Is SEO Important for Small Businesses (HINT: Yes!)
Yes, Your Company’s Site Needs SEO
by Michael Winter
Do I need SEO for my business? It’s a question asked far, far too many times, every single day, if you ask us.
The short answer: yes
But we can’t have an article that has just one word. We like to give you a little more information than that.
And besides – as you’ll learn a little later in the article – the search engines are very much like your mother: they don’t like one-word answers either.
We won’t get too much into the details of what SEO actually is within this article. You can go many, many different places online to find out such information. If you ask us, we’d recommend you start with Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. It’ll give you a good, broad understanding of what’s involved. And it’ll also give you an idea of what you’re letting yourself in for, should you plan to do it yourself.
“Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines.”
If you don’t fancy doing it yourself – and we wouldn’t blame you, there’s a lot of technical jargon, monotonous checks and time-consuming tasks – we’re sure you’ve thought about hiring a specialist digital marketing agency or SEO expert.
We can all but guarantee you’ve seen these kind of emails, too:
Get your website ranked on Page 1 of Google guaranteed
Delete those emails. Immediately. Block the sender too.
If you haven’t seen an email like that, you’re either very new to the world of online business or you have a department who deals with that junk for you.
Either way, do not pursue it. It’s sounds too good to be true because it is exactly that. It’s simply not possible to promise such dramatic results.
The Dreaded Inbox of a Website Owner
Avoid the fraudsters and swindlers
What these charlatans are assuring you is super-charged SEO that doesn’t actually exist. It’s the digital marketing industry equivalent of
Take just one pill per day, eat everything under the sun and lose as much weight as you bloody-well please
There’s no science that’ll back such claims. These companies just pry on the naivety and long-standing desires of people to fleece money unscrupulously.
SEO is not new. It’s been around since the very beginning of the internet’s inception and the search engines’ rise to prominence. And despite the many changes and variations that SEO has taken over the years, we know a lot more about it now than we used to.
And therefore, we know that you can’t simply spam your way to Page 1 of Google, Bing, Yahoo! or any other search engine that you care to mention. Well, short of paying for an advert to appear at the top of the page, but that’s a different topic that requires different strategy entirely.
The Battered Black Hat
For a long time, shady marketers indulged in black hat tactics such as keyword stuffing, buying links, link farms and a whole host of things.
If the moral depravity didn’t keep you awake at night, this was one way to get good results. And it worked for many a year. But fortunately, 2011 saw Google put their foot down in a big way. They introduced the first of many of their search engine updates called Panda and the user-experience driven search engine was finally given prominence.
When this happened, the shysters quickly folded and retreated to the shadows. Even multi-million dollar companies lost huge swathes of users.
Those that remained (Wikipedia being a great example of a site driven by high-quality content) emphasised the most important part of modern SEO:
User experience is everything
One of the most important aspects of SEO is making your website (and all of the pages of your websites) easily findable and understandable, both for users and the search engine’s robots.
For user-friendliness and a high-quality experience, that means your web pages must have:
an attractive layout
large and decently spaced text
It must also be engaging, so your visitors find your content useful and spend time reading your articles and keep coming back for more.
Google is clever – but not as clever as your brain
Where search engine robots are concerned, things get a little trickier. Despite the huge advances in sophistication in recent times, there is no question that even the most advanced search engines are incapable of interpreting data in the same way the human brain can.
Consider this – below is a simple picture of a street. Within a split-second your brain can interpret the fact that you are seeing a picture taken in the daytime of six cars. Four are stopped at a red light and one is in the middle of the road making a turn. With a slightly closer look, you’ll be able to notice there’s actually an additional car that is slightly obscured and a motorbike (both facing towards the camera), one of the four stopped cars facing us has its indicator on signalling a desire to turn left and the traffic lights are positioned differently to what we’re normally accustomed to, especially in the UK.
Even the most advanced search engine in the world would struggle to interpret anywhere near that level of detail and sophistication. They simply can’t do that yet.
What does that mean for your website?
Well, if you have the best, most interesting and vibrant images in your industry – heck, on the internet full-stop – it won’t matter one jot if these images are not optimised for the search engine crawlers.
Which means the time you spent finding or taking those images (which is not free). Or the money you spent acquiring those images (erm, we’re pretty sure that’s not free either) was kind of wasted. You may have enjoyed the experience. And you’ll get to look at them on your website, since you know they’re there.
But, here’s the rub – nobody else is going to know they’re there, so nobody else is going to get to enjoy them.
And that is precisely where SEO would help you. By inserting succinct alternative tags for your images, the search engine bots will be able to ‘read’ them which would allow them to show up on search engine results when someone randomly types “cars stopped at a red light” as we did.
“But I don’t have any high-quality images on my website, so why should I care about all of that?” we hear you shout in unison.
The image example is just that; an example.
The bottom line is, there are countless benefits to having a tailored SEO campaign.
How about you try this statement on for size instead:
A search engine lead is eight times more likely to convert to a sale than an outbound lead
If that doesn’t convince you, then maybe nothing will. But we’ll give you some more stats to help sway the argument:
44% of users start their online shopping experience by heading to the search engines of Google, Bing, Yahoo! etc. first.
Not selling anything? Fair enough. But you’ve got a website for something, haven’t you? If it’s information you’d like to distribute, then you might like to know that 91% of users find information through search engine results
And of those users on the search engines, 75% don’t even go any further than Page 1
So you can understand why you get so many emails promising the holy grail of getting your website to Page 1. There’s a wholelotof money involved.
We can’t promise those kind of results. No self-respecting digital marketer will. But we can help guide you in targeting long-tail keywords that will help your pages climb the rankings and become more visible. Or we can do it for you.
Why we’d recommend you hire a Digital Marketing Agency
Sure, we’re a digital marketing agency, so this advice may seem biased. We don’t mean it to be.
As we tell you on our ‘About’ page, we’d like you to work with us. But we still recommend you do your own research and hire an agency you’re comfortable with.
We hope that’s us, but there’s no hard feelings if it isn’t.
Either way, these are some of the reasons we’d advise you to hire an agency rather than doing it yourself:
It’s cheaper Although that may seem counter-intuitive, in the long run it’s almost certainly more cost-effective to hire an agency versus hiring a full-time employee.
Less headaches Employees are a necessity, but they can be a pain sometimes. When you hire an agency, the employees belong to someone else, therefore they’re not your problem.
Better Material If you’ve got a talented writer/SEO expert on the books then this one won’t apply to you. But we’re betting not many companies have those guys just lying around. And even if you do, we’ll go double-or-quits that they’re busy doing the job they were actually employed to do.
Accountability When you hire an agency, you’re getting a team of people who are eager to please you. They’re not employed by you so they need to make sure they keep you happy, otherwise you’ll just take your business somewhere else. That kind of motivation is difficult to find in employees.
Troubleshooting When something goes wrong, your regular team doesn’t have to stop what they’re doing to try to find the problem and then fix it – the agency will do all of that for you. And if it’s their mistake, they probably won’t charge you for it either! Try telling one of your staff that they aren’t getting paid for the four hours it took them to fix their own mistake (without getting sued).
SEO is an Investment
There are costs attached to SEO (and digital marketing in general) but SEO should be considered an investment. And a long-term one at that.
SEO has been compared to investing in real estate, and with good reason. And while you’ll hear some people tell you that houses are a waste of money, those crackpots are few and far between.
Doing SEO right and exhibiting patience will likely reward you with significant returns in the future. It may take years to reach the front pages of the search engines, but once you’re there, it’ll take your competitors years to out-rank you.
And when it comes to measuring results and calculating return on investment (ROI) you won’t find many more accurate methods than via the analytical tools associated with SEO.
In fact, with the correct set-up, it’s almost possible to track every single penny you invest. Imagine being able to say that about an advert in a magazine or on the radio!
One minor word of caution: be sure that you don’t confuse SEO with digital marketing – the terms are not interchangeable.
SEO is simply one of many tools within your digital marketing strategy that you can leverage to increase traffic to your web pages, improve conversion rates (whether those be sales, opt-ins, digital downloads etc.), improve the user-experience (by making sure targeted users arrive at your website) or increase the involvement of each user (through repeatedly returning to your site for information or even repeat sales).
Perhaps the most important of these tools – one that is a separate entity to SEO, but is also very, very closely related – is Content Marketing.
Keep your audience engaged and coming back for more
With reference to a point we made earlier, the user-experience is the single most important element of your website. User engagement is critical. And how are you going to engage your audience? Why, through your content, of course.
In short, SEO cannot help you if you do not have good content. And without SEO, your high-quality content may not get the audience it deserves. It’s a vicious circle but one you must break if you wish to achieve higher page rankings.
SEO is generally considered to be a combination of technical and creative strategies; on-site and off-site techniques; site architecture, page-load speeds and sitemaps.
And while all of those are very important, make sure you don’t miss the wood for the trees. None of them supersede content for importance.
The content of your website is the engine that drives your website – and therefore your whole company – forward. Everything else – the SEO the PPC, Social Media efforts – they’re the suspension, the bodywork, the safety features, (yes, in this analogy, your website is a car – we like cars). All of these things are important, of course, but without the content users won’t return to your website. There’s no point. It never moves forward. It never changes.
And when we say content, we don’t just mean articles. In our opinion, the articles you write are the most important element – human beings will always have a constant thirst for knowledge, this is something that will never change – but variety, as they say, is the spice of life.
Vary your content
High-definition, vivacious images, videos, infographics, even gifs are all types of content that will make users visit your site and keep coming back for more.
For more generic search terms, the top-ranked pages can be upwards of 10,000 or even 15,000 words! Don’t believe us? Try Googling the search terms ‘Abraham Lincoln’ and ‘Winston Churchill’. Both will return Wikipedia as the top ranking result: Lincoln’s page is over 16,000 words and Churchill’s is a monstrous 19,000+.
Don’t forget the Quality
But that doesn’t mean filling your articles with useless information and waffling on and on and on and on and on (OK, we’re just kidding, but you can see what we did there, right?) just to make the word-count. This isn’t your English homework and nobody is forced to read it. If the content is poor, your users will go elsewhere to get their knowledge-fix.
The term ‘high-quality’ has been used in this article six times (and counting). That is also done deliberately. If your audience doesn’t enjoy reading your articles, then they won’t keep coming back, no matter how many words you’ve written.
And while we’re on the topic of content, it’d be silly for us not to mention our article writing services for those of who still aren’t convinced that SEO is the way to go but have a good understanding that content is king!
So, what are your thoughts about the importance of SEO for your website?