Small- to medium-sized businesses typically need to strike a balance between investing in growth and not wasting money on unnecessary expenditures, and one of the single biggest mistakes they can make is assuming search engine optimization (SEO) falls into the latter category.
The concept of SEO is simple: it is the practice of increasing your visibility online. The execution requires nuance, foresight, and being able to anticipate the questions potential customers, clients and leads may have. While being able to answer straightforward questions about services offered, professional bona fides, etc. should all be part of an overall SEO strategy, so too should more practical questions, such as: Are you located nearby? What are your hours of business? What’s the best way to get in touch with you?
These questions have become all-important in the Covid-19 era, where many businesses have needed to close, adjust hours and inform the public of new policies. In a time of massive uncertainty, the businesses that managed to communicate effectively and clearly online were ones that, in many cases, managed to gain new business and maintain existing customers. A major corporation could weather a financial hit from a lack of responsiveness, but small businesses that failed to adjust weren’t so lucky.
Adding to the challenge for small businesses is that it’s not just about search engines anymore: Customers are now just as likely to look up a business on a social media network, map app or review site as they are to go the traditional route at Google or Bing. Maintaining a presence on each can require an investment of time, money, or both. Inconsistent information across multiple platforms can lead to confusion on the part of customers, but not being represented on a specific platform can open the door to competitors.
Any small business looking to either set up an SEO campaign or to enlist the assistance of an outside party should be able to look at which platforms outside of Google and Bing are most likely to have their target demographic searching for them. Restaurants, for instance, will often focus on image-centric platforms such as Instagram or Facebook, whereas small-scale dealerships and manufacturers can work with video platforms such as YouTube to provide a virtual showroom experience.
While many small businesses are reluctant to invest limited funds into SEO, or prefer the more immediate short-term gains of paid search instead, one key fact is often overlooked: Good SEO pays for itself. Great SEO can be a primary engine for long-term sustainable growth that paid advertising can’t hold a candle to. If done right, a small business can become a medium-sized one — at least.