Once you have your website finished, fully equipped with images and copy, up-to-date design and functionality, you may think that all that’s left to do is sit back and watch as the online face of your business racks up visits and you prosper as a result. Right?
Wrong. It is SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) that stands between you and internet success. This is the process of making your website more search engine friendly by using techniques to highlight keywords related to your business. These then get pulled up when someone performs a search request on Google for example and whether your website is at the top or the bottom of those search results depends entirely on how search engine friendly your website is.
In a nutshell, SEO determines where a businesses website sits next to the competition. If a website is your online shop front, then SEO determines whether you are in the middle of a high street or tucked away down a side alley. Used properly and you can rub shoulders with the most successful companies in your industry, used poorly and your website could be useless.
Better User Experience Through Optimisation
Your website’s user experience is a significant factor in your search engine ranking.
How long does someone stay on your site? Is your design mobile-friendly? How often does a visitor leave without moving past your homepage? Do you have enough relevant imagery, videos and copy? These all determine the state of your user experience.
Therefore, by optimising your website for SEO almost by definition you are making your website more functional and purposeful. That means higher conversion rates, more trust and increased brand loyalty.
Organic Search Makes up the Majority of Referral Traffic
Unlike visits from direct searches to your website, referrals, paid searches or social media influence, organic search routinely comprises the majority of all referral traffic.
According to a study by Conductor, of over 310 million visits to 30 different websites in 6 different industries over one year, organic search accounted for 64% of all traffic. That means you could be missing out on over half of the potential visits to your website if you don’t take SEO seriously.
SEO and Inbound vs. Outbound Leads
Despite being on the receiving end of some form of marketing or advertising strategy more or less every waking second, at a very basic level we don’t like to feel like we have been influenced in making a decision, especially a purchase.
According to a study by the Search Engine Journal, as the self-centred creatures we are, we would much rather carry out a transaction with a business that has been personally discovered, with SEO leads shown to have a 14.6% close rate, compared to 1.7% for outbound leads.
And that’s not it. According to the State of Inbound Marketing report, b2b, b2c and nonprofit businesses reported inbound practices as not only their primary source of leads, but that SEO had become their number 1 source of leads over the previous 6 month period.
For low cost, long term exposure, that’s second to none.
Ranking in Local Search Means More Visits and More Sales
If you’re running a small business, the likelihood is that being known locally is a big deal. In the same way a referral helps spread the good word in your neighbourhood, SEO too draws in custom through local search.
Nowadays, the search engine acts as your referee, pinging potential customers to your site in a blink of an eye and with more and more consumers using local search queries to identify local businesses, find locations, opening times and directions, you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t take SEO seriously.
This is even more apparent for mobile users. According to Google, 50% of consumers who performed a local search on a mobile device visited a shop or business on that same day. These searches also led to higher sales, with 18% of local mobile searches leading to a sale within one day.
Nearly Everyone Researches Online Before Making a Purchase
In a study by GE Capital Retail Bank, 81% of shoppers research and compare products online before making a local purchase. This figure is even as high as 94% for b2b buyers.
That means achieving first page rankings for your business and products is critical if you want consumers who are actively searching out your products to be able to find you.
Give SEO your full attention and it will be your product or service fresh in the minds of consumers when they go to make a purchase.
SEO Leads to Increased Credibility for Your Brand
Having a search engine friendly website is, to a large degree, about brand awareness and credibility. Searchers want to see what your service offers compared to the competition and where you rank in search results could easily be the deciding factor in whether you get a look in or not.
Some business owners are happy to put SEO to one side because “being anywhere in the search results is good enough. Right?” Unfortunately, no.
Research by Moz shows that over 70% of clicks happen on page 1 of the results, with the traffic dropping off dramatically with each page. This encourages searchers to make broad assumptions about your business, that you aren’t well known, for instance, or don’t have the budget (and thus the sales) to afford to boost your rankings.
Inversely, master SEO and you could suddenly find your business on a level playing field with some of the giants in your industry.
SEO is Easy… Sort Of
Once you have laid the foundations for a search engine friendly website, all in all, the upkeep is less time consuming and more straightforward compared to other strategies that use social media and email marketing.
Despite being both highly effective channels for generating leads, to remain as the first port of call for your customers and prospects, you have to be continually pushing out new content to your list and social media followers.
The difference is that once your website is tuned to SEO perfection, you should be able to take a step back and watch as it climbs the ranks on it’s own steam. You’ll need to keep up the fresh content and make adjustments here and there to keep you in prime position, but in general, once you put in the groundwork for proper SEO optimization for any given page, most of the hard work is already done.
If you’re a small business with a website, then investing some time and a small amount of cash into making it search engine friendly is absolutely vital. The two go hand-in-hand essentially. A website that isn’t tweaked for SEO isn’t getting noticed anytime soon, and what’s the use of a website that no one sees?
Admittedly, creating a website can be a challenge enough on it’s own, let alone going about making it search engine friendly. That’s why SoleTrader.com offer purpose-built websites to small businesses. This way the experts can take care of the difficult bit for you – providing you with a fully functioning website, packed full with content and optimised for search engines.