eCommerce adoption and the need for online engagement have been and will continue to accelerate in 2021. People want to socialize with brands on their terms and are looking for unique and streamlined online experiences to do it.
In order to stay competitive, businesses will need to adjust their digital presence to be more visible, valuable, and available to their customers. One crucial way to do that? Focusing on SEO for your business website.
Now, you may be asking, what’s the real value in SEO? Why is it important? Well, let’s take a look at what implementing it could do for your business and how it can become one of your most effective marketing strategies.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is the process of improving your site to increase organic visibility for specific search queries. The goal of SEO is to improve the quality and quantity of traffic to your website through onsite changes. This doesn’t mean just stuffing pages with relevant keywords, but focusing on core web vitals such as site speed, mobile-friendliness, interactivity, and the content of web pages.
Experts agree that successful optimization is just as much about serving customer needs as it is adhering to the guidelines and best practices of search engines like Google and Bing. Anticipating customer intent, understanding what type of content they’d like to see, and providing the best answers are the heart of good SEO. It’s simultaneously a customer research method and sales channel for your business, and it allows you to get to know your customers and their habits.
The key is being able to put both the technical and strategic elements together. To simultaneously serve your customer’s needs and deliver it in a way that is attractive to search engines.
Benefits of SEO for small business
The beauty of SEO is that anyone can do it and it’s more accessible than you might think. Instead of paying for traditional print ads or sponsored posts, taking the time and effort to understand SEO basics, and possibly investing in a few tools, can lead to greater long-term value for your business. Here are just a few reasons why you should consider leveraging organic search for your business.
1. Brings in more customers through organic search
53.3% of all web traffic comes from organic search and 60% of marketers state that their highest quality leads come from SEO-engaged customers. Why is that? Because they are searching for a solution, and by being one of the top results you are fulfilling a need.
Ranking on the first page of Google is necessary to be seen by customers. Climbing to the top position can almost double your click-through rate over the number two spot. And claiming a Featured Snippet (top of page element) can help you jump over the number one spot while potentially adding a second way for customers to click into your website.
The volume is there and by ranking for specific search terms you’ll attract the right customers. And by getting your site on the front page, you make your brand highly visible and showcase that you’re a trustworthy resource.
2. Creates a trustworthy web experience for customers
Hitting the front page, and claiming the number one spot in a search result is completely reliant on the authority you build. You can have the best answer or resource available, but without a quality experience for users, once they click into your site, you’ll have a very hard time getting them there at all.
That’s why the technical elements of SEO, such as page speed, backlinks, and other authority building elements are so crucial to the success of your business online. Playing with the rules governed by search engines forces you to keep your site in tip-top shape and makes maintaining its health a regular priority.
The benefit for you is that it won’t just help you rank better and therefore get more exposure. It will also make it easier for customers to trust you based on the functionality of your website. Having fast pages, security measures, and automated customer service portals are just a few ways to do this.
3. Encourages you to focus on user experience
Speaking of your web experience, a core element of SEO that continues to grow in necessity is optimizing user experience. Google is prioritizing user experience as a ranking factor in 2021 and will leverage their new Core Web Vitals alongside previous factors like page speed to help determine if you are providing a valuable interaction or not. Featured Snippets and other in-search elements also leverage this idea, by pulling answers, images, and other valuable information onto the search page itself.
For businesses, this just means that you need to focus on the needs of your customers. What do they want to know? What would they want to do next? What other information, resources, or services can you provide them?
By prioritizing the needs of your customer first, you stand a better chance of ranking better, keeping them on your site, and converting. The more often that occurs, the more authoritative your site will be and the more people you’ll bring in. And the cycle continues.
4. Improves brand awareness
One tangential element outside of converting users into customers when you improve your rankings is overall brand awareness. Just by reaching the front page and climbing closer and closer to the top spot, the more touchpoints you’ll generate. Even if they don’t click into your site, just by being there, potential customers will begin to associate your brand with those solutions.
This is especially important if you’re competing on specific search terms with other businesses. You want to be top of mind when people input questions or directly search for the product or service you offer. And if you’re competitors own those searches, more than likely those organic sales will go to them.
If you’re just starting to explore implementing SEO for your business, the best thing you can do is target longer variations of a given search. For example, rather than trying to rank for “online accounting services” you’d go after terms like “online accounting services for small business” or “best online accounting services for small business in the northwest.”
Yes, these don’t generate as much search traffic. But, they are far easier to rank for than the shorter, more competitive term. The more of these longer variations you rank for, the more likely you are to move up for the shorter search term. And through it all your building awareness within your target market.
5. It helps keep you informed
Like anything related to operating a business, SEO changes all the time. Search engines are updated, different factors become important and other businesses are working on their own strategies to rank. This means, that in order to execute SEO successfully, you need to stay informed about best practices, solutions, and changes.
While this may sound like more work, this is actually a benefit to your business as it keeps you informed about online processes. SEO is directly tied to digital technology, meaning that much of what happens with it, can help you understand online trends and proactively address any major changes. Plus through your research and site updates, you understand more about your customers, your competitors, and digital experience as a whole.
Now, let’s be honest you won’t be able to stay up to speed with everything and there’s no need to go crazy trying to. Just keep your ear to the ground, take note of any major changes and stay focused on your industry vertical. Just doing that much can keep you on track.
6. It can be done on a budget
Possibly one of the best things regarding SEO is that it can be relatively inexpensive to implement. Sure, you can hire a specialist or bring on an SEO-oriented role within your business, but to start you can learn and implement much of this yourself. And outside of the cost of hiring someone, purchasing a few subscriptions, or spending your own time, the actual implementation costs nothing.
Additionally, investing in SEO is a long-term benefit to your business. Yes, things change all the time, but the core processes and strategies associated with SEO should stand for years to come and possibly only require minor tweaks. When it’s done right, it can be one of the best long-standing marketing solutions for your business that provides a continuous return on investment.
7. It’s trackable
One element of traditional marketing that is generally frustrating is how vague your return on investment can be. Billboards have an average number of views based on traffic patterns. Commercials gauge overall views based on rating systems. But SEO is completely quantifiable and can easily tie into any paid digital strategies as well.
Now it won’t be as straightforward as paid ads and you’ll need to connect some dots on the backend of your site to truly understand how your organic traffic is leading to sales. But, with a little Google Analytics know-how, you can easily set up different trackable conversions based on on-site ad clicks, page views, order completions, click-to-call, etc.
In regards to optimizing your SEO efforts, you can use tools like Google Search Console to get a better idea of how people are finding you, what you’re ranking for and where there’s room for improvement. You’ll even be able to take deep dives into your site health here, which is again a crucial element of user engagement.
8. It benefits other marketing initiatives
A little inside baseball from the LivePlan team, almost every web project has some element of SEO research involved. Whether it’s paid, inbound (content on our website), outbound (content sent to customers), or product-related, our SEO-related resources and efforts are used to help inform decisions for other teams and vice-versa.
Research and insights from every team help fuel that itch to research a potential search query or try a different phrase on an advertisement. In many ways, testing what has worked organically through other marketing channels can reinforce if something is truly working or not in your SEO strategy.
It can tell you what trends are emerging in your industry, what customers are more likely to click on, what elements of a product or service are more useful, and even what you should name a feature. Again, your working to optimize your site by understanding what your customers care about. That can only help inform your other marketing efforts.
Where to start with SEO
Knowing where to start when developing an SEO strategy can be incredibly difficult. There is so much information out there trying to address trends, implementation, and best-practices that it makes it frustratingly dense to jump into.
I recommend starting with this annually updated guide built by the folks at Backlinko. It always addresses current methods, is incredibly consumable, and easy to actually implement based on their insights.
Additionally, it’s worth starting your SEO journey by conducting a market analysis. By leveraging keyword research, exploring competitor sites, and signing up for their lead generation content, you’ll not only better understand your competition but have the beginnings of an SEO strategy. To help you start that research, check out tools like Ubersuggest or sign up for the courses provided by SEMRush. These are both free resources that can help you dip your toes into understanding SEO without investing a ton of time and resources upfront.
And just keep in mind that this will take some trial and error. No one has the secret recipe for successful SEO. Instead, SEO professionals all have ingredients or methods that are known to work and they continuously test and iterate on them to find improvements. Like anything involved with running a business, you’re making your best bet, reviewing the results, and trying it all over again.