What is SEO? Is it really important for any business or is SEO dead?
Can your web pages rank well without spending any time on SEO?
Is it enough to just produce great content?
These are just a few of the questions I’m often asked about SEO. In the article below, I want to answer some of these important FAQs and explore why good SEO can make a difference to businesses of any size, even SMEs or businesses without a website.
What is SEO?
In brief, SEO gets your business visible in Google and focuses on ways to make your website more appealing to your target audience. By attracting more website visitors who love what you offer, SEO helps you make more sales. It’s at the heart of turning your website into a customer attraction machine.
Let’s look at this definition in more detail though.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. This is the practice of improving the quality and quantity of traffic/visitors (i.e. people who are more likely to become customers) coming to your website via organic (i.e. not paid for) search engine results.
What does this mean?
Well, as you can see in my guide, on-page SEO is the process of optimising elements on your web pages to give them the best possible chance of being ranked highly in searches made by your target audience.
This includes elements like page headings, copy, alt tags for images and meta data, as a few examples.
Off-page SEO, on the other hand, is anything you do away from your website to bring in traffic or increase your site’s influence. This could include attracting backlinks to your site, social media marketing, guest blogging, content syndication and more.
Technical SEO covers things like page load speeds, security, site structure and mobile friendliness. It’s essentially the things you put in place to make your web pages as easy as possible for search engines to crawl and index.
But isn’t SEO dead?
As an SEO expert, I often have people say to me, “I thought SEO was dead or not really necessary anymore”.
It’s such a common belief that when I searched for ‘Is SEO dead?’ on Google, it returned over 53 million search results! And yet, ironically, it’s good SEO that helped the highest ranking articles about this topic appear on page one of Google.
Most often, the people that hold the belief that SEO is dead or irrelevant tend to think about SEO in outdated terms. They equate it with keyword-stuffed web pages and spammybacklinks.
That kind of SEO is dead. Thankfully.
But a better, more visitor-focused SEO is very much alive and constantly evolving.
Why is SEO important?
Google currently holds 90.1% of the search engine market share. The next biggest search engine is YouTube with a 2.9% share of the market.
Stats show that 75% of searchers never look beyond page one of Google for search results. In fact, 31.73% only ever click on the number one listing.
It’s clear that, if you want your website to be found, you have to think about how it will be ranked by Google.
And to rank well, you need to think about SEO.
Good SEO is an essential practice to help your website be found in this vast sea of information. It can be especially helpful when it comes to ranking well for mobile or local searches – a real bonus for those of you with bricks and mortar businesses.
SEO and the user experience (UX)
So, what is good SEO?
Well, above all, your website should provide an incredible UX to your target customers, i.e.the people who most want and need the products or services that you provide.
Every aspect of your website should serve this intention.
This means writing high quality, unique and relevant content that will be valued by your potential customers. And designing a website that is easy to use as well as looking good (all while communicating your brand values).
Good SEO is everything you do on- and off-page, as well as in the backend of your site to bring your great content to its intended audience (and vice versa).
The headlines you use, the way you link related articles together, your calls to action, the security of your site, how people talk about your brand on social media – all of these are SEO signals about what your site offers to its visitors.
The benefits of SEO
Even small changes to your SEO like adding unique topic-specific H1 headings to each web page or writing compelling meta descriptions can make significant, positive changes to how your website performs on Google.
The benefits of improving your SEO include:
- More clickthroughs to your website – i.e. more potential customers
- More high quality leads – i.e. visitors who are likely to buy from you
- Better conversion rates – i.e. a higher percentage of visitors who become customers (or who perform some other desired action on your website, such as signing up to your mailing list)
- A greater return on your investment (ROI) than outbound marketing tactics such as advertising or cold calling
- More visitors to your physical premises – 50% of mobile users visit a local store within 24 hours of making a related search
- Greater brand awareness – the higher a page is ranked, the more people will see it, even if they’ve never heard of your brand before
- Greater credibility – people tend to view sites that appear higher on Google as more credible and, as your reputation/authority grows, Google also rewards this with higher rankings
- Higher market share – all of the factors above combine to give you a higher market share
Do I really need SEO for my business?
Even knowing the benefits of spending some time on SEO, you may be wondering whether it is really necessary for your business. You may be worried that the costs outweigh the benefits or that SEO is just too complicated to be an efficient use of your time.
I honestly believe that SEO can benefit a business of any size – here’s why:
There’s no denying that big businesses have some natural advantages when it comes to SEO – budget, a known brand, resources, and an established customer base all help.
However, they also face some challenges too, not least complacency.
Bigger websites are potentially harder to optimise than smaller sites. It can also be difficult to get everyone in a large organisation on-board about investing in SEO, especially if the business is under pressure to cut its costs.
But, as I’ve mentioned above, SEO has many benefits for big businesses.
It can help them to rank above their competitors and promote specific product lines. It can also be used to publicise different locations, growing mailing lists or promote special offers.
According to Business2Community, businesses with a website and a clear online marketing strategy grow twice as fast as those without a website.
If you have a website, the chances are that it represents an investment of your time and money. But it isn’t enough to build a site – you have to let people know that it’s there, and SEO is the most effective way to do this.
By paying attention to your search engine optimisation, you can help to bring more traffic to your website. And the best bit is that SEO can ensure that new visitors are people who are highly likely to buy from you.
By growing brand awareness and your reputation using SEO, you should see an upswing in social media engagement, which will boost your website rankings. As your web pages begin to rank more highly, your social media will continue to grow too. It’s a fantastic upward spiral of visibility!
For many SMEs, a well-thought out SEO strategy is the secret ingredient that lets them compete with big businesses.
I mentioned in a past article about social media marketing that, back in 2017, a small fashion company called Fashion Nova managed to achieve Google top rankings for the keyword ‘fashion’ thanks to a carefully orchestrated social media marketing and SEO campaign. This allowed them to rank above household names such as Levi’s, H&M, Nordstrom and Macy’s – can you imagine that level of exposure for your small business?!
Companies without a website
The value of SEO even extends to companies without a website.
Just having a Google My Business listing will help to increase your online presence and ensure that you benefit from searches even if you don’t have a dedicated site.
On Google My Business, you can list your contact details, opening hours, post images, showcase product descriptions, feature reviews, answer FAQs and much more. This means that you can bring in enquiries straight from search engine results pages (SERPs).
If your business is in any way reliant on local customers or footfall, then there’s a huge amount to be gained from focusing on local SEO.
In fact, I’ve written a number of blogs about this topic packed full of hints and tips:
- Local SEO vs Organic SEO: What’s the difference?
- Best practice guide: Local SEO for multiple locations
- Ace your local SEO
- Seven simple hacks to improve your local SEO
If you’re still not sure whether SEO is important for your local business, these stats collated by 99 Firms might change your mind:
- 97% of consumers search online for a local business
- Every month, Internet users visit 1.5 billion locations related to their Google searches
- 46% of all Google searches are local
- 67% of consumers prefer businesses that customise their ads and content to their location
- 70% of consumers will visit a store because of the information found online
- 28% of local searches result in a purchase
- 61% of mobile users are more likely to contact a business if its website is mobile-friendly
- 78% of local mobile searches result in an offline purchase
What’s holding you back from focusing on SEO?
Having spoken to many small business owners or their representatives over the years, I know that two of the biggest reasons for not addressing SEO are worries about the potential costs, as well as not knowing where to start.
In a recent article about why SEO is potentially harder for small businesses to tackle, WordStream also highlighted the following challenges:
- Lack of money
- Lack of time
- Something else always comes first
- It’s hard to keep up with advice about the best approach
- Google favours brands
- Bigger businesses have been at it for longer
- Your website is smaller
- You have fewer SEO tools and less powerful software
- You have less clout for link building and media coverage
- You don’t have a relationship with Google
While there’s no denying that these are understandable concerns for many small businesses, consciously focusing on SEO can help you break down the above barriers.
The SEO Accelerator
If you follow me on social media then you may have seen me talking about the SEO Accelerator, my online training program for business owners like you who need help with their SEO.
I’ve created the program with the common challenges mentioned above in mind. My aim is to simplify SEO and give you a clear plan that follows best practice and only uses ethical, ‘white hat’ techniques to push your pages higher up Google.
I’m passionate about doing things properly, putting your website’s visitors and their UX at the heart of your SEO. This means you never have to risk using ‘black hat’ quick fixes that risk your website being penalised.
The SEO Accelerator is all about helping you feel comfortable around SEO, explaining simple, effective steps you can take in an uncomplicated and straightforward way.
I know that parting with hundreds of pounds for SEO every month is a big stretch for many small business owners. The SEO Accelerator is a way to step up your SEO efforts even when your budget doesn’t allow for outsourcing right now.
And what makes this program really special is that I’m right there in the trenches with you. I’m constantly available to you throughout the program to answer your questions, combat bad advice you may have been given, and highlight tried and tested ways you can achieve SEO success.
Hazel Jarrett, director of SEO at SEO+, is well-known in the SEO space, has won many awards during her 20-year career and has been published on various well-known sites. Through her services and training programs, her SEO strategies have generated 10s of millions of sales for her clients, earning her a big reputation for delivering the results that matter.
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