Small businesses are nothing compared to what they used to be in the recent past as the Internet has revolutionized how small business owners conduct their business. It would be very hard to succeed by using the methods of twenty years ago, even ten years ago or less, as every aspect from running the accounting, showcasing the business, getting customers, etc, has radically changed in a short time period.
Nowadays a large portion of small business operations and marketing campaigns are done online. Of course every small business needs a website hosted at a solid hosting company, but this is just the first step as far as marketing is concerned. The second step which is much harder to implement is to get a consistent flow of visitors to their website.
Getting traffic, in other words visitors to their site can make or break a business. As many of these online businesses offer the same type of standardized service such as a plumber, a lawyer, an accountant or a carpet cleaner, one of the key for the success of an online business is to master traffic getting from online sources. As many of the service offers are quite similar to each other, the company winning a specific deal could be the one a potential buyer sees first on the Web.
What is online traffic?
Most online business owners understand the above principle about getting visitors to their website. There are a few powerful ways to get these visitors. Below is a list of the main channels to get online traffic for a small business:
- paid advertisement (google adwords, facebook ads, …)
- social traffic (facebook fans, twitter followers,…)
- email marketing
- video marketing
- organic traffic
- google maps
Every business owner will have his preference when it comes to his favorite traffic source, but let’s first comment briefly on the six sources of traffic just mentioned above.
Paid ads are paid of course, i.e. there is a cost attached to each visitor, and it can be high in some niches like the legal niche. Social traffic will require a social media manager just to constantly create buzz about the business, and it can be hard to keep on buzzing about some vanilla businesses, such as accounting. Email marketing requires special skills and not all products are well adapted to it. It will not work for a plumber, will it? Likewise for video marketing.
This leaves us with number 5 and 6, organic traffic and google maps, which are applicable universally to almost any small business seeking online traffic.
#5 organic traffic means to appear in google search results so that potential buyers can see the company at the top of the result page, click on the link and visit the website. #6 google maps is similar to organic results, except the business will appear in the google maps area on the google page, as a google my business result within the map.
How to appear at the top of organic results or google maps? This is the question every small business owner wants the answer to. And the answer is that it is achieved using search engine optimization techniques, also called in short SEO.
What is SEO exactly?
Most small business owners have heard about SEO and some of them have even hired a SEO company to work on their marketing campaign in the past. But few of these business owners understand clearly what SEO is all about, or how well it works.
They somehow see the importance of SEO for their business, but many are not too sure about it.
The best way to think about SEO and its benefits is to get an idea of how much extra traffic a business could get by reaching the top 3 spots in google organic, or the top 3 spots in google maps, which is called the 3 pack, and is often the main visible part in google maps results.
It turns out in many cases an online business can double or even triple their online sales by consistently showing up at the top of the search results. The number one result in google results page gets more than ten times the number of clicks of the 10th result. People do not have the time to check lower results down to the 10th result. People do not like to check too many results, and they will just click on the first few results from google, or simply the first one sometimes.
So if an SEO company can help your website reach this top area on the google result page, as you can imagine your online sales will explode given the boost in traffic this will generate. This is why implementing the proper SEO strategy is so crucial for all small online businesses.
How can google maps help exactly?
What is newer in the field of search engine optimization is our #6 item: google maps.
Have you noticed that if you search for a pizzeria near you, you will see a map with the nearest restaurants offering pizzas? But if you search for other queries like “what time is it in New York now”, you will see no such map, just organic results.
This is because google will only display a local map when it is appropriate to do so, for example if you are looking for something that could be offered by a local business, like a restaurant, a hotel, a plumber, a car repair shop, etc. In other words google maps is nowadays the place users trust to find the local services or products they are looking for online. And this is what google is conditioning shoppers to expect to see when they want to make an online purchase.
So if your company does not show up prominently in google maps, as you can imagine your business will lose a ton of potential buyers eager to get your product. As a matter of fact this type of maps traffic is very “hot”, as these surfers have strong buyer-intent: they are likely to be really interested in purchasing a product very soon. They are the perfect type of visitors a business wants to attract.
This is why SEO applied to google maps is so important for small businesses.
How to rank in google
How to rank in google is a valuable skill of course given what we just explained earlier. SEO practitioners understand the complicated mathematical formulas and algorithms used by search engines. The expertise of these SEO experts involves optimizing websites in order to boost their search engine rankings.
It takes years for a SEO specialist to master such skills that they can later apply to the benefit of small businesses. As the search engines change their methodologies on a regular basis, they must always keep their knowledge updated in order to remain at the top of their game.
SEO can be very important to most small businesses, as it can multiply their sales significantly. As many surfers just click on the top results for a query with buyer intent like “plumber in West London”, a business able to rank at the top will get a ton of new visitors when surfers click on the first link they see.
Should a small business use a SEO company?
It is quite clear that SEO can play a fundamental part in the success of any small online business, be it by generating more organic traffic, or by producing new traffic from google maps where eager buyers are looking for an offer now.
Make sure to use a trusted SEO company that can deliver good results. SEO should be part of a long-term marketing strategy. It is not a gig done only once. It is part of a constant effort of optimization and maintenance of a business website.
Any small online business should hire a SEO service provider to bring their business to the next level. In a competitive online world, the business owners who understand the importance of SEO and know how to use it are the ones better armed to succeed on the Web.