Is SEO all it's cracked up to be?

I'm amazed at the number of business owners who are just starting out online that come to me and are insistent that SEO is the way to go for their business. I'm not sure where they've got this idea in their heads, but I'd like to use this opportunity to clear a few things up around SEO.

What my clients think SEO is: a one-off activity where keywords are added to a website and POOF you magically show up on page number one on Google for 50 different search terms.

Reality: Google changes it's algorithm up to 500 times per year. Yep. Per year. SEO is NOT a one-off activity. In order for SEO to be done properly it's typically a six month ongoing retainer process. It's a specialised 'magic' digital skill that few do effectively and well. You're looking at a minimum of $400 a month ($2400) for a good job to be done. And this is even if you outsource it to a reputable agency in India. If ANYONE quotes you less - run for the hills. You're setting yourself up for headaches and get prepared to flush money down the loo. 

First of all, let's start by defining SEO. According to Moz, SEO is:

' ..a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility
organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines. There are many aspects to SEO, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to you on the web. Sometimes SEO is simply a matter of making sure your site is structured in a way that search engines understand.'

Free traffic? SAY WHAT! But before you get too excited, I'd like to point out that this all depends on what kind of industry you're in. You've got to get inside the head of your consumer. Are they googling for 'fluffy teddy bear in Australia' or are they making an impulse buy for your product? In my experience, if you're selling a physical product online that is less than $150, SEO is probably not going to be the right way to go. If you're a cafe or high-end service provider such as lawyer, SEO is going to be awesome for you. 

People put a lot more faith the organic search results over those first ads that pop up on google:

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And what do you know, there's a website that comes straight up for Fluffy Teddy Bears Australia. 

Something for you to keep in mind if you're a small business with an equally small budget, you'll be competing against much larger companies and fighting a constant battle for a decent ranking. 

It's often much more affordable to be using some paid advertising through Google Adwords.

Personally, having worked with dozens of small businesses, I'm not convinced SEO is all it's cracked up to be in terms of getting the most bang for your buck. I've seen a lot more success in retargeting Facebook ads. 

If you would like to make some progress with your own SEO, here's what I recommend you do:

  • If you're using wordpress, install SEO Yoast and use it!
  • If you're using Squarespace, make use of all the description and meta data fields
  • Create a Google business listing
  • Link all your social accounts (and be active on them!)
  • List your business with any local directory sites such as true local (just don't get conned into the paid listing, it's not worth it).
  • Set yourself up a free listing on Gumtree
  • Blog! This is a great way to add content to your site that search engines will pick up on, adding authority to your website.