Should Your Small Business Invest in SEO?
SEO For Small Business
If you’ve spent any time on small business websites, you’ve probably heard the two dominant narratives about SEO. One narrative says that SEO is the best thing for small businesses as it helps them compete against big players. The counter-narrative argues that SEO is over-saturated with competition and a money drain.
The truth is somewhere in between. SEO for small business is a fantastic way to be effective in a competitive market. At the same time, you can lose tons of money on bad SEO.
In this post, we’ll examine whether your small business really needs SEO.
The Massive Potential of SEO
First, let’s take a look at what the stats tell us about search engines and shoppers:
- 44% of online shoppers begin their shopping process on search engines.
- 59% of consumers use Google every month to find a reputable local business.
- There are approximately 59 billion searches on Google every month.
- 61% of internet users use search engines to research products and purchases.
The data is clear: there are countless consumers looking for information online. Your customer has a question, and you create content that provides the answer. The goal is to rank each piece of content at the top of Google. By investing in SEO, your small business has the potential to greatly increase its customer base by being front and center when they search.
More than search volume, however, there are some very practical reasons to invest in SEO for small business, as we’ll see below.
Advantages of SEO
SEO has several benefits, namely:
- SEO is highly effective
In a 2013 internet marketing survey, BrightLocal concluded that SEO ranks as the second-most effective marketing channel, right behind word of mouth. In contrast, local TV and radio advertising ranked at the very bottom, gathering just 1% and 2% of the votes respectively.
The effectiveness of SEO is easy to understand: a majority of purchase decisions begin online. With good SEO, you can be the first source of information for these consumers. This is akin to owning a store on a popular commercial road in the city.
- SEO offers better quality leads
A well-executed SEO strategy can help you gather substantially better leads than TV, print or radio advertising. Research backs this up as well – SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while leads from direct mail, print, TV, etc. have just a 1.7% close rate.
It’s easy to understand why: SEO gets you access to highly targeted and motivated customers who are looking to buy, not just browse. Conventional advertising just doesn’t let you target audiences the same way.
For example, if you’re a personal injury lawyer, there is very little chance that a commuter who hears your ad on the radio would need your services. You would effectively be paying for airtime in the hope that some of the show’s audience would require a personal injury lawyer in the future.
However, when someone searches for ‘personal injury lawyer in [your_city]’, she has already shown intent to use a lawyer’s services. If she finds your website in the search results, there is a strong chance that you’ll get a high quality lead.
This is the real reason why you should invest in SEO: you can get access to exactly the audience you want.
- SEO is affordable
You can start a SEO campaign with a website, a few hours a day, and an effective budget of $0. This makes SEO one of, if not the most effective forms of marketing available to small businesses today.
Plenty of case studies back this up. For example, in one case study, a web-development company saw savings of 80% with SEO when compared against PPC.
Of course, as a serious business owner, you would want to get outside help for SEO. Even with dedicated help, you’ll find that SEO is substantially affordable than traditional advertising.
- SEO is customer-friendly
This is one benefit many small businesses overlook: SEO is customer-friendly. Unlike TV or radio, it is non-interruptive marketing. Customers don’t see your company’s name and logo in the middle of their movie. Instead, they see it only when they actually want information through search engines.
Which is to say that SEO is a form of ‘pull’ marketing, while traditional advertising is based on ‘push’ marketing. By giving users the exact information they need at the right time, you can make a more customer friendly user-experience. This, in turn, makes them love your brand even more.
Based on the above, you might think that SEO is perfect for your business. However, there are some downsides that you should know before you invest in it.
Disadvantages of SEO
Despite its savings and effectiveness, SEO still has a several downsides, such as:
- It takes time
Compared to advertising, which is like a faucet you can turn on anytime by paying cash, SEO takes time and patience. At the very least, you’ll need to spend 3-4 months before you see any positive results from SEO. If your business has more cash than time, it might be wiser to invest in paid marketing at the beginning.
- It requires long-term commitment
SEO is a long-term game. You’ll have to keep your websites regularly updated and create new links & content. You can’t simply start a SEO campaign and forget about it a month or so later. It requires constant maintenance, which might not be ideal for some businesses.
- It is unpredictable
The SEO landscape changes every few months as the search engines release new updates. A site that otherwise showed up on the first page for a search query can suddenly tank due to no fault of the site owner. Since SEO is entirely dependant on what search engine algorithms deem useful and relevant, it is also unpredictable. Strategies change every few months and site owners must keep pace with them.
In the end, whether SEO is right for you depends entirely on your business. If you’re strapped for cash and have plenty of time, it might be wise to invest in SEO. However, if you want instant results, it would be much better to start with a paid campaign to get visitors. Overtime, you can invest in SEO so that you can gather free, organic traffic as well.
SEO is widely misunderstood. Plenty of businesses see it as the answer to all their marketing problems, while some are skeptical of its promises. The truth is that SEO is a great source of traffic for nearly every business, but it also has its downsides. If you can overlook the downsides, it will be one of the best business investments you’ll ever make.