Why is digital marketing important for local businesses?
With 97% of internet users searching for local businesses online, it blows my mind that less than half of local businesses have a website. As a proud Illawarra local for the past 15 years, I’ve got to know many hardworking business owners and their families who have either struggled with websites that don’t show up in search engine results or have been paying way too much for advertising that isn’t being seen by the right people.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is the process of improving a websites’ online visibility through increasing its’ rankings in search engine results such as Google. Ideally, your website should be able to be found when an internet user searches for a relevant query such as “affordable online marketing Illawarra”.
Is SEO the same as paid advertising?
Paid advertising (known as SEM, or Search Engine Marketing), are the search engine results that often appear at the very top or right hand side of the search engine results with a small label “Ad” next to them. Alternatively, paid ads may appear within the body of specific websites as banner or text ads. Advertisers pay a fee to Google every time their advertisement is clicked on. SEM can be very effective at getting your brand or business in front of an audience, but there are several factors that must be considered:
1. The advertiser needs to have a good understanding of what search terms they want their ads to appear for, the nature of their target audience (geographical location, age, time of day they are likely to be online) and their allocated budget. Failure to plan appropriately, can result in a poor use of their advertising budget and subsequently, an expensive and ineffective marketing campaign.
2. Google’s advertising program works by allowing advertisers to “bid” to have their ad ranked, but the highest bidder does not necessarily get awarded the top ranking. A complex algorithm is applied that takes the quality of the website and their advertisement into account and can often result in businesses with high quality websites paying much less for the top position than their poorer quality competitors. So basically, if your website isn’t up to scratch, you are spending more than you should be in advertising!
3. The great thing about SEM is that results are instant. A soon as you start your campaign, your ad will start appearing in search engine results. However, paid traffic (visitors to your site) will stop when your ads stop. Your online visibility is dependent on paying for your position in search engine results.
SEO, when done well, is an investment for a business as it draws targeted, relevant visitors to your website and works effectively over the long term. It relies on a solid website, with high quality content that engages users. The effects of SEO do not appear overnight, but do result in a consistent flow of targeted traffic coming to your website and establishes your business as real and trustworthy.
How much does SEO cost?
The cost of SEO services can vary from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars per month, depending on the expertise and the amount of work that is to be done by the SEO consultant. I have been asked by many local business owners how much they should spend on their websites and my answer is always the same:
“Well, it varies….”
How much is a lead worth to you? Take a few minutes to sit down and consider what the lifetime value of a customer is worth to your business.
As a chiropractor, that may be services totaling $5000 over several years…as a dentist, it may be $5000 in one hit! Alternatively, a local florist might be targeting hospital visitors and make a profit of $20 per customer, yet another florist may specialise in weddings and events, making several thousand dollars from a lead.
Now consider how many leads your website would need to generate to give you a return on your investment. This is where SEO comes in. You may be able to get a cheap website made or even create one yourself, but if your target customers never find it, you will have spent money or time for nothing. By investing in SEO, your website is going to be found by the right people and result in sales or leads, effectively paying for itself (hopefully many times over!)
How do you know if SEO is working?
If you are paying someone to “do SEO” for you, and you are unsure of exactly what you are paying for, I would suggest you get them to explain their services. Try typing a few relevant search terms in to Google and see if your business appears in results. If you are a local business, remember to include a location, such as “Illawarra local business marketing”. If you aren’t seeing your website appear in the results, you should be talking to your SEO consultant about why. I would also suggest asking to see analytics data for your website that shows how many people are visiting it. Your consultant should be able to explain and interpret the data for you. If you aren’t seeing results, maybe it’s time to get someone else looking after your website.
If you are unsure about whether your website is working as well as it could be, book in for a free consultation with me. Based near Wollongong, I am happy to meet you at a convenient time and place to discuss your local business and the online marketing strategies available to you.