SEO, or search engine optimization, has gotten a bad rap over the past couple of years, particularly in the wake of Google’s recent algorithm changes. Some people have even declared that SEO is dead or moribund. Some insist that PPC, or pay per click, is a better tool to drive traffic to one’s site and is well on its way to replacing SEO. But rumors of SEO’s death are premature. And while small businesses that can afford a PPC strategy should certainly consider using this marketing tool, SEO is still very important and should be part of any business’s overall marketing plan.
SEO is not magic and won’t guarantee your company’s success, but if done effectively – and “effective” will vary from company to company – it can help bring traffic to your site. From there, of course, it’s up to you to turn browsers into buyers.
Here are six reasons SEO still matters.
- Visibility. If people doing an Internet search for what you have to offer can’t find you pretty quickly, they’ll never know you are there. People are busy and impatient and they want quick results, including quick search results. Being on page 25 or so of search results isn’t going to win you many new visitors. Done properly and in compliance with Google’s tightened standards, SEO can put you up there in the rankings – even if you are a tiny business.
- Credibility. Good SEO can lend credibility to your company. If you’re one of the top organic search results when people search for topics related to your products or services, this is somewhat akin to a vote of confidence from the search engines, particularly if you show up repeatedly as searchers refine their search terms (which most do). The caveat, again, is that the rules have changed, standards have tightened, and you have to pay more attention to quality. But if you want to earn credibility, not just as a source for products or services but also as a resource for information people are seeking, then quality should be your top priority anyway.
- Traffic. Traffic doesn’t automatically mean money in your pocket. It doesn’t mean that everyone who visits your site is going to become a customer. But it certainly increases the chances.
- A better customer experience. Unlike a TV commercial that annoys your customer by interrupting his or her favorite show just as the plot is thickening, or a piece of junk email or snail mail, SEO is a form of non-intrusive advertising. Customers are looking for you; you’re not interrupting them. That gives you an advantage right off the bat.
- Better insight into your customers. Google Analytics tracks the traffic to your site, offering data and metrics that can give you a window into your customers’ needs, searching and browsing habits, where they live, and the time they are most active online. This type of data provides valuable insight that you can use in planning your promotional strategies, online and off. You can also use it to improve your products and services.
- A good ROI compared to many other marketing efforts. SEO is eminently affordable for most businesses. The time, effort, and even money spent on SEO efforts can pay off handsomely. One caveat: If you hire a professional to oversee your SEO campaign make sure you hire someone who knows what they’re doing. There are many SEO scams going around. Here’s a guide from Google: support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35291?hl=en
Getting the most from SEO
Although SEO can still deliver a better ROI than TV and print ads, it isn’t a silver bullet; no single strategy can do everything for you. The fact that SEO was long touted as some magic trick to bring tons of traffic (and revenue) has led to its abuse and to people “gaming” the system – which is precisely why Google has continually had to tighten standards and adjust its algorithms. In addition to staying in compliance with those tightened standards, businesses need to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all SEO formula.
Other points to help you get the most from SEO:
- Be patient and persistent. SEO takes time and effort; you won’t see overnight results. Nor is it a quick, one-time task; good SEO requires constant tweaking as well as measurement and analysis of results.
- Pay attention to quality. Not to belabor the point, but a general and consistent dedication to quality will make search engines love you (or at least not hate you), and will keep people coming back to your site. A good landing page and quality content are a must. Refresh your content often, and don’t think you can get away with the old tricks such as “keyword stuffing” or duplicating content on numerous websites.
- Don’t ignore local. People still live their lives in the physical world, not just online, and location still matters. An estimated one-third of Google searches focus on a specific place or location – particularly mobile search. As a small business with any type of physical location, you must ensure that you rank high in these local searches. And speaking of mobile, make sure your site is optimized for mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops.
- Don’t ignore social media. Strategic participation on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin can really increase your visibility and also give you valuable insight into your customers’ wants and needs.
The bottom line is that SEO still matters for small businesses. A small company competing against large firms (and a million other small ones) should take advantage of every available tool.
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