Here at the Cargo office something we’ve been up to lately is working with clients on their search engine optimisation or SEO. And one of the things we find most interesting when speaking with small businesses about SEO is the variety of perceptions around SEO. From these conversations and much internal chat in the office, we have decided to start a series of blog posts about SEO, specifically focusing on small businesses. This is the first post in our new series that will help you better understand and leverage SEO to improve their digital footprint and build traffic to their website. Today we’re starting off by looking at what to expect from SEO.
What is SEO?
If you want a great conversation starter, ask people what search engine optimisation is. For something that is the backbone of the internet, how search engines work is not well understood by the general public and SEO falls under this umbrella. That’s the beauty of something well designed; it just works. Here’s our elevator pitch of what SEO is: it’s the process of making changes to your website to make it easier for search engines to determine what your website is about and how your website should be ranked in order to increase traffic and improve the quality of traffic that comes to your website.
There are over 200 factors that go into why a page ranks how it does and Google and other search engines keep these as a closely guarded secret. This means SEO is not an exact science. Yes there are processes that can (and do!) make a difference to how well your website ranks, but it doesn’t mean you will always be able to get to the top of Google and stay there. SEO should go hand in hand with business aims and goals. That doesn’t make it an easy task though. We’ll go into more depth about the activities that make up SEO and what doesn’t in a later post.
Spam, Scam and the Image Problem
A lot of people that we meet with are not a fan of SEO. It’s pretty rare that we meet anyone that is enthusiastic about SEO or has had a good experience with it. Raise your hand if you’ve ever had an unsolicited email sent to you offering you SEO services and getting your website on the first page of Google. Okay, that’s all of you. This is one of the times where the internet can feel a little bit like the wild west. Anyone that offers to get you on the first page of Google for $100 a month aren’t really SEO, they’re a scam. This is part of the reason why SEO has an image problem. The other part is SEO services offering vague deliverables that don’t align with your business goals. Put those two together and it’s easy to understand why anyone would be hesitant to embrace SEO. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.
What to Expect from SEO
I’m going to tell you the truth about SEO for small businesses…it’s hard! Much like many other aspects of running a small business it is tough to compete against bigger businesses. SEO can work for your business if you are realistic about the results.
Lack of resources
Something that small businesses suffer from is lack of resources. This isn’t a problem exclusive to SEO but it is something to keep in mind when entering into SEO work. With a lack of time and money there will be a limit to how far you can go with SEO work and how fast that will happen. SEO is a complicated process and even if you put the work in, it doesn’t mean you always get the results you want. This doesn’t mean you can’t optimise your website and you shouldn’t try. It just means that with less time and resources, it is more difficult to rise up the rankings.
This comes hand and hand with lack of resources. Bigger businesses have more resources and generally have the upper hand. While are a number of benefits to being a smaller business, when it comes to search engines, in my experience, bigger generally does better. This is not always true and depends on a number of things like keywords you want to rank for and the visibility of your brand and how big your website. Can you remember the last time you searched for something online and Amazon, Ebay, Wikipedia, and Facebook didn’t show up in the rankings? They show up because they are huge websites that have lots of links, lots of content and people sharing that content. All of which signals to Google that they are good websites to rank. It’s tough to compete against that. Keep this in mind before starting SEO work.
Like anything else worth doing, SEO takes time, money and effort.
Not just set and forget
SEO is an ongoing process. It’s not something you can do once and forget about it. This is because the internet does not reside in a vacuum. Google is constantly updating its algorithms and competitors are trying new online strategies every day. SEO has changed drastically since the industry first started in the mid-90s. Techniques that were used as recently as a few years ago are often out of date or don’t hold as much weight with the way Google ranks pages now. This is why there will always be a need for ongoing SEO work. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you working on your SEO every day, but you’ll get out what you put into it.
Length of time to see results
To see results from SEO, it can take months or years of consistent work. It’s the snowball affect, it starts out small and grows over time. Like anything else worth doing, SEO takes time, money and effort. One thing to remember is Google itself is business and the search engine is its product. Google wants to make its product the best it can, so is careful with which websites it will show up on its first page. If it shows websites that aren’t meeting people’s expectations, then those people will go elsewhere and Google will lose revenue. This is why it can be difficult to rank. Your website really has to prove itself before Google will move it up in the rankings. If you’re expecting to see big returns on your SEO immediately, there will be a better marketing technique to achieve those results.
SEO work needs to add value, not vanity
It is tempting to want to be on the first page of Google for [insert keyword here], but that might not add anything of value or growth to your website. You can have a keyword that seems important, but if there’s no search volume around it or have an insurmountable amount of competition. The point of SEO is to drive more traffic that will convert to your website to generate and not every keyword will do that. The keywords that work for your competitors may not work for you. It is tempting to want to rank for the same keywords that competitors do, but if it’s not adding value, it’s taking away from the work that could be channeling growth for you.
Is it still worth doing SEO if you are a small business?
SEO is still a worthwhile part of a digital marketing strategy for a small business. But be realistic about how much you are going to have to put into it to get what you want out of it. More traffic means more conversions which means more revenue for you but you will have to put the effort in to get there. You will have to put up with algorithm changes and new competitors joining the scene. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
If you decide SEO isn’t for you based on budget or time commitments, don’t despair! There are other marketing options, such as paid advertising that might be a better fit for you.