• May 1, 2018
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Companies Don't Need Websites to Benefit from SEO

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Despite all of the warnings to the contrary, not all small and midsized businesses (SMBs) are convinced that search engine optimization (SEO) is a relevant investment for them.

In general, SMBs still have not adopted SEO as much as they should, according to B2B ratings and reviews firm Clutch's recent "Small Business Website Survey."

Though 74 percent of SMBs last year said they planned to invest in SEO, only 55 percent are doing it today. This is a marginal 3 percent increase in the number of SMBs that invested in SEO in 2017.

A big reason for the lack of investment is that many SMBs mistakenly believe that they don't need SEO because they either don't have a website or are referral-based. Less than two-thirds (64 percent) of small businesses have websites, and of the 36 percent that do not, only 28 percent have invested in SEO, according to the research.

Experts say, however, that nearly all small businesses can benefit from SEO, even small, local businesses without a big web presence.

"SMBs are not just competing online. They're competing across the board," says Grayson Kemper, senior content developer and marketer at Clutch. "SMBs need to do [SEO], they just have to be more strategic about it. They need to optimize more for local searches."

"Every business is a viable candidate for SEO, unless they absolutely don't require business from the public and they are a referral-based, discrete, or relationship-based business,"; says Kevin Tash, CEO of Tack Media, a digital marketing agency based in Los Angeles.

Even without websites, SMBs can benefit from optimizing their local directory listings, such as Google My Business profiles, to increase their chances of being found in local searches, like when consumers search for "pizzerias near me," experts contend. Other directories, like Angie's List, HomeAdvisor, Yellow Pages, and Yelp, also compile lists of local businesses that need to be verified and kept up to date.

Given their budget and personnel constraints, it's no surprise that SMBs aren't as advanced in SEO as their larger competitors, but even when SMBs do engage in SEO, they do so far differently from their larger counterparts, according to Clutch's research.

SMBs measure the quantity and quality of links back to their sites (21 percent) to determine SEO success, followed by site traffic (19 percent), leads and conversions (19 percent), keyword rankings (18 percent), and on-site engagement (13 percent).

The Clutch research reveals that the metrics SMBs prefer depend on the stage in the conversion funnel where they engage target customers. For example, businesses concerned with branding track keyword rankings to determine their level of exposure through SEO. Businesses concerned with return on investment track leads and conversions that result from their SEO investments.

Additionally, SMBs traditionally have invested modestly in pay-per-click advertising (PPC), often in tandem with SEO. Less than half (45 percent) run PPC campaigns, up just 5 percent from last year. And they do so as needed rather than regularly and only devote a small portion of their total marketing budgets to it. In fact, 65 percent spend 30 percent or less on those campaigns.

Another finding of the research was that SMBs are more likely to invest in social media marketing to boost their search rankings. In fact, 56 percent have done this. It's an attractive option, Clutch's research found, because it is a low-cost, low-effort option for resource-strapped SMBs.

And though there are outside consulting firms that can direct SEO efforts, these are often out of the price range for SMBs, which more often than not rely on internal teams and SEO software.

Among the software tools available, according to Clutch's research, are Moz, which measures how well web pages rank in domain authority and page authority for certain keywords; SEMRush, which performs competitor analysis for keyword positioning and strength and tracks individual search marketing projects; Ahrefs, which lets businesses see which domains and pages link to them and their competitors; and AWR Cloud, which tracks keyword performance on Google search.

"SMBs can do things that don't require a lot of technical know-how," Kemper says.

"If you're a small, local business, you don't need to invest a lot. You can keep it simple," he suggests. "Look at what your customers search for, which keywords they use, and tailor your efforts around that."

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