Most entrepreneurs are either tired of hearing about SEO or scared of using SEO. The term is bandied about a lot, but that is an indication of its importance, not because of spam. Pre-internet business owners would have complained about phrases like ‘footcount’, ‘location’ and ‘shopfront’ being constantly presented to them, or the 5 Ps of marketing. These four factors are still critical for the long-term success of a business, but there is another layer that has been added in front of these – SEO. Without it, your business is invisible to 99.9% of the population.
SEO, or search engine optimisation, is important for small businesses but is often misunderstood when it is used. The process and the traction takes time to design, assess, tweak, assess, nurture and many other steps. Good SEO has long-term advantages that can revolutionise a small business’s financial results.
Small business SEO levels the playing fields more than any marketing has done in the past – the Davids can give the Goliaths a fair run for their money now.
What important SEO benefits can a small business expect?
SEO is not the only tool that a small business will use for digital marketing, but it is the first tool and will be part of informing the use or application of the other tools. When you combine it with quality, correct content marketing, you get a rich return-on-investment (ROI). An industry statistic is that small businesses with quality blogs attract 68% more leads than businesses not using blogs or using inferior or non-SEO optimised blogs.
SEO is a marketing team, with thousands of headcount, standing on the digital curbside telling all passersby about your excellent company. Your content must then draw them to your digital shop front – your website.
Other effective visibility tools are paid ads that achieve immediate visibility, but they require budget and constant monitoring. Email marketing is another effective tool (multiple approaches under this heading). Management of your social media management is also necessary for conversion rates and requires daily attention.
Here is an overview of the benefits:
Reduce the use of paid ads – Depending on the saturation of your industry, Google Ads’ cost per click can be higher than £14.65 and, therefore 10 clicks in a day adds up to £146.50 and doesn’t guarantee a lead if the visitor is unhappy with your website and leaves. SEO will supply a constant stream of web traffic to your website without chalking up daily costs.
Increase lead volumes – we all know about the need to fill the sales funnel. 4 phone calls a day, run paid ads, send out a physical sales force, etc., are all options you can choose. You can achieve a figure of seventy-five per cent of all new business coming from SEO without extra headcount. You can safely aim to double your income with quality SEO.
Boost website visits coming from search engines -SEO not only address lead volumes but can also be used for raising the awareness of your brand in the market.
Interesting SEO statistics
These interesting statistics show why SEO has a critical position in marketing strategies, even basic ones.
45% of small businesses don’t have a website – people use search engines to find companies. Only then do they look for references on the company in the form of review (digital word of mouth) and regular word of mouth. 55% of small businesses are therefore invisible.
53% of shoppers do research before buying – people are empowered to search for their best product or service choice. The top four research channels are websites (74%), email campaigns (43%), social media postings (38%) and then retailer’s mobile apps (36%).
Approximately thirty-three per cent of searchers click on the first result, and only 0.78% to eleven per cent of Google searchers look at the second page.
46% of all searches are localised – those searchers are usually your primary market. Use SEO to be visible to your primary market.
97% of people do research on local companies using the internet.
How to get started with SEO
Here is a basic overview, but a full SEO package is multi-layered, very strategic and with a multi-pronged approach. It is vital that you choose quality SEO and not cheap SEO, or you are flushing your money down the loo.
Google receives 90 per cent of all internet searches, and they have strict rules regarding their quality assessment of your website as they want premium search results delivered to their client. It rates many factors, such as:
The meaning of the searcher’s query
The relevance of all web pages available
The quality of content within each website
The freshness of that content
The quality of the website coding and the UI
A.I. usability of the webpages
The websites context and settings
Unfortunately, not every peddler of SEO has the skill or capacity to adhere to Google’s algorithms nor to produce a complex strategy. The corner-cutting, misleading agencies that are doing inferior SEO are called Black Hat SEO companies. You want to choose a White Hat SEO company.
Black hat SEO vs white hat SEO
Black hat SEO – When an agency is flying by the seat of their pants and is trying to deceive search engines, they are called Black Hat SEO agencies. They might build leads, but they will be very poor quality and will not be interested in your company, e.g. a person searching for the latest fashion in pipe dresses might be directed to your plumbing site. That is useless. Google is very sensitive to this, and if your website is showing the use of black hat tactics, you might be banned from their results.
The common indicators of black hat SEO tactics are:
Web pages and blogs will be overstuffed with keywords making the content difficult to read and unnatural.
Content that is published is plagiarised or carries little useful information.
Links to your site have been bought and are not organically created nor brands of value.
Other websites are spammed with your website’s links in the comments section.
White hat SEO – An agency of quality will have a deep understanding of SEO and its plethora of moving parts. They will nurture each SEO pillar, including on-page and off-page channels as well as technical, local, eCommerce and reporting. They will develop a healthy digital immune system for your company that delivers quality, relevant leads to your website to increase new work enquiries or online sales.
What are the different categories of SEO?
On-page SEO – This optimisation addresses the visible part of your website such as meta descriptions for search engines results, keywords, coding quality, page speed, etc.
Additional factors that are addressed are:
Keyword research – This is ongoing research as the importance of keywords change.
Optimisation of page content, meta descriptions, blog posts, landing page, silo pages, i.e. all customer-facing pages that searchers arrive at from a search engine.
User- and search engine-friendly URLs and formatting.
The optimisation of images.
Internal linking between pages on the same site (very important for searchability).
This addresses external signals to establish your site’s overall authority as a quality destination on the Internet. Through this, you will be able to compete more successfully and will be favoured by Google.
Off-page SEO is key to your ability to compete with the Goliaths.
Factors that are addressed by off-page SEO include:
Social media buzz. This is done by driving traffic from your social channels to your website. To do this, you need popular content that is attractive to share and that points back to your site.
Backlinks. These must be naturally acquired, relationship-acquired links back to your site. Link-building is abused, with poor quality links, by black hat SEO agencies because it is only achieved via nurturing.
You can create healthy links by using guest posts and digital PR. These opportunities require leg-work, and that is why Google respects quality backlinks. Off-page SEO is the digital version of traditional PR – get your name published, get a buzz going around your brand and get your brand into everyday conversation.
This is back-end SEO, and it addresses your site’s ability to communicate with search engines.
Technical SEO addresses the following factors:
How mobile-friendly is your website?
How fast do your pages load?
How is the data structured?
Website migration solutions
Ensuring there are no indexing or crawling errors
Optimising the site structure
By ignoring technical SEO and merely pumping out blogs is not going to give you successful SEO.
Local leads are usually the gems for small businesses. It is vital that you are visible locally through search engines. Your physical location alone will drive you up the search results – if your digital profile is SEO optimised. You can also be on Google My Business and Google Maps.
There are three key factors that influence local SEO results: distance, relevance and prominence:
Distance – distance from the searcher.
Relevance – does your content and Google My Business information align with the search criteria.
Prominence – this relates to any business citations on the web, i.e. your web reviews and your website’s position in web results.