Updated: Sep 17
Now, many businesses come to me for websites, hoping that having only a website will unlock a world of opportunity online. To some extent, this can be true - and for sure, a website will make its mark online and give you a personalised, professional place for your business to show off on the internet. (See Wix website examples)
Having a website and doing nothing with it - no matter how good the website is - will bring minimal gains to your business. It may increase credibility, trust between potential clients, and be a great start for your start-up business, but you will only have your website as a tool to influence people that either already know you, are already customers/clients, or have found you through your socials.
The point I'm making is, well, there is no outreach. Your website is not necessarily bringing in entirely new customers, independent of any of your other channels (social media, referrals, etc). As many like to mention - it's like setting up a shop and not telling anyone you've opened.
This is where SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) comes into play.
So, What Is SEO?
Search Engine optimisation is the the act of optimising your website, creating new pages and new content, and hundreds of other techniques to rank inside Google. Now, you may be thinking, why would I want to rank in Google?
Well, for example, if you sell pieces of clothing, you'd want to rank for a keyword that's relevant to your industry, that has a high search volume AND a high intent to sell behind it. So, Search Engine Optimisation would get your site ranking for lets say, "Quality clothing brand in Essex", that has, let's say, 200 searches per month. If you're SEO is done correctly, and you rank top for that keyword, you are now getting a large percentage of that keyword traffic. And if 200 maximum people are visiting your website from simply just one keyword (there's thousands of keywords for each product, industry, service), then you're definitely going to sell consistently off the bat off that one keyword.
Now imagine you're paying a professional (*cough cough* Reach Online UK) to get your site ranking for keywords. As the SEO marketing work builds up, the more you'll rank, and before you know it, you're ranking for dozens of high-quality keywords and your now being discovered by people, rather than only having website traffic that already knows of your existence.
Direct Traffic & Getting Discovered: The difference
See, there's a difference between direct traffic and discovery traffic. Direct traffic is traffic that comes to your website knowingly, and they are directly looking for you. These people are usually referrals, social media followers, or returning customers etc.
Discovery traffic on the other hand, is traffic that has come from places where people weren't directly searching for you. Like those keywords i mentioned earlier. Discovery traffic is where you really grow, expanding your outreach to thousands of potential customers by ranking top for keywords that have high intents to sell.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) drives mostly discovery traffic - preferably through high intent to sell keywords.
High intent to sell keywords
If you were confused as to what this means, then a high intent to sell on a keyword essentially means that those searching that term, well, have a high interest in buying a product or service that they're searching for online etc. You can figure out valuable keywords by how they're written.
Someone searching "Wix website costs" obviously has an interest in the pricing of Wix. Those searching for Wix website costs, will in turn be more likely to buy the Wix services, as there is an intent to figure out pricing, costs, etc.
However, someone searching "Wix website examples" has no intent to buy anything at all, and are simply looking for inspiration, ideas, or are curious. This keyword has a "low intent to sell".
So good quality SEO will get you ranking for keywords that have a high intent to sell behind them, that have a healthy amount of searches per month, and are relevant to your product/industry/service.
Does that make sense? (If it doesn't, just contact me here and I'll explain anything you're confused about)
Now, depending on your business goals, high intent to sell keywords through discovery isn't always the end goal. You can post blogs, articles, pages, free events - and all these things may rank for "low intent to sell" keywords, and that's actually better. You can still want to rank for "Wix website examples", if your motive is different to "as many sales as possible."
So, it all depends on your overall goals, whether you're a blogger, a business, someone with a hobby, or more; it doesn't matter. All you have to know is that there's traffic out there for every type endeavour. It's just about tapping into that gold vein of traffic.
Moving On: Why Haven't You Mentioned Ads?
Things like Google Ads, Social Ads, just Ads in general are fine - for sure; but, I've intentionally left it until now to mention this because unless you have a lot of money to throw at ads - which is very much a trial and error process, especially in the beginning - then I wouldn't recommend them anytime soon. As this blog is targeted for those start-ups that have heard the term SEO being thrown over their heads, but they haven't quite understood what it means, I didn't find a reason to mention Ads as an alternative.
Don't get me wrong, Ads when done correctly are absolutely game-changing. For certain businesses, it's almost like printing money. And unlike SEO, it doesn't take months on end to see results. But the point remains, is that there is a high risk factor involved, and if you're not also prepared to spend money on hiring a professional, then the likelihood of an inexperienced business owner with limited time on their hands of pulling off a successful advertising campaign online is rather limited. It can be done, but just be careful - that's my honest advice.
Negatives Of SEO
You'd think I'd want to leave this part out, but I believe that if this blog will influence your business in anyway, then we should cover some honest and down-to-earth truths about what SEO is all about too.
It is long-term
SEO is a patient mans game. New content, new pages, SEO work takes months for Google to properly index, crawl, and rank inside the search engine, and even then, with hundreds of ranking factors, you're not guaranteed that top spot too. Factors like keyword competition, the amount of good links you have going to your website (a super important ranking factor), and many other ambiguous, sometimes hard-to-measure factors come into play.
This issue isn't an issue for those that have time. It becomes a problem when a new business wants traffic NOW. They want instant return on investment, instant sales, instant traction online - and all I have to say for that is, if you don't have time for the process, then don't get involved in the process. You may still want to pursue SEO as a long term addition to your business online, but for straight-up sales, you'll be seeing returns in months, not days. This is where Ads are great for instant results, but yet again, the point remains: they're very risky.
It can easily be done wrong.
What comes with hundreds of ranking factors? Well, there's then also hundreds of ways your results can be hampered on by either breaking Googles rules, or just doing it all wrong.
Things like keyword stuffing (the act of adding too many keywords in your text in hopes that Google will rank it for that keyword you just stuffed) will just worsen your rankings.
Bad backlinks from dodgy websites will reel you down, as Googles ranking system could quite literally be renamed the trust system and it would still make sense. A good-quality site links to you, great: Google believes your authority online a bit more and feels a bit more confident in ranking you. Any bad links, oh no: you're more likely to be put with all those bad, spammy websites that no user wants to see on that nice, fresh top spot.
You can write awful content that nobody can understand, or break the design of your website and the user experience declines: Google will rinse you for that too. The user comes first above all. You disappoint the user by making bad content or website mistakes, and Google will disappoint you ten times worse with negative rankings.
I'm waffling now, but in short, there is so much to take into consideration, it can be quite intense, especially if you attempt this without help (*cough cough* it's me again, Reach Online, I'm more than happy to help).
With ads, you can easily just pay more than your competitors to get above them (although they still need to be high-quality Ads); but with SEO, if you're in a competitive market and you've just begun, with minimal backlinks to your website, and minimal authority to back up the legitimacy of your website, you are literally fighting little cook against big cook. Just how you will probably never rank for "Amazon", there will be keywords in your industry that are quite literally - not to be a no-sayer - impossible for your current business to reach. Maybe in a few years, but there are certain keywords you will have to come to terms with not ranking for. I think this isn't mentioned enough, as many marketers will say that anything is possible, but it's good to be more honest and realistic with certain goals. If your company is named "burgers co" and you're a new business with a new website, with no links or authority online, AND you want to rank for "burgers", you will fall flat. Sorry to say, but you will not be ranking for the general, competitive word "burgers" anytime soon. Anyone that tells you they can get you ranking for that, is not being honestly truthful.
(You wouldn't want to rank for a keyword too general like that anyway as the traffic would be very general and not very good at selling actual burgers. But the point has been made)
I'll keep this short, just because I've already discussed many positives elsewhere.
A great long-term business plan
In the long-term your business will see massive returns on investment. SEO will bring your site in the eyes of potentially hundreds or even thousands of new customers and clients. Imagine if every time some thought "I really fancy a burger, where can I get one?" you could pop by their side and guide them to your burger store. Well, Google is the next best, less creepier thing. People use Google for everything. Absolutely everything. Searching local flowers shops, local coffee shops for business meetings, when the next bus is arriving - i could go on. Now, if you're ranking for relevant and quality keywords, and your service or product is of good quality, you are essentially tapping into the thought process of hundreds of potential customers.
ROI increases as time passes
No paragraph, just a scenario:
The first month of SEO marketing, you'll think: "bloody hell, this was a mistake".
The second month of SEO marketing: "okay sure, but I might just cancel, it's not going that well"
The third month of marketing: "I've been getting a few more sales from the website, I'll hold on for this month, but if it doesn't get any better, I'm out."
Fourth month of marketing: "Okay apparently I've begun ranking for a really good keyword and I've hit the top spot, my emails have been going crazy since a few days ago."
Fifth month of marketing: "My business has been going absolutely crazy, I'm so glad I stayed around for a couple more months, I can't even explain what's going on it's just been hectic!"
Sixth month: "We just surpassed Jim from friendly foods on a massive keyword! Got an angry email from their support team last night. Been telling everyone to get on this SEO thing too!"
And so on, and so on.
That is all I have to mention :)
Pro's & Cons Summary
I left the positives short, just to balance this article out as I highly dislike reading biased blogs. I just want whats best for your business and hopefully all of this can clarify. Anyway: Pro's and Cons summarised!
ROI increases with time
Great alternative to Ads
Generates lots of new traffic
Generates more sales in turn
Ability to consistency keep that traffic flow
An ongoing, growing process
Other opportunities arrive from link building, like networking, and more.
You make your large mark online.
Can easily be done incorrectly
ROI isn't instant and can take many months to see a return
Depending on industry, real-life events can create ranking volatility (like COVID)
Depending on industry, competition may be a huge brick wall to overcome
New websites tend not to rank well at all for a solid few months.
If you wish to do it yourself, expect a steep learning curve.
Not guaranteed results from all keywords.
Here is a list of useful SEO marketing tools that will help you figure out how good your website is at ranking, how much authority your website has, and more. I highly suggest you check these all out, especially if you wish to do SEO yourself:
In short, SEO is an extremely effective marketing tool when done correctly. It can be time-consuming, but the long-term results vastly outweigh the boring wait. Hopefully, this blog has helped you in many various ways and this blog will continue to be updated in the far future, so you may return at any point to see some more updates from Reach Online!