SEO is Not Dead for Local Businesses
SEO is a moving target, writes ReachLocal's Rob Frost-Dean. At the moment, personalization and machine learning has changed what independent shops and SMBs need to understand to be effective at the hyperlocal level.
The word on the street is that search engine optimization (SEO) is dead. Well at least according to many industry pundits who claim that the advent of newer technologies such as social media and mobile apps have taken market share from SEO. But for many local businesses, that notion couldn’t be further from the truth.
Across ReachLocal’s thousands of customers, without SEO, a significant portion of their revenue would be lost. For these businesses, however, their approach to SEO has evolved. The businesses that are garnering tangible results from SEO have shifted their objective from simply getting to the top of the search engines, to delivering a great user experience, which subsequently also gets them top ranking.
SEO is No Easy Task
SEO is something local businesses know they need to do and is critical to their business, but many get lost in the many details required to do it well. Nonetheless, many attempt to do it themselves. But they quickly discover why companies have dedicated SEO experts on staff.
SEO is a moving target. Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo! are continually changing their rules and algorithms on how they rank content in search results. Just a few years ago, keyword stuffing, cloaking and link farming were the techniques of choice to land on the first page of search engines. Today, those same techniques are major violations that are punishable by poor ranking.
The Evolution of SEO
The reality is that SEO is not dead, but rather it has transformed. Personalized search and machine learning has enabled SEO to have a deeper understanding of what a user wants. As a result, good SEO is now a multifaceted discipline. It requires a gamut of expertise from technical skills, to writing skills, to web design skills, to analytical skills. It is no longer enough to slap up a pretty Web site, throw out some content with various keywords and then try to optimize it for SEO purposes after the fact. The ideal SEO practice must look at SEO from a holistic perspective and ensure that both visitors and search engines understand a site, otherwise, it could create missed opportunities for performance and ultimately waste precious money and resources.
Another important evolution in SEO is the increased demand for mobile friendly sites with the ability to do voice searches that land useful results. The ubiquitous use of smart phones means sites must be mobile friendly and use real speech patterns, as well as content that is original, relevant and has actual value.
In addition, beyond creating a SEO optimized site with strategic content that meets the needs of the searcher, successful SEO requires ongoing maintenance and access to sophisticated analytics to understand what optimization techniques are working.
As alluded to earlier, modern day SEO requires a full breadth of expertise not typically found in one person. In large companies, an entire team is often deployed to manage all the various facets of SEO. However, for many local businesses, hiring just one person dedicated to SEO is not even a viable option. So how can a local business address the SEO conundrum? Can it even be done effectively and efficiently?
A Local Business SEO Case Study: All Dry USA
All Dry USA, a provider of restoration services to homes and businesses in Florida and New York, is an example of a local business with a SEO success story. The company initially tried to manage their SEO in house. But the process became too much. Like many local businesses, they needed to focus on their core service offering, not time-consuming marketing programs such as SEO. They simply did not have the time nor the interest to learn every intricate detail needed to run successful SEO. So they decided to outsource their SEO marketing, along with search engine marketing (SEM) and Website management. By doing so, they had access to all the necessary skills required for modern day SEO including content experts, Web design experts, technical experts and marketing analytics experts.
Setting Clear Goals Key to SEO Success
Having tried doing SEO internally, All Dry already knew that more time and effort does not always lead to more leads, nor quality leads. As a result, the first step they took was to develop a strategic plan tied to clear goals and ROI. Once the goals were developed, they embarked on the SEO journey. Within a couple of months, All Dry’s SEO program was driving just as many leads as their search engine marketing (e.g. paid search) efforts. Specifically, All Dry attained the following results:
- 111 percent more leads from SEO
- 170 percent year over year growth in organic search
- A 59 percent increase in onsite conversation from SEO sources
Underscoring the importance of quality over quantity, All Dry’s online marketing success has resulted in tangible growth to their bottom line. Since investing in and outsourcing their online marketing, the company doubled in size every six months, added a new service line, and opened a new location in New York. For local companies, such as All Dry USA, SEO is far from dead. However, cracking the complexities inherent in successful SEO is certainly a challenge. Once done, however, these companies are reaping enormous benefits from SEO.
*Rob Frost-Dean is Director of SEO services for ReachLocal, a leader in powering online marketing for local businesses. Rob leads the ReachLocal team responsible for delivering the SEO services for thousands of ReachLocal customers. Rob’s SEO experience has spanned managing teams for large brand retail and travel industries as well as local, domestic and international SEO initiatives.