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SEO – Is It All You Need?

A successful SEO campaign is vital to the success of every small online business. Without it your website will not receive many visitors and if people aren’t visiting your website then they are not buying your product or service. But is there more to online success than just SEO?

It is unlikely that there is a single small business out there striving for online success which is not taking SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) seriously; and with very good reason. It is a business’s SEO strategy that will determine how quickly their website achieves a high ranking in the search engines, how well it maintains it’s ranking and ultimately how many visitors they will get to their website.

Search Engine Optimisation, in it’s simplest sense, is the process whereby a website has its pages fine-tuned to appeal to the search engines for a certain set of keywords or search terms, and builds up a good online reputation by gaining links to the site from other reputable and related websites.

Optimising the pages of the website is often referred to as on-site SEO and involves creating Titles, Descriptions, Headings, Bold Text, Alternative Text for Images and, of course, the main textual content to include primary and secondary keywords. The keywords must constitute a proportion (or density) that the search engines consider appropriate but not so much that the site will be penalised for over-use of the keywords (sometimes referred to as keyword-stuffing). The keyword density in the various elements of a webpage is not a pre-defined percentage because rankings are always determined in relation to the competition. But a good SEO consultant will be able to advise on the appropriate keyword density for a particular set of targeted keywords.

The ultimate goal of off-site SEO is to build a good online reputation by creating links to the website. Many people still believe this is just about creating as many links as possible. But the search engines have become more sophisticated and SEO has followed suit. Link building is now focussed on relevance, the authority of the site from which the link has come, the type of link and the text associated with the link (anchor text).  So, yes, you need a substantial number of links but the quality of each link is more important than overall quantity.

But if your SEO campaign is a success and your small business achieves a page 1 ranking, does that guarantee the success of your company? Unfortunately there is much more to online business success that just SEO. To achieve online success, there are a number of other factors that have to be treated just as seriously as SEO.

Social Media

Create a business Facebook page, get active in Twitter, create a blog (and actually post to it regularly), invite people to bookmark you site from social bookmarking sites like Delicious. Ask people to bookmark your blog from Reddit and StumbleUpon. If you can’t manage your online social life and also the business then employ a ghost-blogger or social media marketer.

Website Design

Ask someone independent of the business to review your website for it’s look-and-feel, usability and functionality. Does the home page and the other main landing pages have a “call-to-action” above the fold (i.e the user doesn’t have to scroll down to see it). A call-to-action can be something as simple as a button inviting the user to “View Special Offers Here”.

Traffic Analysis

Traffic Analysis is vital for all websites but particularly so if a site is getting plenty of visitors but has a low conversion rate. Conversion rates can vary quite dramatically by market sector but you should have an idea of a typical percentage for your type of business. Analyse your traffic data to see which keywords are bringing visitors to your site. There may be a high percentage from long-tail keywords you were unaware of that indicate a visitor who may only, for example, be looking for information or advice. These visitors may push up the visitor numbers but they are not the right type of visitors for converting into paying customers and can suggest misleading figures for both visitor numbers and conversion rate.

Email Marketing

Don’t neglect this highly effective method of reaching potential new customers and retaining existing customers. Produce a regular newsletter or mailshot every week or every month, with useful information, special offers, news etc. But don’t make the mistake of trying to sell something to the customer with each email – their purpose is to ensure that when the customer is ready to buy they will visit your website.

Quality Data Capture

Of course an email marketing campaign is only as good as the list of potential or existing customers to which it is sent. Capturing the details of existing customers is easy as they are usually required to provide their details to make a purchase. But the best way to obtain visitor details from people who are not yet ready to become customers is to offer something of value for free. Typically this would be something that could be downloaded in the form of an e-guide or e-book. For example, a holiday company might offer free tourist guides. Remember to make it clear that by signing up for the free item they will be added to your email list and ensure that every mailing gives them the opportunity to unsubscribe from your list.

So search engine optimisation is vital for all small businesses but it is also important to see SEO in the context of a wider marketing approach. There are many other techniques that will complement and enhance your link building and other SEO efforts.

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