Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a set of methods and practices used to improve a website’s ranking for relevant search terms on search engines like Google. Search engines use algorithms to determine what websites best match a user’s intent – in other words, what sites best provide the information that user is searching for. By improving your small business’ website through SEO best practices, you can gain the many benefits of high ranking results for search terms relevant to your business.
Is SEO Worth it for Small Businesses?
The simple answer is yes – SEO is a benefit to any kind of business, especially small businesses. As of 2020, over 90% of consumers had used the internet to find a local business – a figure that continues to grow year by year (BrightLocal, 2020). The main way for consumers to find any kind of business online is through search engines. Google is the most visited site on the internet, with 99,000 searches per second, or 8.5 billion searches a day, and up to 90% or more of pages clicked on Google come from the first page of results (SimilarWeb, 2022; Moz, 2017). SEO enables small businesses to compete for a place on the first page of Google, dramatically increasing your chances of getting the attention of your potential customers.
One of the most important benefits that appearing on the front page of Google grants your small business is organic traffic. Most consumers skip right past the paid ads on Google – in fact, over 89% of clicks on Google go to organic results, the non-paid results that appear after the ads (EndPoint Digital, 2022). Organic traffic is far more cost-effective than traffic from paid ads, which cost on a per-click basis. You cannot buy the top organic result on Google, but you can claim it with proper SEO – meaning small businesses on a budget can compete with even the largest corporations for a share of the millions of consumers searching on Google every day.
But SEO is much more than a set of techniques for getting to the top of online search results. Google’s algorithm looks for what it considers to be “authoritative” content on a given subject – it wants to recommend useful and trustworthy sites to its users, because that is what its users want. This is the same for prospective customers and clients of any small business. The SEO techniques that will get you to the top of Google involve building a web presence that provides useful and authoritative information to visitors to your website – which will build trust and a good reputation for your small business.
How Can SEO Make My Business Money?
There are many ways that SEO can make your small business money. Here are a few of the most important ways SEO can benefit your bottom line.
1. Helps with new customer acquisition.
All businesses need customers, and customer acquisition is usually a competitive and expensive endeavor, especially for small and local businesses. The cost of customer acquisition in general has risen as much as 60% in the last six years (Hubspot, 2022). With so many consumers searching for businesses, products and services online, using SEO to make sure your small business is reaching the first page of search engines is an important and cost-effective method to reach as many of your potential new customers as possible.
2. Introduces your small business to already-interested consumers.
One of the best things about SEO is that it gets your small business in front of consumers who are already looking for your product or service. A newspaper or magazine, for example, charges for advertising space based on their total subscribership – regardless of whether all those subscribers are even interested in what your business offers. Compare that to holding a first-page rank for a Google search term that people who want your product or service are looking for directly. It’s no surprise why consumers are more than eight times more likely to choose a business they find online than a business they heard about through traditional methods like cold-calling and direct mail (Intergrowth, 2022).
3. Helps consumers find your business both online and at its physical location.
Not only can SEO help consumers find your small business online, it can help them find your actual location as well. As of 2018, Google Maps held a 67% share of the navigation map market, and it remains the most popular navigation app today (WebTribunal, 2022). SEO can help your small business show up first in your area for local search results on Google Maps and the Map Pack on Google itself – giving you the edge over the competition in your local market.
4. Improves customer retention and deepens customer relationships.
SEO can also help your small business retain existing customers and deepen your relationship with them. Part of the SEO process is providing content on your website that is engaging and beneficial to both new and returning customers, giving them a reason to come back to your site again and again. Developing your small business’ social media presence is also an important aspect of SEO – enabling your business to have ongoing, lasting relationships with your customers and providing you with a way to reach your customers and get their feedback through a medium many of them already use every day.
5. Grants long-lasting results and improved ROI.
Perhaps most importantly, SEO helps you acquire and retain customers for less. Unlike traditional advertising campaigns, SEO is a process that has long-lasting results. Once your site has reached the top of Google, it will be there for quite a while, and can stay there for years with only a little maintenance. Compare that to a traditional billboard or TV/radio ad, which your potential customer will only see or hear as long as you keep paying for it, or to an online ad campaign, which charges for every click. If you choose to go to a professional for your SEO needs, your small business will continue to benefit from their services long after their initial campaign – greatly increasing your return on investment.
What Kind of Businesses Can Benefit from SEO?
SEO is a valuable tool for any business, especially small businesses, which will most benefit from low-cost, high-ROI methods of acquiring and retaining customers. Some general categories of small businesses that can benefit from SEO:
1. Brick-and-Mortar Businesses
From retail to restaurants, grocery stores to auto garages, any kind of small business that wants to bring more customers through its doors will benefit from SEO. Experts now estimate that 63% of all kinds of shopping now begins online, even if the purchase ends up taking place in a physical store (Intergrowth, 2022).
2. Professional Services
Small business providers of professional services, like recruiters, lawyers, accountants, and IT specialists, can benefit greatly from SEO. Most clients searching for professional services are looking in their local area for well-reviewed experts. Proper SEO practices will increase your small business’ search rankings in your local area while building a web presence that demonstrates trust and authoritative knowledge in your field.
Any kind of contractor, whether a plumber or a painter, an electrician or a roofer, knows that their business depends on one thing above all others – leads. Not only will SEO get your contracting services more attention from potential customers online, it will also increase their trust that you can get the job done by developing web content that shows your professionalism and expertise.
4. Medical and Healthcare Services
A recent study found that in most fields of healthcare, a minimum of 60% to as high as 85% of consumers search for information online before scheduling an appointment (Invoca, 2022). For doctors, dentists, chiropractors, physical therapists and other health professionals, SEO can get your business more attention from local consumers as well as position you as an expert in your field by populating your site with informative content on relevant health topics.
5. Real Estate
In a study updated as recently as March 2022, the National Association of Realtors found that over 90% of home buyers searched the internet as part of their hunt for the right house, and in 2021 found that an internet search was the very first step taken by 41% of buyers. In an increasingly competitive market, realtors know the benefit of getting in front of as many prospective buyers and sellers as possible – and SEO can get you there like never before.
6. Online Businesses
It should be no surprise that online businesses can benefit from SEO – whether ecommerce, blogging, marketing, or web design, online small businesses rely almost completely on being visible online. With tech-savvy competition growing every day, online small businesses need an SEO strategy to cut through the online noise and make a mark on the search engine results pages.
These are only just a few broad categories of small businesses that can benefit from SEO. If you are a business owner that wants to reach consumers in today’s competitive digital-focused market, you should consider and implement an SEO strategy to maximize your reach online.
Some SEO basics can be completed without expertise in search engine optimization or digital marketing. For the best results – and to leave you with the time to do what you do best – consider hiring a digital marketing agency with a dedicated SEO team.