How to know whether SEO is right for your business
Patch Marketing is a full-service digital marketing and SEO agency in Kent. They’ve prepared this guide to help determine whether SEO is right for a business.
The role of search engines in customer acquisition
It’s increasingly rare to find businesses that don’t acquire customers with search engines in one way or another. Even customers that visit physical premises use search engines to define their requirements, look for a vendor or service provider to meet those requirements, check reviews and ratings, and, ultimately, decide which company to buy from.
In fact, the same can be said for traditional footfall businesses with a regular clientele. Hairdressers, restaurants, supermarkets — all rely on search engines. You check their opening times, their reviews, their disabled access, their location, their special offers and so on: each is a determiner, influencing a customer’s decision to choose one brand over another. For example, if your opening times aren’t listed but your competitors’ are, in all likelihood, a customer won’t risk a trip to you in the first place. Instead, they go to your competitor, assured they’ll be open. In failing to recognise the significance of this detail, you’ve lost a customer — and, in turn, you’ve also lost a potential brand advocate, as they won’t be recommending you to other people.
When it comes to SEO, different businesses need different approaches depending upon the way they acquire customers. A takeaway may not worry about web ranks if it’s getting most of its orders from websites like Deliveroo. However, it should be concerned about its reviews, its images, and the information it provides search engines to make the potential customer feel confident enough to order from them.
A solicitor’s firm, on the other hand, would want to rank well for target search terms like “solicitors in Kent”, in addition to focusing on areas that develop trust in their brand like a takeaway does with its images and reviews.
The objective is to be found and to be chosen so whatever it is your company does, it’s a good idea to provide search engines with information that will help prospective customers develop trust in your brand when they do their research and decide which company to buy from.
If you’re considering SEO for your business, determine how much search engines can help your brand to be found and how much they can influence your customers’ decision. Once you know that, you’ll know what parts of SEO to focus on, if any at all.
The list below outlines why businesses use search engines. It’s a useful resource to help decide if a business will benefit from SEO.
Why businesses use search engines
- To be found by brand name (and variations) when potential customers use a search engine to look for the brand directly
- To acquire prospective customers that are using search engines to look for a product or service but not a specific brand
- To acquire prospective customers that are using search engines to identify the need for a product or service
- To provide information about a brand and its products or services
- To be found time and time again when customers are doing research into a brand or the products or services it provides
There’s more detail on each point below.
Being found by brand name
If you have a unique brand name this may not be a major problem, but, given the global scope of SEO, sometimes ranking for your brand name isn’t a given. For instance, we’re Patch Marketing — but we also know Patch Media, Purple Patch Marketing, Patch Plants and Patch Powered Marketing. Distinguishing yourself like we did by calling ourselves Patch Marketing can help, but we’re not the only Patch in the world that provides marketing, so we had to do a little bit of SEO to make sure we ranked on page one, number one, when people searched for Patch Marketing.
If a client is searching for us by brand name, it means they’re aware of us because of another marketing activity. If we can’t be found, however, we’ve wasted our money on the first activity which made them aware of us.
Acquiring prospects looking for a product or service
This is one of the easiest strategies to plan. The keywords in question are the ones that indicate the search engine user wants a product or service like the one you supply and is also on the brink of making a purchase. However, the trouble is these web ranks are the most appealing; everyone pursues them, and that makes them the most competitive (and the most expensive) to achieve and maintain. The more competitive a keyword, the more SEO time is required, so pursuing only highly competitive keywords can be a costly strategy.
Don’t let that put you off, though. Ranking on page one for a term that is searched thousands of times per month (and suggests someone wants to buy your product or service) can significantly change the performance of your business.
Acquiring prospects identifying the need
This is the clever part of SEO. Usually, the best ranks belong to the brand with the biggest budget and best SEO specialist, but smart strategies can achieve the same results.
To do so, you’ll need to move away from the pack. Instead of pursuing the keyword “Buy + product / service”, you get their attention before they’re even thinking about buying. The process of someone identifying the need (or desire) for something, buying it and forming a relationship with a brand is called the customer journey.
In reality, most customer journeys don’t start with “buy + product / service”. Recently I bought grass seed online: I thought it was something I could buy straight away, but it turns out there are loads of different types of grass seed to choose from. You’ll also need a different blend of grass seeds depending on where you live in the UK, or whether you have dogs, or kids. Luckily, I didn’t have to hire a grass seed consultant, as a garden centre with online sales had done a blog about the best grass seed by region and requirement, and they helped me identify what I needed. As such, they sold it to me without having to rank for “buy grass seed online”.
Whatever it is you sell, there’s a good chance your customers will do some research before they buy. With our clients, we outline a typical customer journey for their product/service, and then do keyword research to make sure we achieve web ranks to stand out at each stage of said journey. Want to DIY? Just get in touch, and we’ll provide you with our template for planning customer journeys.
To provide information
Information on search engines can be positive and negative; that’s because search engines contain information you provide, and information members of the public provide. You can easily control what’s on your website and channels, but people won’t always turn to these. Google prefers to send people to a brand’s Google My Business for queries like opening times or location. Try to make sure your Google My Business is optimised just as your website is, to ensure it’s providing information to search engines in the correct way.
You’ll also want to be managing your presence on search engines. Your customers will post images of your products, but keep in mind that you can too. Google My Business can create posts to provide more information about your products or services, and these will show beside your search engine rankings (great for special offers!). You can also respond to reviews and questions that are posted on Google.
People use search engines to develop a perception of a business and make a decision based on their perception. It’s important to ensure search engines provide information that helps your brand become the chosen one.
To be found time and time again
We all prefer the brands we’re familiar with, and SEO can be useful for generating familiarity which leads to trust. If a brand consistently comes up in search engines during a customer’s journey, that person is going to believe that you are one of the market leaders in your area of speciality.
Google ranks websites in order, based on their authority on a subject and how useful they are to users for the term searched. It goes without saying market leaders tend to be authoritative in their subject area and provide useful information to their users, so it’s no surprise consumers perceive good search engine rankings as a sign of authority and trust.
An SEO specialist’s job involves identifying what Google and other search engines perceive as authoritative and trustworthy for a particular keyword or subject. They manage a website’s SEO as well as stimulating off page SEO signals to meet search engines’ expectations. Done right, a website will become the authority and earn the rank.
Does every business need SEO?
Actually, no — whilst we’re a digital marketing agency that provides SEO, we understand that not every company needs professional SEO services. Some aspects (like posting on Google My Business and responding to reviews) can be done by anyone within a company, but equally, small companies may prefer to outsource to an agency or freelancer.
There are plenty of companies whose customers don’t use the internet as part of the customer journey (although their numbers are dwindling). There are companies that don’t expect a return from SEO and rely on other marketing tactics like search PPC, email marketing, or social media. Likewise, some parts of SEO — like ranking for a brand name — can sometimes happen naturally without any special SEO effort. However, if that’s not the case, it might be time to reach out for some help.
That said, companies that want to influence perception with search engines or rank for desirable terms to increase web traffic could benefit from the assistance of an SEO agency or specialist. Google and other search engines’ algorithms are updated frequently, and people who work in SEO stay up-to-date with best practice and requirements. Search engines penalise sites they believe are trying to manipulate rankings with the wrong kind of tactics — what was okay in the past may well be considered poor practice now, so having someone in the know is useful.
Moreover, some sites have ranks that they’ve acquired naturally without any special SEO effort, so getting it wrong can leave a brand with less than it started with. The most severe penalty is being deindexed (removed from search engines), which is effectively the end of business for brands that rely on web traffic.
If you’re trying to decide whether SEO is right for your business and you’d prefer to talk about it with an expert, get in touch with us at Patch and we’ll provide free guidance to help you make the right decision.