There is little argument as to the value of the internet for businesses, especially small to medium size businesses who have a chance to reach a much larger audience than their geographical location allows.
How do SMEs take advantage of this opportunity? The internet is a big place and there are not only lots of other SMEs competing too, but lots of huge organisations with deeper pockets. Where do you start?
Let’s take a look at the best places to start.
Firstly, one of the main drivers of traffic to your website will be through search. This can include Google, Yahoo and Bing but let’s be honest, it’s pretty much all about Google with their huge market share. But you shouldn’t ignore other search engines because they can still send potential customers to your website. For the purposes of this article though, I’ll focus mainly on Google.
There are two main ways to drive search traffic to your website:
Organic search (also known as natural search)
Paid search (also known as PPC which stands for pay-per-click)
Organic search comes from the results which are determined 100% by Google’s algorithms. These algorithms are driven by hundreds of signals which Google use to work out how good your website is and how relevant it is to a searcher who is using a particular keyword. Google doesn’t reveal the full list of signals that they use because they want to prevent website owners from manipulating these signals and appearing at the top of results when they don’t deserve to. They even have a team of people dedicated to fighting spam in search results.
We’ll come onto how to improve your appearance in organic search shortly.
In terms of paid search traffic, this comes from adverts which are placed at the top and bottom of Google search results. They look something like this and have “Ad” next to them:
Google use an auction system to determine who appears in these slots and in what order they appear. Again, there are lots of signals which go into this but there are three main signals which we’re aware of and optimise for:
The quality of your website
The quality of your advert
How much money you’re prepared to pay for a person to click through to your website
The final one is a big factor and means that some industries can be far more expensive than others. For example, anyone who wants to appear for keywords related to “car insurance” will pay a lot of money per click because the value of a customer to a car insurance company is very high.
One positive of paid search is that you only pay Google when someone actually clicks on your advert, so as long as you have a well-optimised advert and campaign, along with a strong website, you stand a good chance of driving visitors who will turn into customers.
So what do you actually do? Let’s look at a few tips on organic search.
Tips for SMEs investing in organic search
As mentioned, there are hundreds of signals that Google look at to determine who appears at the top of organic search results and some of these aren’t in your control. But there are three main areas that are in your control and that you should spend time working on.
1 – The technical performance of your website
If your website doesn’t provide a good experience for visitors, then Google can detect this and they will be reluctant to send traffic to you. A few ways that you can provide a bad experience include:
Slow loading of your pages – no one is going to hang around waiting for your website to load!
Difficult to navigate pages – users need to be able to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.
Low quality content such as content that has been copied from other websites or contains bad spelling or grammar errors.
Your website not displaying correctly on a mobile device which makes things hard to read or hard to click on.
To try and prevent issues such as this, try the following:
Use this free tool from Google to uncover any issues that may be slowing your website down. You’ll get a list of suggestions from Google and you should speak to whoever runs your website to see if these can be fixed.
Register your website with Google using their Search Console. Once you’ve verified that you own your website, Google will give you lots of information about your website and also suggest things that could improve the performance of your website.
Review each of your pages and make sure that your content is well-written, unique to your website and does a good job of describing your services or products. Also look at writing content that may help your customers with problems they may have related to your services or products.
Use the mobile friendly testing tool from Google to see if your website loads correctly on a mobile device and if it doesn’t, speak to whoever runs your website to see if they can help fix any problems.
2 – The content on your website
The second main point to think about is the content on your website. Remember just how many websites there are out there and how many competitors you have? You need to do your best to make your content stand out and be better than as many of them as possible. If Google can see that you provide better content for your visitors which helps them, answers their questions and makes them engage with your website, then this will help your organic search performance.
The first step is to make sure that each and every one of your product or service pages does a great job of describing the product, has great images or videos and answers the questions that a visitor will be asking. You may also consider publishing client reviews using a service such as Reevoo or Feefo.
You also need to think about what content you can provide beyond your product and service pages. Can you create a guide which helps solve a problem for your customers? One of my favour examples are the neighbourhood guides from Airbnb which are very well written and beautifully designed.
Ask yourself what problems your customers usually have and what questions they will be asking as they move along the purchase journey.
3 – Links from other websites to yours
Finally we have links from other websites. These play a big part in Google rankings. What we’re talking about here is when someone places a link on their website which, when clicked on, leads to your website. These are very important to Google because they are essentially recommendations from other people on the internet that you have a good website – otherwise they wouldn’t link to you. Think of the offline world and if you’re looking for a plumber, you’re more likely to use someone who has lots of recommendations right? This is the same principle as how Google view links online.
In terms of how to increase the number of links pointing to your website, There are lots of ways to do this but if you’re new to it, I’d recommend getting started by:
Looking for industry bodies, local associations or trade associations who have sections on their websites where they list companies and link to their websites.
Look for industry websites who allow guest columnists from time to time and see if they’d allow you or a member of your team to write for them.
If you have friends who have websites, ask them for a favour and see if they will link to you. While you want to focus on relevant links, the odd one from friends is unlikely to hurt!
One word of warning – you need to focus on good quality links from other websites. Avoid companies promising to create hundreds or thousands of links for a low cost. These are often very low quality and could actually cause more harm than good.