According to a wide-ranging survey by Clutch, 55 percent of small businesses invested in search engine optimization (SEO) in 2018. It seems like a good enough percentage, but that represents a mere three percent growth from the previous year.
The reluctance of small companies to leverage the benefits of the search may have something to do with 28 percent still not having a website; since companies link the digital marketing approach to boosting a website’s ranking, there is a belief that SEO has no relevance in the business.
And that’s just the tip of the misconception iceberg.
The Planning Phase: Make or Break
While other businesses exclude SEO in their marketing mix, others enter it expecting the whole world. Disappointments tend to follow lofty expectations when it comes to results; a business that doesn’t get the desired web traffic in a short period may not think too highly of marketing on search engines.
Why does it take so long to reach top ranking? Why is my website still not getting clicks?
Here’s the thing: everything that’s good for your business takes time. It’s the same with SEO — that is, good SEO that delivers long-term results. In planning your digital marketing strategy, you’ll want to align your goals with the tools you’ll use, and set realistic expectations. This way, you’ll have an overview of what marketing will be like for your small business.
Each Tool Has Its Purpose
There’s always a logical use for certain SEO tools. Some techniques are good in supporting your core marketing efforts. Also, some are timely because of their current usefulness. Some are just practical because they allow you to do marketing at a fraction of the cost.
No Website, No Problem
Your company would benefit from having a website because it’s typically how customers find businesses. But if you don’t have one, how would you invest in SEO?
If your goal is to engage your local customers, your presence in directories is essential. Google My Business (GMB) should be your top priority because your GMB listing may appear on the “local 3 pack,” which are snippets of information about businesses that rank for certain search queries.
If you search “plumbing in Salt Lake City” or “electricians in Rhode Island,” you’ll see this kind of result on the first page of the SERP.
It also won’t hurt you to list your business on other directories such as Yelp, Angie’s List, and YP. The wider your exposure, the better.
Complementing Your SEO Efforts with PPC
Good SEO aims for long-term results. The lack of immediate results is something you can remedy through pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Ninety percent of businesses that make use of PPC also use SEO, and for a good reason.
Think of SEO as a slow process of climbing up the search rankings. In utilizing paid search ads, you’ll get temporary top placement for your search terms. In doing PPC, you’ll get feedback in areas such as keyword research, brand strength, organic click-through rates, audience targeting, and more. These metrics can help you create a more effective search strategy.
Where Social Media is Useful
Clutch reported that 56 percent of small businesses are prioritizing social media over on-page optimization. As a low-cost and highly effective arm of marketing, its appeal to startups and fledgling business owners is understandable. But even though there’s a plethora of potential customers in social media, businesses need to take a strategic approach to entering the social arena.
With Facebook’s recent algorithm change making it even harder to grow organically, it’s time to accept that paying for exposure will be a part of your social media strategy. Of course, you have other platforms to explore: Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest; the combination of organic and paid marketing will yield the best results.
Social media is an effective brand propagation tool, and it’s where you can apply what you learn in SEO. These are some techniques you can deploy on the platform:
- Determine how to be engaging to your followers without resorting to clickbait tactics
- Find a way to creatively beat ad blindness
- Add value to your posts beyond mere entertainment
- Think long-term when it comes to influencer partnership
Tracking, Continuity, and Listening: The Keys to Success
Search engine optimization will bring your brand recognition, not just traffic and sales. It’s effective whether you’re running an established business or a small startup.
Success with this digital marketing technique, however, will take time. It doesn’t need to be expensive, but your strategies do need to be thoughtful — and based on credible data about your target market. When you know more about the behavior of your consumers and identify the platforms they frequent, you’ll be in a better position to make sound decisions about every aspect of your marketing.
Here’s a quick look at what every SEO strategy needs:
Tracking Your Campaign – In a single marketing campaign, there are keywords, backlinks, conversion rates, and site traffic. There are only a few of the metrics you can track in your marketing, figures that can give you a straight answer to an important question: did SEO increase your brand’s value?
Continuing Your Marketing – SEO can spur business growth, but to stop a year or months later is to undo all the good work you’ve done. If you improved your search ranking, gained more brand exposure, and achieved your conversion/sales target, the best thing you can do is to continue. Who knows where you’ll be with a year more of diligent marketing?
Listening – Whether it’s social listening, listening to experts, or just absorbing new information, listening to what’s making noise in the industry is good practice. This is especially in an industry that moves quite as fast as SEO.
The beauty of SEO is that you don’t need the staggering resources of a large business to gain footing in your market. With the right data, the right tools, and diligence, you can leverage the benefits of search. But remember, work smart and not hard. Find where your presence is most heard, and capitalize on what you can do today.