If your goal is to increase the amount of relevant traffic (prospects) to your website you will need some level of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). It is easy to get impatient and just dive in but it is important to understand the basics first.

Investing time and money into SEO may not be the best way forward for your business. You need to understand what is involved to run a successful search engine optimisation process. Take your time to think through what work is required. Who will do the work, how long will it take and the results you can expect?

What follows is not a detailed ‘how to’ guide; it is an overview (in three parts) of the basics of small business SEO. It is based on experience and my interpretation of the available information. Nobody outside the search engine companies knows exactly how search works. Everyone makes educated guesses based on the limited information available.

What Is SEO?

MOZ defines SEO as: ‘the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results’. That’s the best succinct definition I have come across.

Traffic is visits to a website, which in turn is a collection of webpages. The higher the number of visits to the site the more chance you have a prospect will get in touch.

Those making contact will always be a small percentage of the total visits. The objective, therefore, is also to increase the quality of the traffic which should, in turn, increase the percentage who do get in touch.

There are various ways to drive traffic to a website, some are paid for and some are known as organic (read more about types of traffic here). SEO is all about driving organic traffic.

The Search Engine Optimisation Challenges To Address

A prospect searching for goods or services will use a browser on their phone, tablet or computer to seek out information on potential suppliers. If they find a page on a business website, it is relevant to their search intent, it satisfies their needs, it is authoritative and credible they could make an enquiry. Great, but that’s quite a few hurdles to jump.

To complicate matters what happens if the prospect is not yet ready to buy but at the research stage? How is a business supposed to keep them engaged until they are ready to buy?

What if your business website does not appear on page 1 of the search results pages (SERPS) when a prospect types in a relevant search phrase (query) to a search engine? Will the prospect continue to page 2 or page 3. Reliable data shows it is unlikely.

It is estimated there are over a billion websites on the WWW. Those websites cover every subject you could imagine. How many of those web pages are active and maintained is difficult to estimate. But in the majority of markets competition is intense.

Given the above challenges, why should a small business bother with search engine optimisation? Surely it is a thankless task. For some small and micro businesses that is true but for others it is an essential task.

Will SEO Work For Your Small Business?

Before diving into SEO it is really important to determine what return you might expect from your efforts. What is the value of small business SEO is a difficult question to answer. To a large extent, it depends on the business, its objectives and the strength of the online competition. Now you have an overview of small business SEO, you need to run some basic numbers.

Grab a calculator or spreadsheet and play with a set of conversion factors. Estimate how many website visits will it take to generate a sales lead. How many sales leads will convert to a sale and the profit on each sale.

Arm yourself with a rough estimate of the SEO costs required to drive your required number of website visitors. You should then be able to make an educated guess if SEO might work for you or if it is a complete non starter.

SEO is not a quick fix. It will take months (sometimes many months) to see a return on the effort employed. However, once results do come through, they do not need to be paid for. With a little care and maintenance, those results will keep coming.

SEO is like trying to move a huge boulder. It may be necessary to dig around the base to start with. It can take a significant amount of pushing and shoving to get some initial movement. But once the boulder starts moving there is much less effort involved in keeping it going.

Read Part 2 of the guide.

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