Once upon a time if your business wasn’t listed in the Yellow Pages, you might as well have not been in business. These days, if you don’t have a website, it’s pretty much the same. Even if you’ve relied on word-of-mouth referrals or a long-standing community reputation and been successful for generations, the business world is now a different place, and you need to think differently.
To state the obvious – the internet has changed our lives dramatically. If we want to know the answer to something, if we want to buy something, or research something, we turn to the internet. So much so, that ‘Googling’ has become a verb. More than 17 million Australians now own smartphones, and 86% of households are connected to the internet. Therefore, it’s imperative that your business can be easily sourced online.
What is SEO?
While most businesses have a web presence, very few do it well. Being ‘online’ and having a website devoted to who you are what you do is one thing, actually being searchable and reach-able are quite another.
And making sure that you have a solid digital presence is all about SEO – ‘Search Engine Optimisation’.
SEO is an increasingly complex field and while there are a lot of blogs and online resources to keep us in the know about how it works, many small businesses make the mistake of thinking that SEO is something they can do themselves. But here’s why you need an SEO Manager, and what to look for when you hire one.
Why do I need an SEO Manager?
SEO is more than keywords and content that will enable your business to hit the top of the search engine rankings. It is increasingly intertwined with your social media presence and your digital marketing too – and your SEO manager should have a knowledge across all these areas –understanding of how they all work together with a view to identifying opportunities to maximise your web presence.
Building your brand – and maintaining it – online
While SEO is a relatively new field and a constantly changing one, experience is still important. Why? Because SEO is not something you can master in a short amount of time.
Building a brand, and maintaining a brand online is not an easy task – it’s a crowded marketplace out there. The added complication is an ever-changing set of rules, like search engine algorithm updates, and arbitrary changes by Facebook and Instagram to news feeds.
Sometimes immediate and tough decisions need to be made – and these need to be weighed up against marketing plans, business strategy, budget, and customer needs – your website and your digital marketing strategy cannot be isolated from other key business activities or areas of focus and this is why your SEO Manager needs experience.
Expertise is essential
Your SEO manager needs to possess: the following skills
- Technical expertise – this includes all the IT related to your website and other aspects of your online presence, as well as an ability to decipher web analytics and explain to you what the stats mean.
- Page optimisation knowledge (this is related to keywords, metadata and content that make your website ‘discoverable’ online)
- Off-page optimisation knowledge (all of the non-website activity that enhances your digital presence – social media, newsletter platforms, and other link building activity used to drive traffic to the site)
- Paid advertising experience (so your own online activity can work in conjunction with any paid marketing you undertake)
- A healthy dose of creativity – to understand web design, aesthetics, user-experience and content production.
- Reasonable knowledge of any legislation that governs your online presence.
- A thorough understanding of your business and how potential customers and existing customers prefer to interact with you in order to continually enhance the user experience.
- Budgets – and how to work within them. Any problem can be solved with endless cash, but as a small business you want to know that your SEO Manager can be innovative in solving your problems, without breaking the budget.
Choose an SEO manager who is adaptable – things change quickly in the online space. Your SEO Manager needs to be flexible enough to consider strategic changes if, for example, algorithms change, or a desired campaign is not getting the immediate results you hoped for. Or, should the unthinkable happen and your site gets hacked.
You also want someone who can help you grow your online presence for the long-term so a strategic view is essential. A website needs to be an evolving mechanism for marketing your business – it should never remain stagnant.
You also need to choose someone who knows that ‘collaboration’ is key. It’s unrealistic to expect that one-single person can be great at everything SEO- related. While you’re definitely looking for someone who knows what they’re doing, at some point they will need to be able to work with others. Communication skills and the ability to get along well in a team environment are really important personal attributes.
Outsourcing your SEO
When you’re a small business there are many benefits to outsourcing SEO to a small, specialise provider. Often, it’s more cost-effective than hiring someone. Other benefits include the fact that your SEO specialist will likely have a stable of clients and therefore be experienced across a number of businesses/industries – which means that if an issue crops up, it’s likely they’ve dealt with it, or something similar previously.
SEO specialists usually have an entire team they can draw upon, including designers and writers and technical experts too. As a client, you’ll have access to these resources too, if required. An outsourced SEO specialist can also be objective without getting caught up in ‘internal’ politics or outdated modes of culturally entrenched thinking. You’ll benefit from fresh eyes and a fresh perspective.
Last, but not least, most SEO specialists are highly connected – so they are constantly keeping up to date with technical changes, new developments, changes to legal requirements, user trends, etc. Because they’re ‘plugged-in’, many know of impending changes by giants like Google and Bing, or Facebook that could affect your website / online presence and they can prepare you for it. And, as we all know, forewarned is forearmed, no matter what your game.