By Annabel Mulliner from Little Seed Group
While having a digital presence was already becoming increasingly crucial for businesses of all shapes and sizes, the pandemic has only accelerated this. In the UK in 2020, online sales increased by 50%, while in store sales decreased by 10%. Clearly, the pandemic has had a profound impact on how we choose to shop.
This huge shift toward online commerce means that businesses need to do more than revamp their websites and social media – such actions are pointless unless their target audience can find them in the first place. This is where Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) comes in.
Often, a consumer’s first point of contact with a business will be through a search engine like Google. For example, let’s imagine that you have googled ‘Italian restaurant London’. Not only will you get a list of different restaurants’ websites, but you will also get a ranked list, with star ratings, reviews, and contact details to boot. Likely, you will check out the top listed restaurant before all others. But how does one get to the top spot?
SEO is how Google determines what websites deserve to rank highly. It keeps search results fair and prevents people from cheating the system, by manipulating search rankings to appear at the top without putting in any work. Achieving a high search ranking means that a business’ website is a highly trustworthy and credible source. To reach the top spots, a business must optimise their website both on-page and off-page. It involves consistent hard work over time to achieve and maintain a good search engine ranking.
Putting in the graft with SEO is absolutely crucial for businesses to thrive as we transition back to normal, as consumers will likely continue to shop online, and to look for the same trust in brands that they have expected throughout the pandemic. SEO comes with a whole range of benefits, and despite seeming technical on the surface, is an incredibly accessible form of digital marketing that businesses cannot afford to ignore.
SEO is highly affordable
SEO is a highly cost-effective method of marketing, as you are guaranteed to see results in return for your efforts, no matter how small. While you can’t control how your audience will react to a new product, or what your competitors are doing, SEO is something that you can control. You can use SEO to target your specific audience, therefore attracting high-quality website traffic. ‘Evergreen’ blog posts that you write today will continue to aid your business’ online presence for years to come and can be continually updated to suit new business goals.
Certainly, SEO can seem daunting. Google’s algorithm is constantly changing, meaning that strategy must be continually adapted. However, there are many things that you can rely on Google consistently rewarding you for, that will cost you nothing. For example, improving your website’s loading speed by compressing images, or ensuring that your sitemap is easy to navigate can be done quickly and easily.
However, if you are looking to take your search engine rankings to the next level, working with a specialist, who has advanced training and whose job it is to stay on top of Google’s algorithm, can be highly beneficial.
Generating local leads
SEO can help you to appear more easily when customers search for keywords related to your business. This leads to increased website traffic which can then result in lead conversions.
According to Wordstream, ‘open now’ searches have been on the rise throughout the pandemic, likely owing to temporary closures related to Covid. What’s more, 46% of Google searches have a ‘local intent’. Working on your business’ local SEO will ensure you appear when local consumers search for businesses near them that are open.
One key way in which you can do this is by creating a Google My Business page, and regularly updating the information to ensure it’s correct. Asking your customers to leave Google Reviews can also go a long way in boosting your local search rankings.
Improving user experience
Many of the things which the Google algorithm prizes in its search rankings also help to improve user experience. Working on your website’s ‘on-page’ SEO can help to keep visitors on your website, leading to increased sales.
Website performance and experience is a huge part of SEO, as information needs to be available easily and quickly for a site to be considered trustworthy. Some aspects of on-page SEO that can also improve your website user experience include:
- Site structure: the easier it is for search-engine bots to crawl your site, the better your rankings will be. This has the obvious benefit of your website being easily navigable for site visitors too.
- Site speed: According to a 2016 Ericsson Mobility study, single website loading delays can lead to a 38% increase in heart rate. Slow loading speeds stress users out to the point where they will look elsewhere, rather than waiting around.
- Optimised content: content that is easy to read, targets keywords and contains useful internal and external links is both enticing for readers and ranks well in search.
- Mobile-friendly design: 50% of mobile users in the UK have reported that they are using their mobile devices more compared to before the pandemic. This means that more consumers are using their phones to discover businesses. So, it is even more important that businesses’ websites are optimised for mobile display.
Improving brand reputation
Improving your off-page SEO can also help to improve your brand’s reputation. Off-page SEO involves taking actions outside of your website to improve your search rankings.
To improve off-page SEO, you must improve a search engine’s impression of your website’s trustworthiness, authority, popularity, and relevance. This is achieved through backlinks on other reputable websites, which essentially vouch for the quality of your website.
Creating quality backlinks helps not only to improve your reputation in the eyes of search engines, but in the view of consumers. For example, on your quest for backlinks, you may write a guest post for a blog. Doing so demonstrates your expertise in your area, and readers’ opinion of your business may then improve.
Digital PR is a crucial step for many businesses in improving their reputations, and often PR features can also generate valuable backlinks. As such, anything you do to improve your business’ online reputation will likely help to improve your search engine rankings.
With the pandemic bringing uncertainty in all aspects of life, there’s no doubt that consumers are looking for brands that they can trust more than ever before. Working on SEO can not only help these customers discover your business but can naturally improve your business’ reputation.
When increasing your business’ image with search engines and website visitors goes together, it makes perfect sense to place SEO at the heart of your business’ digital marketing strategy.