Marketing and business consultants often talk about SEO. It is important for your website to be visible and rank high on the search engines so people can find you easily. But is it really every single business that needs to focus on website optimisation and spend tons of money to rank on the first page of Google?
What is SEO
First, let's explain what SEO is for those who are just joining the party. SEO is search engine optimisation. It is a series of actions, taken both on the technical side of your website and on your content. This includes meta data, page loading time, code fixes, link building, keywords and phrases, social proof and the list goes on. All these things (and more) help your website look more reputable and worthy in the eyes of users and respectively Google. Or perhaps another search engine. The more golden points you collect, the higher you rank in the search results. So, for example, when somebody types "Copywriting and digital marketing services London", this website comes up on the first page of results, third position (after the ads!).
SEO is a crucial part of the marketing mix for all businesses who rely on people searching for their products and services online.
Do All Businesses Need to Focus on SEO
That's a really important question and the short answer is no. But I must go into detail here to give a valid explanation why.
To begin with, your business does need a website. Depending on the nature of your business, the stage you are at and the behaviour of your ideal client, you will know exactly how much you need to invest in the development and optimisation.
Let's say you are a lawyer, who is setting up an independent practice. You should have a website. It needs to be well designed, easy to navigate and very informative. You could potentially add a booking system where people can book consultation meetings with you, but most of all, your website will serve as an online business card.
Now, let's ask this question - how many people actually look for a lawyer on Google when they need it?
Yes, there might be a fair percentage who do that, but mostly, when it comes to legal services, people tend to rely on recommendations and not someone they found randomly on the internet. So, your best marketing strategy wouldn't be spending tons of money on SEO, because the return on investment won't break even.
If you are a law firm, though, that's different!
Here's another scenario. You make beautiful, high quality, hand made candles. Is there a market for that online? Absolutely!
However, the majority of people who want to buy such items for their home don't search Google for that. They go on other big websites where these items are available - Amazon, Etsy, homeware and supermarket chains. Sometimes they even search social media - Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook.
At a later point of your business development, though, when you decide to form B2B relationships, you will need a website. Even at that point, your website will be part of your digital identity and not your main sales and distribution channel.
On the flip side, if you have an eCommerce business or you are a B2C local service provider, you certainly need SEO for your website. In any scenario when you know your ideal client would use a search engine to look for the product or service you offer, you must focus on SEO.
What SEO Strategies Work in 2020
SEO is a complex and continuous activity, involving a series of tasks. Some of these tasks are done just once, such as particular fixes and settings, and others require consistency over a long period of time.
Top 5 SEO Strategies that still work in 2020:
Clean and clear website design with easy-to-follow user journey
Valuable, easy to digest content and copy, which also includes key words
Social sharing and audience building
Designing your website with the user in mind goes a long way. Poorly organised pages, low loading speed and having to jump several hoops before your users can find what they need, will certainly affect their behaviour. They will simply drop out within a few seconds. This will increase your bounce rate.
Note! For blog pages, a high bounce rate is not necessarily a concerning indicator, as long as the time spent on the website is more than 1 minute. However, a high bounce rate, combined with low time spent on page rate is a clear sign for a bad website.
Mobile optimisation for your website is an absolute must!
Link building is still very important in 2020, but you have to be very careful what techniques you use. Some outdated practices can do you more harm than good. Here's a very good guide on effective link building strategies for 2020.
The copy and content on your website are crucial for good SEO rankings. And no, it's not about the keywords. It's about high quality, valuable and engaging copy. Most of the time people go on various websites to find information. And they want this to happen quickly and easily. Invest in a good copywriter, who knows not only how to write optimised content, but also a copy that converts.
Meta data is essential for effective SEO in 2020, but only some of it. Meta titles and meta descriptions that contain a relevant keyword will push your website higher in the engines. Meta tags on the other hand, won't do much of a difference.
By far the most important factor for your ranking on Google and other search engines is social sharing and engagement. The more your pages get shared on social media and users engage with comments or particular actions on the website, the higher it will climb.
What SEO Techniques Don't Work Any More
SEO has been evolving over the years and experts need to be aware of the changes at all times. Any old or less effective techniques could not only stall your optimisation progress, but also harm your website positions and reputation on the search engines.
Top 5 SEO techniques that don't work in 2020:
Overly populated content with keywords
Spamming blogs and forums with link comments
Linking for the sake of it
Stuffing your website pages with keywords is definitely not a thing any more. Moreover, it's a cry for a penalty. Sadly, many SEO professionals are still doing it. Design your pages for human users, not for bots. Actually, even bots are smart enough these days to spot a badly-written text with little value. Don't fall in that trap!
Spamming other people's blogs and posting links on forums to get a backlink was a very good strategy... back in 2016. Since then, search engine algorithms have learned to recognise those links and they have virtually no weight in your SEO.
Indexing was a great help in the past. Submitting your recent blog post to Google Search Console could get it on the first page of results within a few minutes. That's no longer the case. In 2019, the Console was updated and all indexing is now automated. Google bots are crawling your website pages almost immediately after you publish them. The effect is gone and so is the need to index.
Putting any links on your website for the sake of building a stable link net can cost you dearly. Linking from your website to blacklisted or poor-quality sites can result in a Google penalty. Always check the sources when you get asked to put a link to any external website on yours.
There's a lot of information on the importance of H1 tags. But in reality, they are just as important as H2, H3 and so on. There's no magic in the H1 titles. They just make your text more structured and easier to skim through. Just like bullet points. Online readers prefer such blog posts, because they can easily jump to the part that they are interested in without having to read the whole page.
So, what's the verdict for your website? Does it definitely need SEO or it isn't essential at this particular point of your business development?