The new SEO: be better so you rank better 

If you have even a casual interest in digital marketing, you’ll know how highly marketing managers prize search engine optimisation. On a basic level, the value of SEO is easy to explain. In fact, it’s pretty much self-explanatory: people looking for the kinds of services your business offers are going to look for them on Google. The higher your SEO ranking, the more likely those people are to click on your website.

And that’s all quite true. Really, it gets to the heart of what SEO is all about – people are searching for stuff, and you want to rank well on search so they find you. 

SEO is actually even more powerful than that. Done well – that is, done strategically, with deep keyword research and testing – SEO is perhaps the most powerful way of attracting the exact users you’re looking for: people actively seeking to consume the very things your business is selling. 

After all, if you’re selling carpet cleaning services in Johannesburg, who better to engage with than people searching for carpet cleaning services in Johannesburg. Presumably, they’re searching for that very particular set of words because they have carpets somewhere in Johannesburg that they’re looking to get cleaned. And sure, you could persuade random users on Facebook to look into your Johannesburg-based carpet cleaning with smart content and targeted marketing, but you’d be remiss to ignore the lowest of low hanging fruit.

So it follows that it’s a really, really smart idea to work on optimising your organic search so that you rank as highly as possible whenever anyone searches ‘carpet cleaning service Johannesburg’ and related terms. Of course, like anything worth doing, it’s going to take some work, and requires a smart SEO strategy and the consistent, thorough application of SEO best practices over time.     

But there’s another dimension to SEO. One that’s less obvious, but in its way just as powerful. It’s a dimension that produces the kind of enduring benefits that are invaluable to building a successful brand over the long term.

In a world of information overload, be useful

Now obviously, catching people who want what you’re selling at the exact moment they’re setting out to buy it is first prize. And as discussed above, SEO is unbeatable at doing precisely that. 

But that doesn’t mean you have to sit around and wait for customers to come looking for you. That’s because SEO provides tools for building and enhancing your brand and online presence in a way that lays the foundation for future expansion.

That may sound a little grandiose, so let me explain.

Let’s suppose your carpet cleaning business is expanding to include carpet repairs and evaluations. Maybe even sales. Or perhaps you want to stick to your core offering, but you want to be known as the carpet cleaners, the only place you’d take your rare 18th-century Afghan kilim for cleaning.    

SEO is a powerful system for establishing yourself as an authority in your chosen field. The company that of course you’d want looking after your carpets. The obvious industry leaders, masters of the trade. The experts you’d call first if you wanted to clean your antique hand-woven Persian rug. You should be so lucky that they’ll even take you as a customer!

Now that makes SEO sound like magic. Which is the opposite of the truth. You can be the world’s greatest SEO theoretician, with Einstein-level keyword analysis and optimisation strategies, but you still have to actually provide useful insight and interesting information. Information that people want and need; information that will be useful to them.  

But here’s the secret … That’s just part of good SEO. It’s not like the bad old days when SEO just meant gimmicking search engines by writing lots of low-quality content stuffed with keywords and buying dodgy backlinks.

Of course, simply producing good content isn’t sufficient. You need a marketing expert well versed in the subtle art and science of organic search to make that content work (and to help determine what exactly ‘useful content’ means in the context of your strategic goals). But high quality content is a necessary component of effective SEO and it’s the key to establishing yourself as the business to which Google is going to send all the potential customers. And that ultimately means more relevant leads and more customers. 

In other words, to establish yourself as a leading source of industry expertise, you need to actually become a leading source of industry expertise. And if that sounds like a lot of work … well, if you don’t do it, someone else will. And no matter how good you are at removing stains from rugs, the search engines are going to send your customers to those guys instead.