Business development · 4 July 2016

Cracking SEO from the beginning to acquire customers

Building your company's website correctly goes a long way to cracking search
Building your company’s website correctly goes a long way to cracking search

Continuing our four-part series of feature articles on online sales and marketing for small and micro business in partnership with Yell, we asked business owners from a variety of backgrounds about their experiences with search engine optimisation (SEO).

For time-poor small and micro business owners, SEO is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of devising an online marketing strategy, but can be one of the most important to get right. It involves the strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors a website achieves by securing a high-ranking placement in the search results page on a variety of online search engines.

Online fashion brand Wear Eponymous founder Elaine Burns told Business Advice that investing a little money upfront to set up the brand online in the correct way from a SEO and analytics perspective paid dividends for her business. “I definitely think that SEO poses the best way of attracting customers,” she said.

“The investments are small so won’t represent a big hit to your initial startup fund, but the benefit of having your name at the top of search engine results can work wonders early on. It’s important to get your keywords right, so think carefully about what your customers will be searching for.

It can be difficult to know what your keywords are at first, as for most business owners it takes time to actually know what customers want. As your business evolves, be open to altering keywords to develop SEO results.

For Vrumi founder Roddy Campbell, the first six months of marketing after starting out in 2014 was all about gathering data to develop an SEO strategy, and he found that outsourcing this job to another company was worth the small investment, as it allowed him to focus his energy on other aspects of the business. “At first I would do all the keyword strategies myself, but obviously in a startup time is not on your side. By bringing in a team of experts we were able to test different strategies – using thousands of words grouped together in different ways,” he said.

“It helped us hugely in working out our user base. Our keyword strategy has been the main focus of our overall marketing strategy – it’s enabled us to be especially personalised when targeting our audience,” he added.

With many companies fighting for customers in Vrumi’s marketplace of online working space providers, Campbell noted that it was commonplace to have to fight competitors for keywords. This marketing strategy, known as pay-per-click, directs traffic to websites after an advertiser pays a publisher when the ad is clicked. Rather than competing, Campbell said that this can provide startups with the opportunity to explore niches in the market – tapping into areas so far under-explored by other firms. “It’s important to be vigilant and have an end goal,” he added.

“Don’t ignore what your competitors are doing by way of optimisation, as you can use it to your advantage. But stay focussed on your core market and user base, and adapt when it changes,” Campbell went on to say.

As the founder of one-man graphic design business Lucid Synergy, Chris Whitham told us that he’s known of new businesses that have wasted time and money developing SEO without knowing yet the true purpose of the company. “You have to either have quite a lot of investment or be a real niche when it comes to making a big SEO impression.

“It depends what market you’re in, but for my business you have to have a particular specialism or make a very specific market with a core set of customers to really make an impact. I monitor site traffic every day and you have to keep looking at the stats. It’s a huge learning curve for small business owners who don’t have the experience, and little time to learn even the basics,” added Witham.

When it comes to developing your brand’s SEO, there are clearly several things small business owners need to keep in mind. Yell marketing director Mark Clisby is quick to point out the thought process that many startup owners have that simply having an attractive site will generate page views. “A good looking site does not mean a well optimised one,” he explained.

“Good SEO is all about developing useful and relevant content on a regular basis, that’s connected up and registered with useful databases and social media platforms – those links and shares are important.”

In the fourth and final feature in our series looking into online sales and marketing in partnership with Yell, Business Advice talks to small and micro business owners about social media – how to embrace it so that a business grows in the right way. Make sure to not miss it next week.

We hope you’re enjoying our online sales and marketing feature series. If you have any specific questions then please don’t hesitate to get in touch, and we’ll get our friends at Yell to answer them.

Don’t forget to check out our two previous features: “How content marketing can turbocharge awareness of your brand” and “Thinking about your company’s online identity“.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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