Today many SMEs still ignore the true value of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), opting for more traditional or familiar marketing channels when putting together a media plan.
It is understandable that SME business owners and managers alike opt for familiar marketing channels because they cannot identify with the long term benefits associated with search engine optimisation. As a matter of fact it is quite plausible that many business owners or media planners do not even understand the terminology.
Search Engine Optimisation is a relatively new concept in media; to explain simply – SEO typically refers to the optimisation of content published on one’s website and the websites of others.
However it is a far more complicated process than one might initially think Search Engine Optimisation involves use of optimisation techniques within the back-end code of your website and the physical content visible to potential consumers at the front-end. It requires constant monitoring and updating in order to keep up with competitors and changes to Google algorithms.
In 2012 the popularity of online marketing in Ireland increased tenfold, this lead to an upsurge in digital agencies, freelancers and amateur “SEO experts”, trying to make money fast. As a result Google implemented some of the most influential changes to its algorithms between the 2012 and 2013. The aim of these changes was to prevent spam tactics from manipulating ranking results and ensure searchers were receiving high quality information from reliable sources.
Of course for many companies that invested in poorly managed SEO services this lead to the de-ranking of their website and in some cases websites being blacklisting from search results for being incompliant with updates. Whilst horror stories of “SEO gone bad” and “Help, my website has been blacklisted” began to flood the internet as a popular topics for discussion.
Today the influence of these stories is still very evident as SMEs and corporate companies alike continue to build websites; overlooking the real value of Search Engine Optimisation due to ignorance, lack of information, poor experience with mediocre businesses.
So why should 2014 be any different?
Nothing to fear: Most mediocre SEO businesses were wiped out with their poor performances during the algorithm updates in 2012, and 2013.
However, when it comes to SEO 2 golden rules apply:
1. “If it sounds too good to be true – it probably is.”
2. “You get what you pay for.”
The above well-known phrases couldn’t be more apt when it comes to SEO, it is as thought they were written especially, with reference to the recent chaos.
Search Engine Optimisation is a specialised process requiring knowledge of search engines, websites, communications and much more.
So when committing to an SEO campaign be sure that your provider will supply you with real-time access to a project management system containing the status of activities completed and pending. You should also request a monthly report to identify the impact of activities in terms of increased web-traffic and conversions.
Ask how the company works and how they will approach your campaign. In every successful campaign there is always a research phase, whereby the selected company reviews the current status of your brand online. Research should include: an online visibility, link building and competitor analysis. From this a key improvement areas should be identified, and a strategy should be built to encompass these improvements.
ROI: SEO is not something that you will hear about on your TV or radio, as a matter of fact it pretty much a stranger to all forms of traditional media. However, for those who are aware SEO can offer excellent benefits, particularly for SMEs with a relatively modest budget and the patients to wait up to 6 months before seeing a return on investment.
Your SEO Campaign:
Although all SEO campaigns are unique and should be treated as such, it is advisable that you have a budget of at least €4,000 – €6,000 to invest in a really good 6 month campaign. Some companies may have a set -up fee, though these figures are pretty miniscule compared to the price of a 30 second TV advert –even off peak.
The list below demonstrates (roughly) the work that would typically be involved in campaign for a typical SME in Ireland.
1. Keyword research and site analysis
2. Competitor analysis
3. On-site optimisation
4. Off-site optimisation
Every year Google makes approximately 500 – 600 changes to its algorithms. While most of these changes are minor, sometimes Google rolls out a major algorithmic update that has a huge impact on search result rankings. Notable examples of such changes include the recent: Panda, Penguin and Humming Bird updates of 2013.
Throughout the year these updates caused much confusion amongst business owners and marketers alike, as Google began to further increase its definition of spam tenfold.
The frequency and effects of these updates became quite alarming as even websites with long term rankings began to fall.As we entered 2014 the effects of the Google updates and updates to come remained to be quite a topical issue; it was abundantly clear that many business owners, marketers and SEO enthusiasts alike had not yet recognized the reasoning behind Google’s algorithm changes.
Yet almost every update Google has ever made has been focused on creating a better experience for searchers – 2013 was no different.
The Google Panda was rolled out as early as January 22nd, 2013: quickly followed with further updates to this algorithm and the re-introduction of the Google Penguin. Though changes to these algorithms were on-going; notable updates took place in March, May June, July and October of last year. Again each of these updates was aimed at creating a better experience for searchers by “removing spam for the sake of searchers”.
Google was taking a zero tolerance stance against those who used poor SEO tactics to manipulate its search results.
To achieve better results for searchers Google began to rewarded websites with high quality information and top tier, “earned” back links. In effect these updatesde-ranked spammy websitesor websites that had gained Google rankings via the creation of spammy back links.
In the midst of the frequent Panda / Penguin and other speculated updates, Google was busy creating one of its most effective algorithmic changes to date – this quickly became known the “Humming Bird”.
The Humming Bird was introduced in August, 2013; its objective was to create semantic search for the masses, due to a high rise in mobile/ tablet usage and a notable increase in voice search amongst the younger generation. – A generation that does not identify with the use of keyword searches but rather conversational queries.
Although there was no dramatic impact on rankings due to The Humming Bird update – this algorithmic change was again to enhance searchers experience by placing more emphasizes on the creation of high quality content.-Thus increasing the importance of social media synergy.
There is no doubt that the 2013 changes to Google’s algorithm were the most influential of alland that these updates will long continue as the online market place continues to progress – so just how do SMEs stay ahead of further Google updates in 2014?
It is expected that more business than ever before will be completed online in 2014. But with over 80% of the population not scrolling past Google page 1, competition is fierce.To stay ahead in search rankings it is now more important than ever before to remember:
Links are a great addition to your website and also very important with regards to search engine ranking. In fact your site will go nowhere fast without them. In 2014 back links are going to be more important than ever – but they must be achieved not bought or built from spammy connections. To be accredited for your link building efforts you must:
Content has always been important to achieve rankings. However the term “content is king” will be the saying of the year for 2014. Content will now play a pivotal role onsite as well as offsite. Thus it is important that you
In 2014 it is important to build your brand an audience via social media.
As you may have notice Google has already began to rank blogs, videos and locations via maps. In 2014 this will also include social media rankings based on popularity and interaction.
Thus it is important that you engage in some form of social media marketing or at least create and update the following accounts on a regular basis:
Google updates are all about creating a better experience for searchers.
As such it is important when creating content, building a link, or posting on social media’s to think of your audience. Finding the balance between optimizing your website / online activities for people and search engines will be a key successor for SMEs in 2014.