Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a key component of digital marketing. Today, e-commerce websites, social media pages, and other digital platforms are the new storefronts for modern businesses. SEO is all about online visibility, which is a strong business foundation since many enterprises are now focused on internet-based e-commerce.
SEO is essential for any big or small business looking to gain online authority, grow a following, or sell products and services on the web. However, SMEs are still lagging behind large firms in adopting SEO into their marketing strategies. According to a recent survey, only 36% of small businesses had an SEO strategy going into 2019.
In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of SEO for a small business and some of the most effective SEO practices based on Google’s webmaster guidelines.
What is small business SEO?
In essence, small business SEO is a specialiSed subset of general SEO. It involves implementing tactics and strategies to improve your website’s search engine rankings and visibility, with the ultimate goal of attracting more potential customers, clients, and leads to your business.
Is SEO worth it for a small business?
SEO can seem daunting at first, especially to small business owners and first-time entrepreneurs; for some, pairing small businesses and SEO may not even seem logical. A poor understanding of SEO practices is one of the main hindrances to effective digital marketing. Some entrepreneurs assume that search engine marketing is insanely expensive, complicated, and not worth the effort.
The truth is, SEO is one of the simplest facets of digital marketing, and more importantly, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Plus, SEO is not meant for online businesses only; brick-and-mortar establishments can also boost their foot traffic through SEO without necessarily selling anything online.
Search engines truly dominate web traffic, considering that about 40% of trackable web traffic comes from organic search. Unless a web user knows the exact site they want to visit; chances are, they’ll get there through a search engine. Appearing at the top list of search engine results exposes your brand and business to millions of potential shoppers, leads, and business opportunities. Even if you choose to invest money in SEO, the ROI can more than double if the marketing campaign is well-orchestrated.
So, the simple answer is ‘yes,’ SEO is worth it for any small business, even those that don’t operate online.
5 key benefits of Small Business SEO:
#1 Increased Visibility
One of the major benefits of SEO for small businesses is that it increases brand awareness. Brand awareness is an indication of how many customers know, can recognise, or recall your brand. A high level of brand awareness is essential for a company to generate revenue. In fact, the state of Digital marketing found that 37% of businesses stated increased brand awareness was their priority.
SEO increases brand awareness by appearing at the top of Google search results for specific and relevant keywords or phrases. By ranking well, your brand is viewed by more people and you will begin to gain trust as the authority in your particular area.
An increase in visibility, awareness and recognition can also result in a surge of clicks to your website. People are more likely to visit a brand they know than one they are unfamiliar with.
This is because a known brand is referred to as a safe search. So, if you achieve a high level of brand recognition, then you may be perceived as a safe search and increased website traffic will naturally follow.
An additional benefit to a warmer, nurtured perception of your brand is that increases the probability of attracting quality clients.
#2 Attracts Quality Clients
Quality clients are the clients that businesses dream of. They are the people that you specifically target because you believe your business can truly help them the most. In digital terms, quality clients can be defined as those that are most likely to work with you. Therefore, they are an essential part of a successful business strategy,
An effective SEO strategy helps to attract relevant and ready-to-buy users to your site. Appearing high on search engine results establishes trust and authority for your business that signals you are the expert in your chosen field.
Why does this matter?
Leads or prospects from traditional marketing channels have a 1.7% close rate. Leads coming from SEO services have a close rate of 14.6%. That’s an enormous difference. The financing and time-saving benefits of attracting quality clients cannot be understated.
SEO, as a marketing tool, is able to achieve such high conversion rates because it is specific, targeted and relevant. The concept of SEO is built upon providing people with the content that they are looking for. If you are able to do this, your clients will be more likely to work with you.
It is essential that your investment in SEO is complemented with other lead-nurturing and educational content across your marketing funnels. If you have a high-performing SEO strategy, but your website is difficult to use, then you may suffer from a limited return.
#3 SEO gives you a competitive edge
Want to outrank your toughest competitors? It can feel like an insurmountable task, but it is necessary to increase your share of the market in order to keep a constant stream of clients.
This is because the top five ranked companies on each specific Google search result gain around 75% of the website traffic. For anybody lingering on page two, the data is underwhelming. According to Ahrefs, only 0.78% of users click on results on the second page. Therefore, the first page has almost 1000% more revenue potential for business than ranking anywhere on the second page.
Another key benefit of SEO is the strategic insight that it gives into your competitors. Investigating and benchmarking your competitor’s performance – through an SEO audit or technical SEO audit– encourages you to generate differentiation for your business, which can provide a competitive advantage within your SEO campaigns and wider marketing strategy. Gaining an edge on your competitors can also provide long-lasting benefits, such as reducing your advertising spend, without losing your revenue capabilities.
#4 Reduces your advertising costs
One of the benefits of SEO for small businesses is that it can help reduce advertising costs. When a website appears at the top of search engine results pages, it is more likely to attract clicks from users who are searching for products or services related to the business. This means that the business can potentially generate more leads and sales without having to spend money on traditional advertising methods, such as print ads or TV commercials.
Additionally, SEO is a long-term strategy that can continue to generate results over time. While traditional advertising methods require ongoing investment to maintain their effectiveness, a properly optimised website can continue to attract organic traffic and generate leads even if the business stops actively investing in SEO.
#5 SEO is strongly linked to long-term success
It is no secret that businesses with strong SEO performance have reaped the rewards.
Perhaps the great benefit of SEO is sustainability, and not a game of quick wins. But the return on investment for SEO compounds over time. Eventually, the cost of your SEO maintenance will decrease, while your revenue will continue to grow.
The first four benefits demonstrate how SEO provides the foundation for your business in terms of marketing strategy, developing relationships with customers and ensuring your budgets are working for you.
It has been proven that SEO can help to drive long-term success for your company, which is why it is one of the most effective strategies for ROI. If the benefits of SEO were only short-term, then they would be less effective at achieving a high ROI. The combination of these highlights that SEO is a marketing medium for businesses that are looking to become digitally established and are motivated by calculated growth, not quick wins and volatility.
Please note that Google does change its algorithm over time. Therefore, if you are currently appearing at the top of search results, there is no guarantee that this will last. It is essential to monitor your performance and the latest trends in SEO to ensure your performance does not deteriorate due to updates.
Effective SEO strategies for small businesses
SEO is a multi-faceted marketing approach that incorporates technical web development and design principles, social engineering, and content marketing. Here are the top five essential SEO practices you need to know about:
#1 Keyword research and optimisation
The first step in any SEO marketing campaign is knowing your audience and the terms they’re likely to search for in online queries. From there, you can determine the ideal search terms that relate to your business or brand – these are known as keywords.
For instance, if your business sells shoes, the related keywords may include ‘shoes,’ ‘foot ware,’ ‘boots,’ and ‘fashion shoes.’ These are the keywords you should mention in your meta-data (titles and meta-descriptions), page titles, and throughout your website.
However, keyword research is a little more complicated than that. You have to figure out how competitive your target keywords are, how often they appear in search queries, and whether they can actually generate leads. Fortunately, you can use Google Keyword Planner or other premium keyword organisers and research tools to figure out the best keywords for your campaign.
Most of these activities don’t take long to complete. However, they provide a strong foundation for the rest of your digital marketing.
#2 UX and mobile optimisation
User experience (UX) is one of the most important SERP ranking factors. UX defines how easily users navigate, find information, and perform actions on your site. It basically means basing the site’s layout, structure, architecture, and content on user satisfaction. Some of the factors influencing user experience on websites include performance, page loading speed, and navigation paths.
Users will abandon a site prematurely if they find it to be slow, complicated, or irrelevant. This results in high bounce rates, which send a negative signal to search engines.
You can boost a site’s user engagement using technical SEO actions such as cutting its page loading time, making its features intuitive and easy to use, populating it with captivating content, and designing the navigation tree from the visitor’s journey perspective.
Mobile responsiveness is also a huge deal in UX design because about half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices. Google is particularly keen on mobile UX and has pioneered initiatives such as mobile-first indexing and AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) to encourage web developers and online businesses to cater to mobile web users.
#3 High-quality content creation
SEO content includes blog posts, web content (page content, media tags, captions, etc.), social media posts, emails, and newsletters. Decide the brand voice, type of content, and material that communicates with your target audience to get your business message across.
Remember, content is not limited to text alone. You can also have videos, audio, and images, depending on the medium that best relays the message and connects with the audience. The important thing is creating content strategy that engages the audience and takes them on a journey to fulfil a specific goal. For instance, the objective of a blog post or product description might be to inform or persuade the audience to take action, such as a purchase.
#4 Link building and Digital PR
Backlinks are links from other websites to your website. They signal to search engines that your content is valuable and authoritative, which can improve your rankings.
To build high-quality backlinks, focus on creating high-quality content that other websites will want to link to. Reach out to other websites in your industry and ask if they’d be willing to link to your content.
You can build links through:
- Hunting for broken links
- Mentions in online reviews and testimonials
- Outreach journalism
- Social media marketing
- Featuring in online events and pop culture
- Guest blogging
#5 Social Media
Social media can be a powerful tool for driving traffic to your website and improving your SEO.
By sharing your content on social media and engaging with your followers, you can increase your visibility and attract more backlinks to your website.
In addition, social media activity can indirectly impact your SEO by increasing brand awareness and attracting more traffic to your website. When more people are searching for your brand on Google, it can signal to search engines that your website is valuable and authoritative.
#6 Local search targeting
According to stats shared by Go Gulf, 46% of all Google searches have local intent. And about 72% of consumers who look up businesses online end up visiting those they find within a five-mile radius.
Investing in local SEO services can boost your business’s foot traffic and online referrals by targeting ready and relevant customers. Local SEO is obviously not for all businesses. It only works for businesses that can leverage localised audiences, such as hospitality, food and beverages, medical, and traditional retail businesses.
There are many strategies to build an online presence in your local area. Some of the local SEO best practices are: claiming a Google My Business Page for your establishment, optimising your content and keywords for local searches and listing your business in online directories.
#7 Monitor your analytics
Finally, it’s crucial to monitor your website analytics to understand how your SEO efforts are impacting your traffic and rankings. Use a tool like Google Analytics to track your website traffic and monitor your rankings for target keywords.
By monitoring your analytics, you can identify areas for improvement and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly.
For example, if you notice that certain pages on your website are receiving a lot of traffic, you may want to focus on optimising those pages for additional keywords.
So, is SEO worth it for a small business?
Small businesses often struggle to compete with larger and established businesses in their industry. They have limited resources and smaller budgets, which makes it challenging for them to reach out to their target audience and increase their online visibility. However, SEO is one of the most cost-effective ways for small businesses to improve their online presence, attract more visitors, and boost their revenue.
Here are some reasons why SEO is worth it for small businesses:
Cost-effective: SEO is one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies for small businesses. Unlike paid advertising, SEO doesn’t require a large budget to get started. While SEO may take some time to show results, the long-term benefits of a well-optimised website can pay off in the long run.
Increased online visibility: With the majority of consumers searching online for products and services, it’s essential for small businesses to have a strong online presence. SEO can help small businesses appear higher in search engine rankings, which can increase their online visibility and attract more visitors to their website.
Targeted traffic: SEO can help small businesses attract targeted traffic to their website. By optimising for specific keywords related to their business, small businesses can ensure that the people who visit their website are interested in their products or services.
Competitive edge: SEO can help small businesses compete with larger, more established businesses in their industry. By appearing higher in search engine rankings, small businesses can level the playing field and reach out to their target audience.
Brand credibility: A website that appears higher in search engine rankings is often perceived as more credible and trustworthy by consumers. By investing in SEO, small businesses can establish their brand as a credible and trustworthy source in their industry.
Long-term benefits: Unlike paid advertising, which stops generating traffic once the campaign ends, SEO can generate traffic for months or even years after the initial optimisation. This means that small businesses can continue to reap the benefits of their SEO efforts long after the initial investment.
Find the right Small Business SEO service for your brand
A good SEO strategy takes skill and time to develop. And since it’s such a crucial part of growing a business, it’s best to let experts handle your SEO marketing efforts. Individual SEO practices are pretty straightforward, but the SEO concept as a whole is less so for three reasons:
- SEO is a moving target: SEO algorithms change from time to time without warning, and so do customer behaviour and online trends.
- SEO is an ongoing process that needs continuous nurturing to maintain visibility and ranking.
- Managing SEO requires analytical tools and expertise that may be inaccessible or too expensive for a small business.
That’s why it makes sense to hire an SEO agency or service provider to develop, curate, and maintain your SEO strategies.
Ensure you get an SEO service that aligns with your marketing and business goals and that can justify their cost through a reasonable ROI and measurable performance metrics. Remember, you want a results-driven SEO service that can truly bring value to your business based on its model, size, target customers, and offerings.