In an era where organisations are increasingly choosing to set up (or migrate) online, the impact of SEO cannot be overstated – especially for small businesses looking to build their digital presence.
The question, however, is why? After all, why should you spend so much of your time and resources on researching and optimising keywords, or writing blog posts? What is the benefit to your company? What kind of return are you going to see for your efforts?
The Importance of SEO
To provide some form of answers for these queries, and to illustrate why SEO is such a vital marketing element for small businesses, we've compiled a comprehensive list of its advantages – as well as how it can help to establish and grow your company's presence in such a competitive marketplace.
1. It Enhances Your Global Visibility
The most significant benefit of SEO (or search engine optimisation for the uninitiated) is that it enables you to be seen by potential customers – arguably the biggest challenge for any business. The best part is that if you follow an effective strategy, you can attract a lot of traffic organically, reducing your marketing budget.
Of course, SEO is not designed to be the answer to every company's marketing prayers; it should be used in conjunction with, rather than instead of, your other marketing plans. But it should represent the core hub of your long-term online strategy, built slowly upon effective processes such as good, unique content, strong technical performance, consistent levels of trust and expertise, and adherence to white hat techniques that won't harm or penalise your website further down the line.
SEO won't transform your bottom line overnight – and anybody who expects it to will be left wanting. If you plan to be around for the long term, though, it can significantly enhance your credibility and your exposure over an extended period.
2. It Can Lead to Increased Conversions
If you are a local business (such as a cafe, a car garage or a hotel), then SEO can dramatically increase your reach and your conversions.
Local SEO refers to a search engine's recommendation of businesses that are close to the searcher, such as somebody who is Googling "good coffee shops in Cardiff", or "flower shops in Glasgow", for instance. If you have optimised your online presence, then your business is far more likely to appear in the top ends of these searches – and given how many people now rely on search engines for such queries, that is a lot of potential custom.
This can be achieved relatively easily, too, by ranking for the right keywords and ensuring that your business is active with promotional tools, such as Google My Business.
3. It Creates an Optimised User Experience
Although there is still life yet in the art of offline marketing, an online presence is undoubtedly the key to successful business growth in 2020. However, setting up a website and throwing a couple of social media accounts together isn't enough; users demand a positive experience when interacting with your brand online.
This means implementing the best – and most up-to-date – practices on your website. For instance, two common factors that can instantly put potential customers off are long loading times on your pages or poor portability between devices (such as a page not being designed to be smartphone-friendly). These are relatively small fixes that can be done by yourself (or by a specialist if you are not confident), but failure to address them can have a considerable impact on your sales. Indeed, according to Neil Patel, 40% of people abandon websites that take more than three seconds to load, while even a one-second delay in loading times can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
Therefore, you should be seeking to offer as seamless a user experience as is possible, and ensuring that poor design or quickly fixable technical issues are not costing you customers.
4. It Increases Credibility and Trust in Your Business
In addition to visibility and an optimised user experience, SEO also helps to build a sense of trust and, consequently, credibility amongst your visitors.
This is because it is human nature to trust brands that have higher visibility. After all, consider things from a personal perspective; if you were looking for a niche business online, would you be more likely to trust the brand at the top of the results, or the one hidden away on page four?
As you begin to rank for a wider range of queries and topics, your company's name will start to register in the subconscious of users, too. This is a great way to establish credibility in the long term.
5. It Encourages you to Stay Relevant
SEO is not a stagnant concept; it is constantly evolving. Major search engines such as Google are continuously updating their rules and their criteria for what constitutes best practice, and so you need to ensure that your online operations are reviewed and fine-tuned to stay relevant.
This means that if you are able to keep abreast of changes and understand how and why they are being made, then you can alter your strategy to achieve a competitive advantage. Not only can this give you a potentially significant edge over your rivals, but it also ensures that the experience of your users is always smooth – a win-win for both you and your customers.
With the widespread availability of freelancers, you can easily hire professionals to improve and maintain your SEO efforts, whether it be hiring audit specialists to review your site, content writers to produce keyword-driven blog posts, or online marketers to boost your link profile.
Alternatively, if you have the time to conduct research, numerous online resources can help and instruct you in many of these tasks. Either way, they shouldn't be ignored, as to grow your business, understanding the importance of SEO is critical.
What do you think? Is search engine optimisation an outdated concept that is an unnecessary drain on time and resources? Or is it the key to sustaining your business online in the long term? Let us know your opinions in the comment section below!