How important is search engine optimization (SEO) to your small business? Chances are your answer is “Not as important as it should be.” According to the Web.com Small Business Digital Trends report, only 17 percent of small business owners plan to add SEO to their online marketing strategies this year.
Conducted by Web.com in partnership with Dr. David Ricketts, Innovation Fellow in the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, the study surveyed entrepreneurs in a wide range of industries, including service businesses, ecommerce businesses and more. Fewer than 6 percent of respondents say SEO is a challenge for their businesses. However, that doesn’t mean small business owners are SEO experts. On the contrary, it suggests small business owners aren’t putting enough emphasis on a vital element in building online awareness for their businesses.
SEO helps a company promote a distinct brand image, increases customer awareness of the business, and drives users to a business’s website. With an average of 7.8 billion Google searches per day conducted last year, search is how both consumers and B2B buyers discover businesses today.
Good SEO requires attention to more than just your business website: Other digital marketing elements such as online reviews and social media also come into play. In addition, the basics of SEO are changing rapidly. Consider:
- Online reviews of products and services have become the de facto gold standard for millions of online buyers. According to the Pew Research Center, 82 percent of U.S. adults check online reviews before making a first-time purchase.
- Search is changing from keyword-focused search to intent-based, more personalized search. AI tools like Siri, Alexa, Cortana and others are already leading to an increase in spoken searches at the expense of typed searches.
- Mobile optimization, which is already extremely important in SEO strategies (since most searches take place on mobile devices), will become even more vital.
- Local search optimization is becoming more relevant as searches on mobile devices proliferate.
- Google is presenting “snippets” of information (also called rich answers or direct answers) on the first search engine results page that often don’t even require consumers to visit the website to get answers to their questions.
Basic SEO best practices, such as using search terms and keywords in your content and building links with other websites, still work. But with the changes above taking place, it’s getting more difficult for busy small business owners to keep up with the “rules” of SEO. The low number of respondents planning to invest in SEO in 2017 may indicate a lack of awareness of its value, a lack of resources or expertise, or a mistaken belief that smaller companies can’t possibly compete on SEO against larger online giants.
The reality: In order to compete effectively this year, you must have a well-thought-out SEO strategy that helps your business’s website rank at the top of search engine results and local directory listings. Getting advice about SEO and other online marketing tactics from the experts can help.
A good SEO expert will learn about your business’s needs, help you set marketing goals, and then work with you to develop an SEO plan that makes sense for your business and your budget. He or she stay current on the latest SEO trends and algorithm adjustments, and review the results of your SEO efforts on a regular basis so you can always feel confident you’re getting your money’s worth.
By taking the day-to-day worries about your site’s SEO off your hands, hiring an SEO expert gives you the luxury of more time to spend time working on your business—and isn’t that what’s really important?
This article originally appeared on Web.com