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.
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 marketing 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.
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 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 UX 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
Build a broad backlink profile with high-quality links leading back to your website from authoritative sources. Search engines consider high-quality backlinks as endowments or votes. Besides, hyperlinking is the very foundation of the world wide web.
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. 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.
So, is SEO worth it for a small business?
If you want to grow your business online, SEO should be a central component of your overall marketing strategy.
Search engine optimisation is, indeed, a fundamental part of marketing. If you’re not yet sold on search engine marketing, here are some more attractive benefits of incorporating SEO into your small business:
- Spreads brand awareness across a broad audience
- Increases your digital marketing performance and ROI
- It’s technically free – you don’t have to pay for ads or influencers
- Generates qualified leads and traffic
- Helps reach more potential customers
- Improves conversions and sales
- Gives you a competitive edge
Find the right SEO service for your small business
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 a digital marketing 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.