SEO for SMEs
Editorial

SEO for SMEs

Britt Soeder, head of owned media at iProspect, gives practical advice on search engine optimisation for the coming year.

Everyone needs Google. Whether it’s Google shopping, promoted ads or organic listings, the need to be visible in one form or another is constantly growing.

When it comes to search engine optimisation (SEO), Google is relentlessly changing the goal posts and amending the algorithm to what they believe triggers better and greater use via friendly search results. Recent acquisitions have shown that Google – or Alphabet, as it has now become – is pouring resources into investigating user intent and mimicking artificial intelligence in real life. The only way to achieve an improved and more human-friendly algorithm is by adding more user signals to it.

Over the past years, we have seen Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon, Mobilegeddon and many more updates focusing on this one mission. Big marketing budgets are spent on analytics and consumer insights to enable even more realistic consumer profiling. This then feeds into huge marketing campaigns and PR stunts, including media-buying, paid search and social amplification. Consequently, well-known national and global brands are benefiting because the more engagement and buzz there is online around a brand, the higher the likelihood that its organic visibility will increase as well.

What about smaller brands, companies and anyone who calls themselves ‘niche’?

The first piece of good news is that the niches are far less competitive. And the second is that there are key factors that can help to drive traffic and revenue, despite budgetary constraints.

1. The right platform

Often underrated, but vital for success. When you choose an e-commerce platform, ensure that it is truly search-friendly. A lot will say that they are, but it’s often not true. Most SMEs aren’t in a position to dive deep into the specifics and to look into the code of example websites.

This is the most important decision that you will make in the next few years; there has never been a better time than right now to rely on expert help from a good SEO agency. Once you have the basics right, you can learn as you go.

2. Know your keywords

It’s now not all about the big keywords. Google has published great research that explores how the path to purchase can be influenced by different channels such as SEO play within the consumer journey.

This eye-opener shows how a consumer is likely to interact with brands long before they purchase. When you think about your ‘target keywords’, stop limiting yourself to the obvious choices, as these are usually highly competitive. Instead, look at what potential customers will search for before they’re ready to buy or after they purchase and build out your content and positioning.

In reality, you may not rank for ‘dresses’ or ‘credit cards’ – but you could rank for quirky fashion trends in 2016, or by educating consumers about subjects such as security considerations when paying with credit cards abroad.

3. Be best at basic signals

Download your website in an Excel format (for example with Xenu or Screaming Frog) and work with the list of pages given. Everything with a 302 (not friendly redirect) or 404 (page not found) should be tidied up. Also, use this list to look at your titles and descriptions. Are they informative enough to encourage click-throughs? Make sure you use your keywords and ensure that Google understands what your website is relevant for.

3. Make your traffic work harder with conversion rate optimisation

This can be a life changer for you and your bottom line. It’s probably something you want to outsource initially. Get an agency to deliver it for you; the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Imagine that you are driving all traffic from your well-optimised landing pages for all identified keywords, and that they cover the entire path to purchase – but no-one buys. A CRO analysis will give you clear insights into the user behavior on your site and recommend tests to optimise conversions. While this is a big initial project, it should be an always-on activity that – moving forward – will probably pay for itself.

4. Engage with your audience

Don’t waste time on directory submissions, sponsored articles, link buying and blog posts. It will hurt your wallet and won’t move your ranks.

Depending on your internal set up, you could start to include online PR and engagement in your work routine and collaborate with your press teams, customer service and social media teams to ensure that all existing activity is leveraged for SEO, especially social campaigns that usually offer greater opportunity to engage with influencers and customers.

If you get into a mentality where social, email marketing, paid, content and merchandise work together in a transparent way, you will be winning without spending any direct SEO budget.

If you'd like to learn more about how to plan and work with search marketing, sign up to our one-day Search Engine Marketing course. This practical session will take you through setting goals, budgets and keyword research. 

Britt Soeder Head of Owned Media iProspect
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