Search engine optimisation is, without a doubt, one of the most effective digital marketing strategies available to small and medium-sized business owners.
Climb to the top of Google for a term related to your niche, and you’ll attract hundreds – or thousands – of potential customers to your website.
The best part? Those leads are free and potentially unlimited.
But for many reasons, some business owners dismiss the potential of SEO because they’ve heard bad things about it in the past.
SEO has an image problem – it’s commonly mis-sold by companies who don’t know what they’re doing, and by scammers looking for your money.
However, when executed correctly, an SEO campaign can transform the fortunes of your business and introduce predictable, organic revenue streams.
Below, we’ve put together some of the most common SEO misconceptions – backed up by eye-opening statistics…
It’s better to target people on social media
Developing a presence on social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is a great way to increase brand awareness and drive traffic to your website, but it can be really tough to encourage followers to stop scrolling and interact with your content.
Indeed, the average click-through rate (CTR) for Facebook ads across all industries is just 0.90% – and that figure is significantly lower when looking at organic reach.
That’s been in decline in recent years as Facebook has readjusted its algorithms and made it harder for businesses to find success without spending money on paid Facebook advertising.
Though it seems like everyone has their heads stuck in Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds, the truth is that 93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine, so using SEO to position your business as an authority will deliver a higher return on investment than social.
That’s not to say social media shouldn’t be considered.
There is a lot of value in building a loyal and engaged audience – but when it comes to driving traffic to your website and finding qualified leads, it’s hard to beat search engine optimisation.
Consider user intent when deciding where to spend your marketing buck – when a user searches for ‘dog groomers in Aberdeen’, the chances are that they’re in Aberdeen and they’re looking to hire a dog groomer.
When they follow you on Instagram, there’s no guarantee they’re a potential customer – they might just be looking for some cute dog pics.
It’s faster and cheaper to use paid advertising
It’s a common misconception that paid advertising is cheaper than organic search engine optimisation.
Granted – in the short-term, it’s certainly faster than SEO; you can score a few ‘quick wins’ and drive leads to your site almost instantaneously by setting up a Google Ads campaign and optimising your copy for conversions.
But long-term, it becomes expensive.
If you’re paying £2.50 every time someone clicks on your ad, then you’ll easily burn through £1,000 per week if you’re not careful.
If every click results in a sale or a conversion, then paid ads are worth it, but the majority of people click through to adverts and bounce back to the search engine results page (SERP) in a minute or two – meaning you’ll waste money.
What’s also interesting to note is that nearly 80% of users ignore paid ads in search results altogether, and 12.2 million people in the UK will use an ad blocker at least once per month this year, so there’s no guarantee that your ad will be seen by the people that matter.
What’s more, today’s consumers are more switched on than ever before when it comes to advertising, even with Google making ads look more natural, so finding ways to appear organically ahead of the competition is the only way to position yourself as an authority.
Small businesses can’t compete on search engines
The SEO industry will be worth an eye-watering $80 billion by 2020, and with companies like Amazon able to spend millions on SEO campaigns to get their products and services to the top of the results pages, it can be easy to assume that you can’t compete.
And realistically, a small garden centre in Somerset is not going to rank at number one for a keyword such as ‘garden plants’ unless they’ve got tens of thousands of pounds to spend on an SEO strategy.
Local SEO is a whole different story. 46% of all Google searches are local – in other words, half of all searches are for businesses, products or services in a specific location.
Again, we come back to intent. If you Google ‘fish and chips’ the chances are that you want to see local fish and chip shops that are open, not a Wikipedia entry on one of the UK’s favourite dishes.
Optimising for local SEO is much easier – and will offer a much bigger return on investment – than going for broad, national keywords that are already highly competitive.
You’re not going to rank for every keyword related to your niche, but it’s perfectly possible to rank for several location-based keywords and have your company website show up ahead of competitors’.
Bricks and mortar businesses don’t need SEO
Whilst we’re on the subject of local SEO, let’s talk about bricks and mortar businesses.
If you don’t have a company website or you only serve customers from a physical address (such as companies in the hospitality and leisure industry), then it’s easy to assume that you don’t need local SEO.
But people are still searching for your business – even if they can’t buy from your website.
A whopping 86% of people look up the location of a business on Google Maps before visiting, so opening a Google My Business account and listing your location is critical.
What’s more, 61% of internet users research a product online before making a purchase in a retail store, and 78% of location-based mobile searches result in an offline purchase – 18% of those location-based searches result in a sale within one day.
In addition, you should not underestimate the importance of a website – 61% of mobile searchers say they’re more likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile-friendly site, so make the investment!
There are better ways to generate leads
Finally, a quick word on lead generation. Whether you’re selling protein shakes or property, it is important to find the best way to generate leads for your business and fast.
And in some sectors, particular methods prove more effective than others (you wouldn’t expect a cold call selling you a pair of jeans, but you might get one for a new conservatory or an insurance policy).
For most industries, though, you’ll struggle to find a better method than SEO.
According to research from HubSpot, 57% of marketers in B2B say that SEO generates more leads than any other marketing technique, and that jumps to 73% for B2C brands.
And that data assumes every marketer is utilising SEO to the best of their ability.
As is often the case, further tweaks and optimisations can significantly improve lead generation results, and building conversion-optimised landing pages can further increase your campaign’s potential.
SEO shouldn’t be used exclusively to find leads for your firm – when you get to the first page of Google, there’s no guarantee you’ll stay there, and there’s no promise that SEO will still be as effective in five years’ time as it is today.
But for the time being, developing an organic search engine optimisation strategy to complement other lead generation techniques makes sense.
The chances are that if you don’t, your competitors will swallow your market share.
At Zudu, we offer a range of search engine optimisation services designed to catapult your business to the top of the search engines – and keep it there. To find out more, give us a call on 01382 690 080, or click here to send us an email. We look forward to working with you.