When we talk to clients both old and new, search engine optimisation (SEO) is still one of the main topics of conversation that crops up. From a marketing sense, and despite being almost two decades old, it’s still one of the core techniques that people want to implement to attract new business.
Despite, in a digital marketing sense, SEO being one of the older marketing practices online, it can still be one of the more confusing for many. When we talk about social media marketing, for instance, it’s easy for people – especially for small business owners – to quickly get a grip on the overall process.
Social media, after all, is easily accessible, and many are giving it a go without too much thought. Sign up for a business account or page and within five minutes you can log on and begin talking to the people who matter to you most.
SEO is a totally different kettle of fish, though. With a channel such as social media marketing, you can instantly begin relying on your own creativity and ingenuity to create conversations and drive traffic to specific parts of your website. With SEO, though, you’re more reliant on Google, Bing and the algorithms they use to judge whether you’re worthy of top rankings.
The continually evolving SEO process
And that’s the reason so many get so confused about SEO. They often hear – and rightly – that ‘ranking highly for popular keywords’ can bring a huge boost in business. Indeed it can; the philosophy behind SEO revolves around people naturally and organically searching for you.
When shoppers use a search engine like Google, they have a need to scratch a certain itch. The intent is there to find a solution to a problem, and most will always hover around and click on the top few results. The higher you rank, the more likely people will visit your site, and the more it looks as though Google has deemed you as the leading authority for that search term.
The benefits can be hugely positive – until it comes to talk of keywords and ranking algorithms. Those factors and many others (Google uses over 200 considerations when ranking a website) can be incredibly hard for a small business owner looking to grow to understand, let alone navigate themselves, which is why they usually work alongside an expert digital marketing agency to handle the SEO process for them.
SEO continually evolves, and it’s important to understand during the process that Google is a company, not really a friendly entity that looks out for you and your business. Like any company, keeping the quality high in their service is of paramount importance. They’ll therefore regularly update their algorithms to cut down on spam and make sure the absolute best sites are top of the rankings.
The complex nature of organically ranking a website
There’s a good list of Google’s 200-odd ranking factors that can be found here, and they’re as simple as things like the overall quality of the grammar on your site to more complicated requirements such as the location of your servers, whether you have an SSL certificate, the ‘neighbourhood’ your links are from and much more besides.
Those latter points may make little sense to most and potentially scare them away from what can be a potentially lucrative marketing tactic. Many therefore like to focus on the broader aspect of SEO – there’s a great article on industry bible SearchEngineJournal which points out it can be much more beneficial to focus on a few key factors instead of worrying so much about the potential of 200 individual ranking factors.
Focusing on the quality of your content, attracting great backlinks, making sure your site is mobile-friendly and keeping on top of some basic technical factors (such as using the right headings and including anchor text in your copy) will be far more useful to your overall campaign than dissecting every single potential ranking factor and worrying about it.
Which brings us nicely onto the recent SEO ranking factors panel at SMX West that took place at the end of March. The session included a panel of speakers featuring some of the leading marketing voices in the search industry, all of who were debating ranking factors and their continual evolution.
SEO is more important than ever for small businesses
By using specific tools and analytical practices, they were able to run tests to see which ranking factors still hold up and which appear to be on the decline across Google. For instance, just some of the information coming out of the event suggested that content length may be becoming more important than having keywords present in link anchors.
Other conclusions that were drawn and proposed were that structured data in the form of schema is becoming a key way to attracting more traffic, while the quality and frequency of the images you use can have impressive effects on certain industries (such as the food and drink industry, furniture and other eCommerce ventures where people will be more likely to buy if a business shows rather than tells).
What does that mean for you as a small business owner looking to grow and take your business to the next level? In short, it means that SEO can be an incredibly complicated process; but a hugely rewarding one nonetheless.
With 61% of marketers saying improving their own SEO and boosting their organic presence is their top priority, it becomes more important than ever to get a good grip on the practice before putting your time and money in the wrong places.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of SEO and its biggest strength is how bespoke the process can be. As tough as it can look to approach from the outside, focusing on the creative side of the process and tackling it with your most important customers at the forefront of your mind will help set you on the right patch to success.
Working alongside an experienced agency dedicated to helping brands improving their search presence can not only help them climb up the rankings and attract organic traffic. It can also help them cut through the complexities of the world of SEO, giving them the vital information they need to get it right as soon as possible and keep tabs on what Google is up to.
Want to find out more about increasing your organic search rankings and boosting your visibility on Google? Contact the Webpresence team today to find out more.