If you own a business, the chances are that you’re continuously looking for that extra edge over your competitors. You may beat them on price; after all, 99p is better than a £1. Perhaps you stand out from the crowd; that flashing LED light display costs a lot but it looks better than Karl’s across the street. You may even have an all singing, all dancing sign spinner to encourage people off the street and into your shop. But… have you ever thought about dominating online?
You’re at home, it’s raining, you’re hungry (of course there’s nothing to eat at this point too) and you really don’t fancy a trip to the shops. What do you do? You grab your phone, load the internet and do a search for “Pizza Delivery”. You’ll look at the first few results and click through to Pizza Hut, Dominos or Papa John’s. It’s not often you’ll scroll down the search results looking for the best local pizza. It’s the same with your business and your business’s services. But how do you get your business into the top positions?
Search Engine Optimisation
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), helps your business to generate a higher number of quality leads and sales. By increasing the number of visitors to your website, more people are aware of your product or service. Good SEO doesn’t focus on generating more visitors alone, it also aims to increase the number of enquiries or purchases from these visitors.
So how does SEO work? When somebody does an online search related to your business or your business’s services, on a search engine like Google, they are shown a number of results. SEO helps your business’s website to be shown as high up the page as possible. Most searchers won’t click off the first page of results which means that if your business isn’t on page one, then it’s unlikely to be seen. By utilising on-site (work on your website) and off-site (work done on other websites such as directories) methods, the aim of SEO is to get your business as high up the page as possible.
For local businesses, it’s not about competing with large multinational corporations. If you’re a startup business, it’s going to take a long time before you’re competing with big brands. The good news for your business is that you don’t have to compete with these big brands to be successful online. You use SEO to target specific phrases and keywords that people search for on Google or other search engines. If you’re a plumber, it’s unlikely you’ll optimise your site for “plumber” alone (unless you’re a nationwide business). Instead, you’ll optimise your site for keyword terms such as “plumber Leicester” or “plumber Market Harborough”. This way, you’ll be attracting people looking for a plumber in your local area. It increases the chances of the customer wanting to use your services and the chances of you wanting to accept any work they have (who wants to be doing a four hour round trip to Bolton on Wednesday night?).
Keywords – Quantity & Quality
Keywords are the words or phrases users search for within a search engine. In general, your SEO campaign should consist of a mixture of broad and specific search terms (this may differ for niche industries). Broad terms are the heavyweights on search engines. They receive the most number of searches each month and are extremely competitive. These are the terms bigger brands and organisations are likely to compete on. After them, you have your long tail keywords (long, specific phrases), the lightweights. They’re typically less competitive, making it easier for your business to feature high up the search results. The only downside is that they have a much smaller volume of searches. Finally, you have your middleweights. They’re not as competitive as your broad terms but they are more competitive than your niche, long tail ones. They possess a mid-level of search volume and tend to be targeted by businesses looking to grow.
If you’re a local business, you’ll start by targeting keywords specific to the services you offer and any relevant long tail phrases. These will help you to generate a reasonable amount of users to your site each month whilst spreading the risk associated with only focusing on one keyword. To put yourself amongst the heavyweights from the word go, is a good way to see yourself get knocked out of the search results without ever really competing. As your brand, business and online reputation grows, you can move up in weight categories and start competing for more competitive, broader phrases. This is just a general rule of thumb.
Put Yourself In Pole Position
Everyone wants to be at the top of the search results but how do you get there when there’s already a packed field ahead of you? You need to be prepared to play the long game, you’re not going to overtake them on lap one. There are some “quick wins” that can help businesses to move up the search results quickly but these only tend to work on less competitive phrases. For some of your preferred phrases or broader phrases, you may be competing with other businesses who also use SEO. If this is the case for you, you’ll need to have a better strategy to beat them in the race for the top stop. Perhaps, you’re already at the top, in which case you’ll need to keep optimising your site in order to stay ahead of the competition.
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
SEO has evolved through the years. Practices that used to get businesses to the top of the search results no longer work (in general) and some can even lead to penalties from Google (which can drop your business from the search engine altogether). The Google algorithm has seen some major changes over the years that have drastically changed the landscape of SEO and digital marketing as a whole. Good practices such as earning natural links, writing quality articles (like this one) and creating a good user experience on your website are all essential to creating an SEO campaign that will stand you in good stead for years to come.
However, there are those that still practice the dark arts. Link farms (where multiple websites all link to each other as a network), keyword stuffing (using a keyword as many times as possible in an article or blog) and creating numerous area pages for every village, town and city in Europe (instead of just the main ones you work in) are all techniques by some agencies and in-house teams. If they’re so bad, why do people use them? It’s frustrating as it is very rare that they work but there are a minority (and we mean a tiny percentage) of businesses that this still works for. They’re the exception that proves the rule.
Starting off an SEO campaign can feel like mission impossible. But don’t lose faith, if you’re with the right agency, who are doing the right things you’ll see small improvements that add up to a big improvements over time. It’s true, to a degree, that what you invest you get out. If you can afford a comprehensive content and outreach strategy (writing articles and offering them to blogs is a very condensed way of explaining this), with monthly web development work and a general optimisation budget, you’ll more than likely see quicker and better results than spending the bare minimum.
If you’d like to discuss your SEO campaign in more detail, whether you’re a customer or not, then we’re here to help. We’ll even take you for a coffee if the idea of a boardroom sounds a bit too formal! Follow the rest of our Market Mondays series to find out more about SEO and how it can help your business.