEO can give you equity in the form of content and domain authority that can bring in more sales leads from Google. It is the equivalent of moving your business from a dirt road in a small town to the middle of Times Square. It takes time, patience and dollars, but once you're there, it pays dividends.