Search engine optimization and digital marketing as a whole has changed immeasurably in recent years, largely thanks to Google’s numerous algorithm updates and the profound effects they have on the Web. Many lazy digital marketers find themselves yearning for the earlier days of SEO where it was possible to put up a website, litter the content with high-value keywords and plaster low-quality, mass-produced content all over the Internet to get backlinks.
Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, among others, have completely changed the game. Today, the search giant is better than ever before at identifying websites that use manipulative SEO tactics, and this has made life much harder for those who used to enjoy spending little time and/or money for great rewards. Today, it is much harder to rank high in the search results and, even then, your search engine ranking is by no means everything.
Fortunately, the evolution of Google and other search engines, while undoubtedly beneficial to consumers, also present a silver lining in the form of new opportunities for digital marketers. For a start, the smarter search engines now make a far better job out of separating the hard-working, dedicated businesses from those who prefer to spam the Web without even giving a second thought to what their target audience might want. Ultimately, however, with the so-called ‘golden years’ of SEO long behind, many small businesses are wondering if it’s still worth investing the time and money into SEO at all.
SEO is undoubtedly time-consuming and more complicated than before, but a great deal of it involves doing what you should be doing anyway for the sake of your target audience, even without thinking about the search engines. The emphasis should be squarely placed on adding genuine value to your website and its content as such that your target audience can never get enough of it. In other words, if you’re offering an excellent user experience and content that your visitors actually want to read, then you’re already well on your way to having a search engine-friendly website.
Determining Your Search Engine Visibility
Whether you’re a traditional bricks-and-mortar business or a small e-commerce store, most people will be looking for you online, so your exposure in the search engine results remains of great importance. However, before you can determine whether or not you need to start investing in SEO, content or other areas of digital marketing, you’ll need to carry out an audit of your current situation. For the most part, this process simply involves typing a few keywords into the search engines that you would expect your target audience to enter when searching for businesses like yours. However, you should also try carrying out this audit using a mobile device, since mobile search results differ significantly from desktop results in that mobile-friendly websites receive increased exposure.
Depending on the search terms you enter, there will likely be several sponsored ads at the top of the page, with the organic search results below them. However, you can safely ignore the paid ads for now, since SEO is all about targeting organic traffic rather than paying every time someone clicks on a sponsored link to your website. With regards to your search engine exposure, the most important think here is that your website appears above the fold. In other words, people should never have to scroll down to find it in the results. You don’t necessarily need to be at the very top, but you will need to have your website on the first page of the results at the very least, since this is where around 80 percent of Google traffic comes from. If your search engine exposure is not up to scratch, then you may need to invest in SEO.
Perhaps the most daunting aspect of SEO is that in requires a lot of time spent on an ongoing basis. You can’t simply optimize your website by spamming keywords all over the place and publishing low-quality content on third-party directories and ‘e-zines’ to get easy backlinks. SEO is part of an ongoing process that needs to be fully integrated into your wider digital marketing strategy – it’s not something you can do for a while and then just abandon it, lest your website fade into obscurity. Just like almost any other area of online marketing, you need to approach SEO as a long-term effort and this, of course, means considerable financial commitments in terms of labour or outsourcing. Fortunately, the payoff can make your efforts very much worthwhile in the longer term.
Outsourcing vs. In-House SEO
The biggest decision concerns whether to hire an in-house team or individual to take care of your SEO and other areas of your online marketing strategy or to outsource part or all of the work involved remotely. In the case of a small business, the only practical and affordable choice will normally be outsourcing, but you’ll need to take care to choose a reputable company.
Although employing an in-house member of staff to carry out your digital marketing work can lead to a more consistently high quality of work, it will almost certainly turn out to be prohibitively expensive, unless your business is rapidly expanding into the online world. In the typical small business scenario, however, SEO and digital marketing does not require enough work to warrant hiring someone full-time. Outsourcing, by contrast, allows you to hire a company or individual on an as-needed basis. In other words, you will pay for projects, such as website audits and redesigns or pages of content, instead of paying by the hour. If you are in real estate, contact Lori Ballen, Real Estate SEO Specialist and her team at Ballen Marketing – 702.917.0755.
There’s little doubt that that SEO is important for businesses of all sizes, but in can also be a money drain if it’s not thought about carefully. Nonetheless, SEO offers enormous potential for small businesses, particularly those wanting to increase their influences over a larger geographical area. Fortunately, for local businesses, SEO is a lot less complicated, since you likely won’t have to compete with as many established companies. For local businesses, the most important thing is to make sure your contact information and listings in online directories is correct, up-to-date and consistent without exception.