How SEO can work for Small Businesses

by | Nov 2, 2020

Looking to get on board with SEO? Here’s how to do it according to Michael Carden Edwards, Head of SEO at Ballou PR.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is about understanding how search engines index and rank content, and when the visibility of your website is maximised your site becomes more visible to your target audience.   

As an SME looking to get on board with SEO there are a couple of different routes to go down.   

Is your business ready for SEO?

Firstly, ask yourself is SEO viable for your organisation and how much work will it involve? 

How far can you afford to go, and how much can you afford to spend, in terms of back link acquisition, creating content and updating the content regularly and in enough depth to push your organisation up the rankings. Consider both your website’s CMS and your companies development team, as they both are common bottlenecks when it comes to getting technical SEO deployments live. Don’t underestimate the work involved…

Know your market

The key message to take away is that in SEO, not every market behaves the same. Find out which companies are in the spots you want to be in and try and understand what their differential might be. Before long you will notice a pattern between the companies that perform well, and the ones who do not. 

Begin by investigating the market and get an idea of where your organisation currently sits in your market.  Who are the market leaders?  And be aware, it may not be who you think it is.   One of the most common scenarios I’ve come across in my career in SEO is when you ask the owner of an SME who their biggest competitors are, they will confidently reply, only to discover that online it’s a completely different company, a company totally unknown to the client.  As an example, Skyscanner, the travel booking site, was built from the ground up with SEO in mind. They were quick and nimble in a time period when the competition wasn’t, and as a result have dominated the travel industry for years organically. 

You can use popular tools such as SEMRush or Sistrix to gain an understanding into your market. 

What are your organic KPIs?

You have to be clear on what your KPIs are; when do you want to appear?  What search terms do you want to be found under?  Inspirational key searches will mean you appear in a general “curiosity” search.  The alternative is a direct search where people know exactly what they are looking for. For an SME it may not be viable to be able to commission content that resolves customers’ needs at every stage of the funnel. 

Empower yourself

Dev (development) teams do not come cheap.  Tinkering with your SEO to maximise the visibility of your site requires work.  It’s not something you can fit and forget.  Therefore, the ideal situation is for you to empower yourself to monitor and manage your own content.  

For business to fully realise its organic potential every department needs to be pulling together. For lack of a better term, the left hand needs to know what the right hand is doing. The content, development, PR and reporting teams all need to be pulling together and be given visibility of your various internal roadmaps – for content creation, development work and outreach. 

I’ve seen too many examples of ‘surprise’ launches of products, services and even websites, not only to the public, but to other departments that could all have been avoided if there had been a clear strategic direction communicated to all involved. 

SEO audit

Run a technical SEO audit to make sure that you’re putting all this lovely content on a solid technical base.  If your website is not fundamentally sound then then you’re going to experience difficulties.  The technical audit will comprise all kinds of thing from indexation analysis to tech fundamentals like tagging and page speed analysis.  If you decide to run with an agency, look for one that will provide you SEO solutions based on what you can feasibly achieve with your CMS and dev team, prioritised with what is important in your market and by what will have the most impact. 

If there’s one piece of advice I’d like you to take away with you, it’s know your market. Basic, yes, but by researching and understanding how your competitors are working online, you will gain an understanding of what works in your market.  Online marketing is not the same across all sectors and regions, just as bricks and mortar businesses are not.  What works in telecoms in Germany may not work as well in the travel industry in France.  Understand your market and empower yourself and you’ll work your way up the charts.  

Never forget that at the end of the day you are looking to provide a good experience for users that have typed in a query onto a search engine. Consider what keywords you want to rank for and whether your business fits the needs and expectations that come with that search.

Michael has over ten years’ experience in SEO, working across telecommunications, travel, health, medical and gambling. At multi-service agency Ayima he directed technical SEO strategy for some of the biggest brands in the world including British Airways, O2 and The National Trust.

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