Did you know that 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine? Or that 81% of consumers use search engines to find products and services on the Internet. That’s the facts, according to Forester’s comprehensive report on SEO.

Search engines are the go-to source for finding information online with Google being the leading search engine. In fact, 94% of searches are done via Google in Australia.

Bing, Yahoo and other search engines have never been able to capture more than a minute portion of market share. Worldwide Google accounts for around 80% of all searches online. Since launching in 1997, Google has dominated and continues to maintain its stronghold.

Heck! The word “Google” is now even used as a verb, meaning to search for information about something on the Internet.

Let’s look at all the reasons your business needs to be found at the top of Google. Most importantly, let’s debunk the myth that SEO is hocus pocus. Believe it or not, Google is a lot less scary – and more necessary – than you might think.

The Awkward Truth About Google

It’s not just consumers Googling anything and everything. Search engines are often the starting point in the B2B buying process too.

  • 94% use the internet to research a B2B purchase decision
  • 77% use a Google search as the first step in the buying process

With so many customers using Google to find products and services, you’d think every business would be there. However, only 7% of all websites are visible in search engines. Why? Because most websites are not promoted properly. And not being search engine optimised makes them almost impossible to find.

Hiding deep within the search results is a problem faced by many businesses. As the saying goes: “The best place to hide a dead body is page two of the Google search results.” HubSpot’s research showed that 75% of users never scroll past the first page. The top three organic listings accounted for around 60% of clicks.

But before you throw your hands in the air and say, “Well that’s it then, it’s all paid search from here on in”, 70-80% of users ignore the paid ads, focusing on organic results.

That’s not to say that Google Ads doesn’t have a place in any good search marketing strategy. PPC and SEO lead to more success when strategically combined.

The question is, if businesses aren’t aiming to be invisible, why are so many doing such a darn good job of it?

To SEO or Not to SEO: It’s a Simple Case of ROI

Every marketing program aims to place that business in front of qualified, buying customers. And that’s where search marketing really shines. Inbound leads.

We’ve outlined why being at the top of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) is the place to be to capture customers with purchase intent. But wait, there’s more to it.

Organic referrals from search deliver a lower cost per lead and higher conversion rate. Fact! Inbound leads cost 60% less than outbound leads, plus leads from search engines have a 14.6% close rate vs. 1.7% from outbound tactics, such as cold-calling. Hence why no business has ever complained about being first in Google.

So, put all this together and there’s only one conclusion you can possibly come to. SEO will probably be your best marketing investment yet.

Fingers Still Do the Walking to Find Local Businesses

For local businesses specifically, search rank has become an essential factor in business success and focusing on organic results pays off. The top three organic listings in location searches, known as Google 3-pack, account for around 93% of click-throughs.

Amongst consumers, smartphones are driving a rapid increase in searches with local intent. 87% of smartphone users now utilise a search engine at least once a day. “Near me” or “close by” searches for local businesses grew by more than 900% over two years. It’s important to note here that 92% of these Google users will pick businesses in the top three coveted positions in Google 3-pack.

Google now considers online reviews and star ratings a key success factor in the ranking of local businesses. Star ratings in search engine results influence buying decisions, firstly by improving click-through rates with 4 to 4.5 star businesses earning the highest average revenue.

With such compelling data, it’s clear that even local businesses should prioritise search engine optimisation (SEO) in their marketing plans. Remember that catchy tag line for the old Yellow Pages? Well, consumers still let their fingers do the walking.

Understanding Search Engine Optimisation in Layman’s Terms

SEO makes a website search engine friendly in an effort to increase site traffic. When done well, the majority of website visitors will come from organic search listings in Google. Relevant keyword searches refer high quality leads to businesses – that’s the power of search marketing.

To explain SEO in the simplest terms, if your website is a book and Google is the library, SEO categorises your book by topic and adds it to the library shelves so library users can find it. If it’s a really good book, it will feature in the bestsellers section.

Google’s algorithm uses hundreds of factors to categorise and rank a website. But put simply, rank is probably based on three main sorting criteria:

  1. Relevance: how relevant your website is to the search query
  2. Authority: the credibility and popularity of your website
  3. Service: your website’s user experience and usefulness

The shocking truth is that Google isn’t such a mysterious beast. The details of its algorithm are kept secret, yes, but it’s a search engine and search engines are not that complicated.

Google Is Not What You Think

For a minute, let’s think of Google as a business, rather than just a tool. Like any business, Google has a purpose and objective. And that purpose isn’t to drive traffic to websites. Those referrals to your web page are just a useful by-product.

Google is on a mission “to organise the World’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. If raving fans are an indication of success, then Google is indeed doing a great job. But how? By giving search engine users what they want, every time without fail, in the quickest time possible, and with the least amount of effort.

Yes, Google refers traffic to other businesses, but its real value lies in its service and the degree of trust search engine user’s have in its recommendations.

The Insider’s Guide to Winning at SEO

When you think of Google, does your mind automatically jump to the text listings? There’s more to it than that.

A holistic SEO strategy aims for visibility across all the SERP’s. Google has images, maps, videos, rich answers and shopping. Depending on what’s relevant to your business, your content can appear universally for a long list of keywords.

SEO methods are very specific and, like any skill, can take many years of practice to master. However, it doesn’t have to be baffling and SEO is not a secret society. Once you understand what Google wants, SEO should no longer sound like one of the dark arts. It is in fact a logical set of steps combining technical and marketing skills.

SEO is ever evolving and there’s always another algorithm update around the corner, but it doesn’t mean it’s as complicated as it gets made out to be.

Yes, you can learn to do your own SEO. Many of the techniques we use aren’t that difficult once you know how. Not everyone can afford an SEO service. For small businesses and start-ups, outsourcing to an agency may not fit the budget. But before trying and failing, at least ask an SEO expert for advice.

Businesses will always need Google and that means they will always need SEO. How you go about it is literally your business. The most important thing is that you do.

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