In this post I want to discuss what you can expect from a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) campaign. Due to the mystery surrounding the SEO process and other factors, business owners often have expectations that are way out of sync with the reality.
What Does ‘Prominence’ Mean in SEO?
Before we get started, I want to introduce the word ‘prominence,’ as it relates to SEO, because its going be an important part of determining the results you can expect from your SEO efforts. Your business’ prominence is the reputation it has both in the offline and online worlds, from Google’s perspective. This isn’t a new concept, I’ve talked about it many times before but usually using terms like ‘quality’ and ‘authority’ but ‘prominence’ is a term used by Google themselves in their recently updated guidelines for Improving your local ranking on Google. In those guidelines, they’re specifically referring to ‘local SEO’ but I think it makes sense to extend the term for use in regular SEO as well.
What is My Business & Website’s Current Prominence?
There’s no way to know exactly what level of prominence Google has given your business and website but they do give us some clues as to what factors influence it. In the case of Local SEO they mention “information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking.” In the case of regular SEO, the number and quality of incoming links that a website has is the main factor that affects a business and its website’s prominence.
Local vs Regular SEO
‘Local SEO’ is a specific branch of SEO which helps to get businesses ranked better in the ‘local results’ and ‘map results.’ If you’ve ever been searching for a business on Google, you would have probably noticed a map appears sometimes and you have a few results which look a little different to normal with the business name, address and sometimes the phone number appearing in the search results as well as the locations of those businesses marked on the map. These ‘local results’ appear when Google thinks the searcher is likely looking for a local business and ‘local SEO’ is what you need to get ranked better in those results. Regular (non-local) SEO doesn’t involve those local results, however, there is still substantial overlap between the processes of local and regular SEO.
We’re going to cover the main SEO activities you could have done on your website as each will have different outcomes. They are;
- Website Optimisation (aka ‘Onsite SEO’)
- Google My Business setup / improvement
- Citation creation / improvement
- Adding new content (this is part of our ‘Ongoing SEO‘ service)
- Link Building (this is part of our ‘Ongoing SEO‘ service)
Website Optimisation (commonly called ‘Onsite SEO’) will differ from one SEO provider to the next but it usually it involves keyword research, website analysis, competitor analysis and then recommendations to improve your website so that its targeting the right keywords and follows all of the SEO best practices.
Our Website Optimisation Report also includes the setup and improvement of a Google My Business page, however, we’re going to cover that separately below as its not relevant for non-local businesses.
What to Expect
Website Optimisation will give your website the best results for its existing prominence. Its important because it sets the foundation for improvement and maximises results, but the performance is limited by the website’s prominence. A website with a very low prominence, such as that for a new business, won’t be able to achieve very high results with Website Optimisation alone. An established business, on the other hand, might already have a good level of prominence in their website but they’re being held back because the website hasn’t been optimised. In these cases, carrying out Website Optimisation can quickly increase rankings and traffic by 20% or more.
Google My Business Setup & Improvement
As the name suggests, this service is for setting up and improving your Google My Business (GMB) page. This is the thing that allows you to rank in the local search results with your business name, address, phone number and marker on the map that we discussed in the ‘Local vs Regular SEO’ section above.
What to Expect
This service is basically the same as Website Optimisation but for Google My Business pages. The outcome is to give the GMB page the maximum ranking in the local search results for the business and website’s existing prominence. This means, if you have an existing business which has already built up some prominence in Google’s eyes, you can see a quick jump in rankings simply by setting up and optimising your GMB page. If you have a new business, you probably don’t have a very high level of prominence so this service will give you a little boost which might be enough to help you to rank in the local results for low competition keywords in your local area but in order to increase your ranking for more competitive keywords and locations, you need to work on improving your business and website prominence.
Despite the fact that it will only give new businesses a small boost, we still think its vital to set up your page so you can start gathering reviews which is one way to increase your prominence.
Citation Creation & Improvement
Structured Citations, or just ‘citations’ for short, are occurrences of your business Name, Address & Phone number (NAP) on high quality directory style websites. Increasing your citation count will increase the prominence of your business and website and help your GMB page to rank better, however you’ll see diminishing returns after 20 – 40 quality citations.
This is recommended for any business that wants to improve the ranking of their Google My Business page. Its the first and most basic step to improve your business and website’s prominence.
What to Expect
If you already have a good level of prominence then this could give you a noticeable boost. If you have low prominence you’ll probably only see a little improvement but you’ll be setting a good foundation for the future.
Adding New Content to your Website
There’s several reasons to add content to your website but we’re only going to address those that directly impact SEO in this section. Written content is the main way that Google finds out and confirms what your website is about. Search Engines are pretty smart these days but they’re still essentially matching the keywords that people type into the search box with the websites that appear to be about those topics. There’s a huge variation in the types of keywords that people might use that could eventually lead to a sale if your website was ranking in the search results for those keywords. With that in mind, it makes some sense to write as much content as possible covering your products and services and related topics but at some point you’re going to see diminishing returns. The point at which that happens is going to depend on the level of competition in your market and your website’s existing level of prominence.
We recommend that every business should have a separate page about each of their products or services with at least 300 words of written content.
What to Expect
Websites with a low level of prominence might see low level results from our recommendation above, depending on the competition in the market. Further content will be less likely to bring SEO gains, except in particularly low competition markets. The focus for businesses in this situation should be on building their prominence (more on that in the next section) rather than writing new content. If your website already has some prominence then you could continue to see an increase in traffic from search engines by simply writing more content. We suggest starting with a Q&A content strategy.
Link building is all about persuading other websites to link to your website, preferably from within some of their written content, such as an article. Link building, particularly from high quality websites, is the number one way of increasing your business and website’s prominence in Google’s eyes and hence increasing your rankings, traffic and performance.
Then number of links required to achieve a specific goal is very difficult to judge because Google’s algorithm is secret and every market is different. The general approach we take is to estimate how competitive the target keywords are and then recommend a package that will deliver enough links to increase the prominence enough to rank the website for those keywords.
What to Expect
It usually takes 3 – 6 months to start seeing significant results from a link building campaign, assuming good foundations have already been laid by doing the other things discussed in this article. New businesses or businesses in competitive markets might take longer, around 6 – 12 months, to see results because they’re starting from a relatively low level of prominence.
Due to the delayed results and the medium to high cost, businesses will need to have a marketing budget set aside for Ongoing SEO (this is our service that focuses on link building).
Despite the upfront investment, SEO can be a hugely valuable marketing channel because of the sheer volume of your potential customers that use search engines to find products and services they desire.
How Much Extra Business Can SEO Get Me?
Its very difficult to predict what the exact results of an SEO campaign are going to be. This is because every market is different with different levels of search traffic, seasonal fluctuations and competition. This puts SEO more in the realm of a speculative and experimental marketing channel but one that can be extremely valuable.
Businesses who want to leverage search engines to get customers should set a good foundation with the following (in this order);
- Google My Business page setup (local businesses only)
- Website Optimisation
- Citation Building 20 – 40 (local businesses only)
- Unique page for each product or service with 300 words of unique content
Businesses with an existing level of prominence should see noticeable results just from going these activities while newer businesses will see less results straight away but they’ll be setting the best foundation for maximising their performance as they increase their business and website prominence over time.
If you want to take your SEO to the next level then Link Building is the number one way of increasing your prominence and hence rankings, traffic and customers from search engines.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) campaigns can be hugely valuable because they allow you to tap into a huge section of your potential customers who are actively searching for the products and services that you offer. Make sure you read up on the likely results of different SEO activities so that you have realistic expectations and can make the right decision for your business.