Is SEO Still Important for Small Businesses?

by Townes Haas
6/25/2014 3:55:00 PM

Is SEO Still Important for Businesses?

Lately, there has been a lot of buzz that “SEO is dead”. If you’re referring to practices like keyword stuffing, not delivering up-to-date content and creating backlinks on directories, then, yes, that form of search engine optimization (SEO) is dead. Google has updated its algorithm to try and eliminate people “spamming” the system to get to the top of search engine results page (SERPs). Ranking high within SERPs, however, is still important.

What is SEO?

According to Wikipedia, SEO is defined as “the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's "natural" or un-paid ("organic") search results”. If you’ve ever done a search, then you know that you get a mixture of ads (generally at the top, side or bottom) and a list of links to different websites. The “organic” results are these links - often times referred to as search engine results pages, or SERPs.

Example of results in Google's SERPs for the search query "SEO"

Ranking high in the SERPs is achieved with different SEO-based methods. The original SEO was mainly based on these principles:

  • Finding keyword opportunities
  • Incorporating those keywords into headings (h1, h2, etc.), content, title tags, meta descriptions (used to describe the page’s content), URL structure, etc.
  • Creating original content with blogs using both SEO-based and trending content.
  • Obtaining backlinks (links to your site from other sites).
  • Having a technically sound website that allows search engines to easily access and comprehend the site’s content.

While these principles still hold true, more emphasis has been placed on creating original content and using content marketing to create “earned” backlinks. Earned backlinks are links that you work to achieve by positioning yourself, or brand, as a thought leader within your industry and subsequently building an audience through social media or other channels. Just adding your site to a directory won’t cut it anymore – in fact, you might even get penalized for it depending on which directory it is!

Social media, dynamic content and content marketing are essential to SEO nowadays. An active social media account where you’re promoting your blog posts and other content, and interacting with your audience will help you to build a topically authoritative website, while expanding the reach of your content.

Importance of a High SERP Ranking

While SEO seems like a lot of work, it’s worth the effort. A recent study by Chitika shows that the top listing on a Google SERP gets 33 percent of traffic. Traffic steadily decreases after that, meaning that people are less likely to click on your site if it’s on the second page. In fact, the same study shows that the first page of SERPs get over 90 percent of total traffic. So if you want to be found, you need to be on the first page.

People have a limited attention span, especially if they’re on mobile devices. Google has adjusted its algorithm so that only sites that are delivering quality, relevant content and building trust with their audience are on the first page. For example, if Google sees that users are clicking on your search result listing and then immediately returning to the SERPs, they assume that you’re not providing quality content and that can affect how your site is ranking.

People have also learned to trust those initial results, which is why those first page results get the most traffic.

How to Get Started

First, you need to evaluate your site. Is it currently optimized? Do you have a keyword strategy in place? If you have a Google Adwords account, then you can use the Keyword Planner tool to find keyword phrase ideas to help you get started. Verify that your URL structure (the URL of each page should indicate what the page is about) reflects your keyword strategy and that all page elements (h1, h2, title tag, meta description, etc.) are all optimized for your targeted keywords. If you have a WordPress site, it has different SEO plugins to assist you with this, e.g. SEO Yoast.

Create a blog, and update it as often as possible, preferably 2-3 times per week if you’re just starting out. Use your keywords in your content, but don’t keyword stuff (adding a lot of different keywords to the content or the backend as opposed to just focusing on a few key ones). For example, use the targeted keyword 2-3 times in a 300-word blog.

Join a few social networks. Only focus on social networks that are relevant to your business, i.e. you don’t need a Pinterest account if you sell insurance. You don’t need to join all of them. While many small businesses see social media as taking too much time, you need to be on them.

Also, don’t forget about Google Local. If you’re focusing on some competitive keywords, then set up a Google Local page for your business. While you may not rank high in national searches for a keyword, you may be able to rank on the first page within a local search.

If you don’t understand how SEO works, there are plenty of resources out there to help you, e.g. Moz.com, Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land. If you’re still having issues, then you may want to invest in an agency or outside consultant to assist you.



Discussion Questions
  • Has your small business invested in SEO?
  • Which SEO tactics worked well for you?

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