Yes, the country’s back in recession and we’re all doomed to spend the next 10 years wandering through an economic wasteland.
Or are we? Now’s the time for start-ups with good ideas and great motivation to take advantage of low spending by their bigger rivals. And here’s how low-budget SEO can help…
SEO is Flexible
Whatever web presence your company has already, SEO can help. It’s a little term for a huge area, so tailoring your SEO campaign to meet your specific needs is a must, and doesn’t need to be too stressful.
If your website is currently just a few pages, SEO might mean writing new content to flesh it out. In a stalled economy, an ever-growing website is a clear indication to your potential customers that your company is alive and well, and regular updates can also help to improve your search ranking. Even putting that to one side, more pages on your website means more words – and particularly more SEO keywords – and that naturally improves your search visibility.
Even large websites usually need some work to make them perform particularly well in search results. SEO specialists can recommend ways to tweak your site’s layout and wording to help it rank higher for your chosen keywords.
Bear in mind that, in a recession, you might want to reword a few pages to focus on value for money, rather than luxury, eco-friendliness and other aspirational claims.
SEO is Integrated
You might not think your website is the main focus of your online operations – perhaps you prefer to communicate with your customers via Facebook or Twitter.
An integrated SEO campaign can help to produce content to populate your Facebook page and Twitter timeline, with search-visible, keyworded blog posts, news articles and static pages that you can link to from your social networking profiles. This kind of inbound marketing puts the full user base of those social networks at your disposal, and allows you to build some real brand buzz while expanding your website at the same time.
Remember, in a recession, plenty of people will be looking for a bargain, and products they discover on social networks are likely to seem like hidden gems, compared with those seen in display ads which can seem over-hyped. Place your marketing investment wisely – make the most of these untapped resources and low-competition channels and your return on investment is likely to be higher, as the playing field will be less crowded.
SEO is Future-Proof
Display ads and PPC campaigns can be a valuable part of an all-encompassing online marketing initiative, but if you’re not certain of how your company’s cash flow will cope in the months to come, you might want to look to more long-term options.
Once your ad placement expires, or your PPC account balance runs dry, your online marketing presence pretty much drops back to zero. With organic SEO, you’re making a long-term investment into expanding and improving your website. New pages, articles and blog posts will be there for as long as you need them, while any work done on increasing the number of SEO keywords on your site will also last indefinitely.
All of this means that, if you have to interrupt your SEO work, you’ll retain the value already invested into it – and if you’re able to continue with it for an extended period of time, the positive effects should be cumulative, securing your Google ranking for competitive keywords without an ever-increasing cost of doing so. And if Google change their algorithms – which they do a couple of times a day, to some extent – your SEO strategy can be adapted to compensate, so you’re not at risk of dropping back down the rankings.
SEO is Ethical
While we’re on the subject of Google algorithm and policy changes, it’s worth giving some thought to how the market-leading search engine decides its rankings, and why organic SEO is among the best and most economical ways to give Google what it wants.
First of all, let’s look at some of the bad ideas for search optimisation…
- Duplicate content is a big no-no. If your e-commerce site is filled with product descriptions copied and pasted from the manufacturer’s website, you’re unlikely to see your pages at the top of Google’s results. Why? Well, because Google is particularly successful at identifying the original page of any given content, and filters out duplicates – you may have seen a notice at the bottom of some searches saying that ‘very similar content’ has not been displayed.
- Paid links are increasingly risky, too. Google’s all in favour of its own PPC services, but paying another website to link to yours indiscriminately is definitely out these days. If Google sees too many artificial-looking inbound links to your site, you can expect to be demoted in the search rankings (this is becoming such a major issue that there are some reports of companies paying for links to their competitors’ websites, in order to get them penalised by Google!).
- Keyword stuffing can be tempting, but is another growing grey area. Google has always outlawed gateway sites – pages full of links, or with large sections of hidden text crammed full of keywords. But now, the search engine is also acting to demote pages that seem to have been written purely for SEO purposes. That doesn’t mean SEO isn’t still a good idea; it’s just that you need to make sure your pages are written by someone who understands the changing search climate.
If you’re thinking those points don’t make SEO sound particularly ethical, well, there’s a bad apple in every basket. The above are increasingly considered ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques, used by less legitimate practitioners despite their potential to damage the client’s search ranking.
White-hat SEO, on the other hand, has always been encouraged by Google. It’s not about tricking the search engine into thinking your page is about a particular subject when it’s not – instead, it’s about using headings, bold text, image captions and so on to signpost the key phrases in your content.
Google welcomes content that is:
- well written
- original and unique
- sensibly linked
…and, perhaps most importantly, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines for Design and Content clearly state: “Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.” There’s no clearer indication possible that the search engine is all in favour of sensible, ethical keywording, so don’t be afraid to invest in it.
SEO on a Shoestring
To briefly sum up all of the above – SEO is a long-term, ethical investment that will grow your website (or improve an already-large site) and give you content to link to from your social network profiles. If you’re on a budget, though, it’s not always easy to decide where to start.
Consider your audience – are you targeting existing customers for repeat business, or those who are unfamiliar with your brand? Think about the brand perception you want to create – a luxury that’s still worth buying in a recession, or a value-for-money product that doesn’t cost the earth?
If you’re clear about your own company, product or service from the outset, you can create a much more cohesive SEO campaign, and achieve positive ROI with relatively little capital to invest.