Recently, soon after explaining what I do for a living, a friend responded with “Yes, but does SEO really help, though?” A question which, I’ll admit, I was a little surprised to have to answer. And it got me thinking. I guess that those new to the concept and new to building up a business online often ask the same question upon learning of SEO; will my site truly benefit from either spending hundreds of pounds, or whole days of my working week implementing SEO to my site?
It’s a good question, as usually, during the start-up phase of a new company, you are heavily concentrating on achieving high ROI on every investment you make. You need to know that you are making the best use of resources to give your business the best chance it has to survive (you can work on success later:)).
To answer this question, I think maybe the best place to start would be by considering your specific business, your marketing efforts, your primary customer base and your strategy for business development, and look at how search optimisation fits in with all of this.
Search Engine Optimisation Isn’t a One-Size-Fits-All
SEO might not be for everyone, it’s true. If you have a business which conducts transactions solely offline, in an industry which relies on only word of mouth and signage for exposure, selling goods which are very highly specialised and limited in supply or highly generalised, plus, you’re happy with the current growth rate and don’t feel the need to market to customers outside your local operating area then you can probably get by without some basic level of search optimisation. Your site will be nothing but a statement of who you are and what you do, and you don’t need potential customers from search engines to find you to stay afloat. An example of this would be a local grocery store or small newsagents, or a highly specialised supplier of products with very limited supply and high demand. Yes, you can certainly help to improve your bottom line by implementing SEO and online marketing, but it isn’t necessary for your business to survive.
In my opinion, however, I believe that if you have a site, no matter how little faith you have in gaining exposure through it, not to mention direct sales, you should spend some time on search optimisation.
If one person finds your site though a SE, buys something and then goes on to recommend your business to friends, family and work colleagues, surely the effort would have paid for itself. Consider the vast benefits of such an event and how this situation would snowball with the right optimisation techniques, combined with other online marketing techniques such as remarketing, using social media and targeted paid ads. This is how you build a brand online, and without SEO, you can’t hope to succeed or grow.
How Are You Currently Marketing Your Business?
What about marketing? Is SEO a type of marketing? I already spend x amount on Adwords, Facebook ads and Twitter ads, why would I need to bother about SEO?
A good search engine optimisation consultant will be able to explain to you that SEO is the foundation which you should build your marketing campaign on.
There’s no point paying a shed-load of cash on Facebook ads if a visitor arrives at your site to find very poor user experience; poor loading times, irrelevant information, thin content and confusing navigation. They’re going to leave pretty quickly! I know I would.
You need to create an environment that supplies a visitor with all the information they need, in a concise and understandable manner to actually generate a ROI from your marketing scheme (a.k.a meeting user intent). Without SEO, online marketing is akin to throwing money away, and no start-up can afford to do that.
Who Do You Currently Sell To?
What if I am looking to sell B2B? Surely I don’t need SEO if I rely on cold calls, a good sales team, offline connections and leads and so on?
Indeed that could be true. If your primary customer base doesn’t use a search engine to find information, look at reviews for a company, seek contact information for local businesses, find required products or services, catch up on industry news… you get the picture. There are many situations where internet marketing might not be a great use of resources, especially with regards to start-ups, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend some time optimising your site.
In terms of business development, for many businesses online is going to be a large part of that. Seeking out alternative channels to sell or advertise your products or services is part of business development, and online is always going to be a huge channel there to exploit if you haven’t done so already. The problem is, without any search optimisation, your business will be completely invisible. Nobody will be able to find your products, see your advertisements, purchase your services, etc.
If you believe that online sales, lead generation, advertising and so on, are important parts of your business, SEO is vital in building up a foundation to establish these online marketing efforts on. Without comprehensive site optimisation, the effectiveness of online marketing diminishes.