Every business owner we have ever met aspires to rank number one on Google. Of the huge variety of businesses and industries we have worked with over the years, this is the one thing guaranteed to unite them. And of course, this is the case – they know, and we know, that 93% of all online buying decisions start with an online search. The average person conducts 3-4 online searches every single day (and I know there are some of you reading who will go way over this average). Make no mistake – your target audience is out there, cash in hand, actively looking for a product or service just like yours at this very moment. And we get it, you want to be there, first in line, ready to speak to them.
It’s all about Google
Let’s just get one thing cleared up – yes, there are multiple search engines that people use on a day to day basis. However, you won’t be surprised to hear that not one business owner has ever come to us saying “Get me to the top of Bing!” or “I really want to rank in Ask.com”. It’s always Google. Google has a whopping 90.46% of the search engine market share worldwide. According to SEO Tribunal, there were 5.8 billion searches every day on Google in 2018 – this works out as 63,000 searches per second.
So whilst we shouldn’t ignore these other search engines (and your web developer will still ensure your site map is submitted to the others), SEO strategy should predominantly be focussed on Google.
What is SEO, exactly?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and this is the art and science of working on your website’s ranking to move it closer to the top. SEO should always include two elements:
- On-site SEO: This is all the work done on your website content to improve its appeal to Google. It includes things like keyword optimisation, use of metadata, subject relevance and content building by, for example, writing blog posts. The content building should always be focussed and driven by your SEO strategy, keywords and relevance.
- Off-site SEO: This is work done elsewhere on the internet, away from your website. Ultimately, you want to accumulate links on other people’s websites back to your own (called ‘link building’). In theory the more links you have the better, BUT you also need to ensure these are high-quality links from trusted and well-liked websites, which is measured by a ‘domain authority’ score. There are websites out there that will sell you hundreds or thousands of link listings at a seemingly low price, however, invariably these sold links are on poor quality websites with rock-bottom domain authority and Google may penalise you for this. As well as link building, off-site SEO includes social signals (your presence across the social media channels) and local signals, which applies to all businesses with premises or local audience.
Organic vs paid rankings
There are two ways to get to the top of Google. The first is organic SEO – this is the on-site and off-site work we have just described and this will gradually (organically) increase your rankings. The second way to get to the top of Google is to pay for advertising. This is called Pay Per Click, or PPC. You decide which keywords you would like to rank for and Google will give you a price for that keyword, put you to the top of the page and then charge you every time someone clicks on your listing. The price per click varies, but evidence suggests that across all industries, the average click cost is about £2.07. As a rule of thumb the more popular the keyword, the more expensive it will be because more people are searching for this term, and it also varies across industries.
Monthly spend on PPC can build up to the hundreds (or even thousands) quite quickly, and you need to make sure you are making this money back in the sales it brings in, so this approach isn’t for everybody. It can be part of a strategy alongside organic SEO, but we firmly believe that all businesses should also (or solely) be doing SEO.
Why all businesses should be doing SEO
Imagine you and all your competitors are at the starting line of a race. Every time one of them updates their website or uploads a blog post, they take a step forward. Every time someone else likes their content and links back to it, they take another step forward. They get a great review on Google or Trustpilot – another step forward. Some of these businesses are taking hundreds of steps forward every month. Meanwhile, you are doing nothing and getting left further and further behind.
This is how SEO works. In the good old days of early Google, it was possible to hit the top spot by accident, or with almost no effort at all. “Hurrah!” thought those lucky few. The smart ones kept working on their content and kept their pole positions. Others rested on their laurels and quickly got overtaken. The days of ‘accidentally’ getting to the top of Google are long gone – when you do a Google search and see the person in the top spot they have got there by sheer and continuous hard work on SEO.
And all the evidence suggests that the effort is worthwhile. If you work on your organic SEO, not only will you edge yourself ahead of the competition organically but it will get you more traffic and a higher quality of leads as people inherently trust Google, and those that are at the top of Google are also trusted. It is also ‘free’ – you will need to spend time on your content writing etc and may choose to pay a specialist to do some/all of the SEO work for you, but you can benefit from an unlimited number of free clicks through to your website without having to foot the PPC bill.
How much SEO should I be doing?
SEO isn’t something you only do once, it is a long-term strategy. A solid SEO strategy will mean you doing small amounts of regular SEO work on an ongoing basis. The amount you need to do will depend on what your industry is, what keywords you want to rank for and how much work your competitors are doing. But you need to be doing something, regularly. The results of a well-implemented strategy will mean your rankings will increase as time goes on and if Google picks up and rates one of your pages highly this can yield results for months, or even years.
Can I do this myself or do I need an SEO-specialist?
There is regular SEO work that you can do yourself. You can update your website content, write blog posts, promote your business on social and build backlinks. All of these are great practices. However, Google ultimately decides how highly to rank each of your pages for specific search terms. It is believed by industry experts that Google uses over 200 different factors when deciding how to rank your website and pages. An SEO-specialist will be able to do a thorough analysis of both your website and your competitors’ websites, tell you your domain authority score (and your competitors) and help you come up with a much more focussed strategy. This will let you know what type of content you should be producing, how much of it, what keywords you should be using, how many mentions they need, what your social strategy should look like and how you should be building backlinks. This more focussed strategy will stand a better chance of success. An SEO-specialist will also be able to provide you with monthly reports which closely analyse your progress and that of your competitors so that you can use this evidence to constantly adjust and improve your strategy.