A digital marketing strategy has become an absolute necessity for competing in today’s Internet-driven world. Consumers in increasing numbers are turning away from traditional information and communication media in favor of digital products and services. The buying public that once relied on local newspapers, radio and television has embraced the new technologies of smartphones, social media networks and YouTube videos, rendering many traditional marketing methods as obsolete as the horse and buggy.
The most effective method, and in some cases the only way, to reach today’s modern consumer, is through digital marketing – which is typically built around a basic business website. Not just any website, but a website optimized to reach the maximum number of search engine users who are actively looking for a particular type of product or service.
Increasing the odds of your website being referred by the search engines to these targeted users is the job of search engine optimization, or SEO for short, making a sound SEO strategy a critical element to the success of small business marketing. Here’s a closer look at some of the most important reasons why SEO deserves a prominent place in your company’s marketing budget.
Just About Everyone Researches Online Before Buying
According to a number of studies, a solid 89 percent of consumers conduct online research before purchasing goods and services, with 60 percent using a search engine and 61 percent reading company reviews and testimonials. Even the traditional word-of-mouth referral relied upon by so many small businesses has been impacted by the digital era. Studies have shown that an estimated 87 percent of consumers who receive a referral will conduct online research about the company being referred.
The bottom line here is simple – if your business can’t be found in the search engines, you stand to lose a considerable number of customers to your competitors who arevisible to online searchers. A properly executed SEO campaign can help boost your website’s visibility and improve your chances of making the sale.
SEO is a Cost-effective Method of Reaching Your Targeted Customers
Every company relies on a steady flow of quality leads to generate the customers needed to stay in business, and SEO typically delivers the goods much more efficiently than traditional marketing. Researchers have found that digital marketing-sourced leads can be delivered at an average cost of $1.00 per lead compared to $2.50 per lead using traditional marketing methods. What’s more, the close rate for SEO leads averages 14.6 percent versus a 1.7 percent close rate for traditional marketing strategies. That’s a huge advantage that you can literally take to the bank.
Your Competitors are Doing SEO
Unless you’re lucky enough to operate in a niche with zero competition, your degree of success in gaining new customers will largely depend on how well you out-maneuver your competitors. If your business rivals are running SEO campaigns, you simply can’t afford not to counter their efforts by optimizing your own website. Failing to improve and maintain your presence in the search engine results means conceding valuable ground and customers to your competitors that may prove expensive or even impossible to regain at a later date.
SEO Can Help Boost Your Social Media Marketing Efforts
Social media is an important tool for building awareness as well as engagement for your brand. Many prospective customers who have been introduced to your products and services through their social networks will be encouraged to research your company further through an online search. The increased visibility of your website made possible by SEO will allow you to capitalize on these valuable social referrals and testimonials.
SEO is Not Likely to Go Away Any Time Soon
Despite a steady stream of updates to the search algorithm that determines how websites are ranked in the search results, solid white-hat SEO tactics that comply with accepted search engine practices will continue to generate positive results. As long as you stay focused on providing the best possible experience for search engine users, your SEO efforts will produce improved rankings and more traffic to your website.
Guidelines for Creating an Effective Local SEO Strategy
1. Build out a local business page for the Google, Bing and Yahoo search engines. Your basic profile will typically contain your business name, address and phone number as well as business hours and major product or service lines offered.
2. Optimize your business profile. Follow the guidelines offered by each individual search engine as closely as possible, and make sure that the business categories you select for your business matches the keywords that you wish to rank for. Also private blog network links can boost your overall authority.
3. Add your business listing (citations) to relevant niche and local area online directories. Citations are somewhat similar to inbound links in that they affirm to the search engines that your business is a local source for your particular line of goods and services. It’s critically important that your NAP (name, address, phone number) information is consistent across all of your online listings to ensure that your business receives all of the search ranking “juice” that you’re entitled to. A simple yet effective way to achieve this consistency is to create a separate file containing your updated NAP data and save it on your computer. Whenever you need to update or add a citation listing, simply copy and paste from your saved NAP file.
4. Include as many high-quality photos of your company’s products in your listings as possible. Pictures really are worth a thousand words, and the higher the quality of the images you choose to represent your business, the better the image you’ll project to prospective customers.
5. Collect and publish positive reviews from satisfied customers. An estimated 85 percent of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase decision, and 79 percent trust positive reviews about a business as much as a personal recommendation from a friend or family member.
6. Optimize your web pages. Ideally your business name, address and phone number should be visible on each page. Every page of content should be relevant to one particular keyword that you’re trying to rank for as well as being specific to your geographic area. The title tag for each page should include your targeted keyword and not exceed 70 characters. Be sure to include an alt image tag for each graphic displayed on your site.