Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is seen by some business owners as the snake oil of the internet. Ever since Google became a verb, there have been people calling themselves ‘SEOs’, doing what they call SEO, confusing the issue for cost-conscious entrepreneurs in the process.
The industry is full of rank amateurs (geddit?) who still think “page one guaranteed” is all it takes to grow a business. While they focus on link building, page rank and keyword density, many SEO people forget that the website owner, the business owner, is actually just trying to grow their business.
SEO should not be a method for getting a position on Google, it should be the cog in the marketing wheel that leads to long-term business success.
Getting noticed by people who might become your customers
If you open a shop, you want to be where shoppers go – a nice high street or mall location with lots of footfall, right? If you can’t be where the footfall is, you can spend money on advertising to encourage people to come to you.
You can do the same online – pay to advertise your business to targeted potential customers, or find a way to be visible when customers are looking to buy what you’re selling.
Being clear about what you offer
If you open a shoe shop, you are going to fill your window display with shoes. Anyone walking past will understand instantly what you sell. With a website, if you want to be visible when someone searches for your product, you need to make sure the copy on your website is relevant to the search phrases.
Related article: The 3 reasons why people visit your website
Many businesses forget to optimise the text of their websites in a way that helps search engines understand what the sites are about.
Being visible in all the right places
I like to use Coca-Cola’s brand awareness as an example of how online marketing should work. In any single day you probably walk past multiple Coca-Cola logos – in shop windows, on café signs, in supermarkets or restaurants, and on advertising posters.
The brand awareness is so strong that there is an automatic assumption that Coke is a better cola drink than Own Brand Fizzy Cola. It’s everywhere; everyone drinks it; it must be good. Online marketing should be about trying to get a broad base of visibility – on search engines, social media, email and more. It’s about getting seen, getting talked about and getting credibility.
Related article: How to increase brand awareness
Staying on top of legal and technological changes
Online marketing comes with a need to always keep up with changes. Privacy laws are always changing, software and hardware is always updating, and Google is always changing the rules for how it decides to rank websites in search results.
Monitoring Google and Bing webmaster tools and analytics is important, checking your website against different browsers, always working on usability for different devices. All these things require an ongoing commitment just to keep up, let alone get ahead.
Getting prospects through the door and turning them into customers
You can create great content, do great keyword research and build brand awareness through search engines, email newsletters and social media, but the true test of your online marketing is turning eyeballs into sales. This is where usability matters and landing page design comes into play.
Related article: What makes a great landing page?
Do you have the right calls to action on your pages? Online marketing doesn’t end with the visit – it continues through the analytics, measuring what content people read and what encourages them to convert or submit an enquiry.
So let’s recap
All of these things are business fundamentals. You get people into your shop with an attractive window display, you find footfall by choosing a location frequented by your customers, and you engage potential customers by giving clear information about what you sell, how it’s priced and how they can buy it.
An effective online marketing strategy requires keyword research to know what your customers search for. It requires optimisation of content to help search engines know when to show you in results. It relies on good page design to enable your potential customers to become actual customers. It also needs you to stay up on technology to make sure your digital content stays valid and that you can keep developing more of what works.
When you compare offline and online business fundamentals, you can see that SEO is essential, not just a nice sideline. Search engine optimisation should not be based only on a measurement of rank or a number of backlinks, it should be one half of a collaborative process that looks at quality of traffic, conversion and ongoing content development.