BCG predicts that the percentage of UK spending on online advertising (of all advertising) will increase from 28.9% in 2010 to 37.3% in 2016 - not a bad performance for a channel that simply did not exist twenty years ago.
According to BCG, SMEs who use the web effectively (“high web users”) grow and add jobs more quickly than those who do not.
Already 80% of “high web users” use Search Engine Optimization” (SEO). But only 16% of UK SMEs - less than one in five - of UK SMEs are classified by BCG as “high web users”.
So the lesson here is that the vast majority of UK businesses have still much to learn about digital marketing.
The UK digital marketing industry in general - and the Search Engine Optimization industry in particular - have experienced extremely healthy growth over the past five years, despite the economic malaise. New companies offering SEO alongside a plethora of other digital services are springing up everywhere.
If you are a business owner with a company website, the chances are that you have heard much about Search Engine Optimisation or ‘SEO’, and wondered what all the fuss is about.
SEO is the practice of making your website more visible in major search engines to potential customers searching online for your product or service.
Put simply, if your website is essential to your business, and you rely on it for brand awareness, generating sales, encouraging enquiries, or anything else of vital significance strategically to your company, then having a long term SEO strategy in place is of key importance.
If you are a fashion retailer operating a website which customers can order and purchase clothing directly on- ‘red shoes’, for example - optimising your website to make it Search Engine friendly for key phrases ‘like buy red shoes online’ means that you will become more visible to relevant audiences and potential buyers actively searching for your products online.
The most appropriate analogy is that of a town centre - having a well optimised website is like owning a shop that is situated right in the middle of the High Street or on a main thoroughfare, rather than being tucked away down a side alley where people are unlikely to find you.
Search Engine Optimisation relates to ‘organic’ search - what appears naturally when you type a search term into Google - rather than ‘paid’ search, which are paid-for adverts that pop up at the very top, right, and sometimes at the bottom of a page when typing a search term into Google.
There has been an explosion of interest in SEO as a cost-effective marketing technique, perhaps because the results are so transparent. A well-performing SEO campaign is accompanied by reporting and analytics information on a variety of metrics at the touch of a button.
Most SEO companies offer a secure campaign centre where you can see your results as a client on a regular basis. This helps those responsible for marketing budgets plan much more efficiently. It also helps them to illustrate return on investment (ROI) to other stakeholders in the company.
So how is a successful SEO campaign defined? Certainly there will be a growth in traffic to your website. But you should also get a rise in enquiries about your services received via leads generated through your website and more word of mouth activity as well as an increase in overall brand awareness in your chosen market place.
So why are business owners increasingly turning to Search Engine Optimisation as a marketing technique?
Traditional marketing techniques such as print media, direct mailing and advertising are often expensive exercises, associated with poor return rates and waste. These traditional techniques are often difficult to analyse. In contrast, Search Engine Optimisation offers a cost effective and measurable marketing solution, which, in this time of stringent budgets, is highly desirable.
A well optimised website will also help you capitalise more efficiently on other marketing techniques such as Pay Per Click Advertising (for instance by purchasing Google adwords), which is often used as a method of experimenting with key words to gauge interest; Social Media Optimisation, which involves optimising your social media profiles more effectively to connect with your customers; and more traditional communications and PR activities, especially if brand terms are a key element of your SEO strategy.
An annual study published by E-Consultancy highlights how business owners and marketers alike are increasing their SEO budgets on an annual basis, clearly convinced that that their money is well spent. The ‘UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report’ for 2011 asked a number of companies about the percentage of their total marketing budget spent on search engine optimisation. On average, respondents stated that they spent 20% of their total marketing budget on SEO, a significant proportion, and that number is expected to rise in 2012.
As more and more businesses realise that this 21st Century is the digital century, they will increasingly turn to digital as their premier marketing channel and, within that spend, SEO will play an increasingly important part.
David Soskin is Chairman of Smart Traffic, author of Net Profit: How to Succeed in Digital Business and a director of several leading internet companies.
You can watch David speaking about digital marketing in a Knowledge Peers interview here.