Many small start-up businesses will have spent a considerable amount of their limited resources having a website developed. Their website is now fully functional, well designed and looks great. They have probably had many compliments from friends and colleagues, but where are all the visitors? Then someone mentions SEO.
It is surprising that many websites are still being designed without any consideration for how that site is going to attract visitors in the competitive world of the online marketplace. Of course a small business is likely to use traditional marketing and advertising methods to promote their services or product but there is also the expectation of hundreds, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of visitors just finding their website on the internet.
The reality is that no-one is likely to just “find” a website. Search engines want to be seen to deliver useful sites in the top positions. They have a vested interest in doing so to ensure their own success because searchers on the web will not continue to use a search engine that lists useless sites in the top positions. Of course, this gives a huge advantage to large companies with large budgets but where does that leave small start-up businesses. Can they compete with the big guns?
Well any business must first of all have a great product or service to sell and must be able to present it to a potential customer in a way that makes that person want to buy. But assuming a business has got those things right and has done some traditional marketing and advertising, how can they make it on the internet?
Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO as it’s known, is the process by which a website becomes “visible” to the major search engines and starts to appear at the top of the search engine ranking positions (SERPS). An SEO consultancy would typically say that SEO involves 3 main steps:
- Determining which visitors to target
This involves researching and analysing what search terms people browsing the internet are actually typing in. The results can be surprising and often the search terms that members of the business initially think of are not the terms that the average browser would use. It also involves an assessment of the competition for certain search terms and usually a technical SEO audit too. If page 1 of Google is already full of established, well-known companies for a particular keyword, then there is little point a small, new business targeting that same keyword.
- Specifically adjusting the content and structure of your website for maximum advantage
This is commonly referred to as on-site, or on-page, optimisation and involves ensuring that many elements of the website, such as headings, titles and image descriptions include the target keywords. Also that the main text content includes the keywords in the correct proportion – enough to attract the attention of the search engines but not so much that they consider the site to be spam.
- Building a reputation for your business throughout the internet
A business is considered by the search engines to be well-known and have a good reputation if it has a substantial number of links from well-recognised sites throughout the internet. One of the many elements that Google uses to determine whether a site linking to your site is reputable is through the Page Rank (PR) value it assigns. Other sites are simply recognised by the search engines as good indicators of reputation, particularly educational sites, government sites and the social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter etc.
So that doesn’t sound too difficult when put simply like that, but the internet can be a complicated place and each one of those steps involves many aspects of research and analysis, concerted and ongoing effort to achieve the goal of a Page 1 ranking in Google (which in the UK is the only search engine worth worrying about right now).
Search Engine Optimisation has evolved over the past few years and many of the methods used successfully 2 or 3 years ago will now fail to have any impact. Worse, they may even get a site penalised by the search engines. Unfortunately there are still plenty of companies out there offering SEO services that will be next to useless so it is important to be very discerning when looking for a company to help your small business achieve online success. Try to get a recommendation from someone you trust and make sure the company you choose has a proven track record of SEO for small businesses.