Search Engine Optimisation or SEO as it is most commonly known is one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted terms in the world of marketing yet it is my belief that it is one of the most important aspects of a solid marketing plan for any business, especially small and medium sized businesses. So this blog is intended to provide, at least in my humble opinion an overview of what SEO is, how it works and five reasons that will hopefully leave you asking not “how much will it cost to have SEO?” but “how much business am I losing not having SEO?”
So first of all let’s start with what exactly SEO is. SEO is designing the content of your website is a certain manner that it can be more easily identified by search engines when certain key words are searched for.
I heard a great analogy recently that I will share with you now. Imagine you are organising a party. You spare no expense. You have the catering, the band, the drinks, the venue and the suit. This will be the party of the century. On the night though, no one turns up – except the cousin you didn’t really want to see anyway. You realise that you forgot to send out the invites. Having a great website without SEO is like having a party and forgetting to send out the invites.
The goal of SEO is not only to increase the level of traffic to your site overall but more specifically to increase visitation by targeted customers seeking your services. This is achieved by carefully targeting the SEO of your website to keywords that customers use when searching for your products and services.
SEO should not be confused with paid advertising such as Google adwords, any other form of online advertising, anything to do with social media or blogging. Put simply SEO is making your website turn up at the top of the list in an online search without paying a search engine i.e Google to put it there for you. (Incidentally you will note that I frequently refer to Google, however this is not the only search engine out there. There are others which are obviously significantly less common such as Bing. Good SEO should aim to drive a higher search result for your website no matter which search engine is used).
Why does your business need SEO? Here are five powerful reasons that articulate the importance of SEO for your website:
- Consumers chose organic search results 94% of the time
In the good old days paid advertising on Google looked very similar to organic results with very subtle differences. Whilst paid advertising still appears at the very top of search results, in recent years Google has taken steps to clearly distinguish paid advertising from organic results. I’m unsure what the difference was previously but recent studies show that approximately 94% of people chose organic search results over paid advertising. (Off topic and for another blog but that doesn’t mean paid search advertising is a waste of time for a number of reasons not least of all as it is pay per click). So let me just reiterate the point that 94% of people prefer to click on an organic result. Why? Without wanting to discuss the psychology of this consumers have a tendency to avoid paid advertising. Whilst SEO is technically paid, consumers view it as organic – your website has earned the right to be in that position and thus gains instant credibility with consumers.
- Over 35% of clicks go to the number one Google ranked website
I think the headline pretty much spells this paragraph out. Over 35% of clicks go to the website which has the number one Google page ranking. That’s 1 in every 3 people who search for keywords relating to your business! To make that picture a little bigger nearly 60% of clicks go to websites in the top three search positions. The remaining positions after this fight for a fragmented share of the remaining 40% of clicks. While 40% may seem like a reasonable amount it’s not when you have to share it amongst the next however many hundred websites and as a small example of how fragmented the share of clicks is on average the website showing up in the number 10 ranked position received 2.2% share of clicks.
So in a nutshell if you want targeted traffic to visit your website and subsequently enquire about the services that your business offers, you need to be in one of the top three ranked search positions.
- Cost Effective
SEO is currently considered the most cost effective tool that businesses can use. Compared to the costs associated with other forms of online marketing (and offline marketing for that matter) such as pay per click advertising, social media advertising or purchasing leads for an email marketing programme, SEO provides a stronger return on investment. SEO may not be the biggest driver of leads, however in most of the case studies I have seen SEO drives the most stable and sustainable source of leads at the lowest cost – and so in many ways it could be considered the foundation of your online presence.
- 80-90% of consumers start their search for a product and/or supplier online
There are a range of studies with varying results however every study I found agreed that between 80-90% of consumers search for product or supplier information online and use search engines to do it prior to making a purchase. I don’t know how to put this more simply but if you are not showing up in search engine results you are not where your customers are looking. Plain and simple.
- SEO is here to stay
Unquestionably the technology sector has seen its fair share of fads and trends. Without trying too hard I can rattle off a list of at least half a dozen ‘has beens’ that are littering the technology graveyard where yesterday’s fads go to be forgotten quicker than they were adopted. But SEO is not one of them and nor will it be any time soon. In fact SEO is becoming increasingly complex as it grows to meet the evolving needs of search algorithms and the hardware we use to access the internet. Here’s a prime example: The amount of web sessions that people access from mobile phones and devices is rapidly approaching a level where it will exceed web traffic accessed through desktop browsers. This dramatic explosion opens up a whole new world of SEO techniques such as location based search optimisation.
So in short not only do I believe SEO is here for the long run it is going to get about ten times cooler than it already is.
Like anything though there are always two sides to the coin and there are some things that you need to consider for your website to be successfully optimised for search. Please take note though that I describe these as considerations and not disadvantages. Even if they were disadvantages the benefits far out way them.
As mentioned above SEO is becoming increasingly more complex. In its infancy someone with a bit of tech skill may have done a pretty good job at their own SEO. Not anymore, not by a long shot. This is now a specialist field and you will need to hire a specialist to help you. Make sure you do your research on the person or company that you hire and go as far as to ask to speak to current clients to check out the results they are achieving. It would also pay to check what industries they are accustomed to as some people and companies specialise in certain sectors which can make a difference.
Second, SEO is a never ending process. It is not something that you do once it is something that must be maintained on a monthly basis. If you’re not moving forwards or at least maintaining your position you will be losing ground to competitors in your industry.
Lastly SEO is not a quick fix or an overnight success. It will take time and you can expect to see incremental gains as opposed to drastic leaps. Your SEO specialist should be able to give you an idea of what to expect but how far and how quickly you rise will depend at least in part on how competitive the search space is in your industry.
My advice for what it’s worth…taking all of the above into consideration good SEO could be likened to a foundation of stone for your digital strategy. It won’t deliver overnight results but it will deliver cost effective sustainable results; just be prepared to play the long game.
By way of concluding this blog I want to ask you to take a moment and imagine you are one of your own customers. What would you search for in Google if you were looking for the services you offer? You might come up with one answer or you might have multiple possibilities. Either way, once you have answered the question go and try the possibilities and see where your business appears in the list of search results. If it’s not in the top three ask yourself how many people are not coming to your website, are not looking at your products and services and are not becoming your customers.