10 mins TO READ
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the key tools of digital marketing. At the end of this article, you’ll understand what SEO is. We’ll also cover how it can help your business get more customers and money online.
We cover everything you need to know to get started with SEO. Including how to leverage it to get more clients from Switzerland.
But first, here are some statistics to help you understand the vast potential of SEO.
Over 1 billion people use Google to search every month! Imagine how many potential customers you could reach through Google alone! No wonder that over 60% of top marketing leaders say that SEO is their number one priority.
Search is one of the best and biggest sources of online traffic! More traffic equals more leads. More leads are equal to more customers. And more customers mean more money for you!
There are many opportunities to leverage SEO to generate traffic and leads. Especially in Switzerland.
That’s what we’ll cover in this article, including:
- What is SEO? (definition + example)
- The one type of SEO you need to avoid at all costs
- Getting started with SEO for your digital marketing
- How to get more customers from Switzerland
- SEO for competitive or niche markets
- Does SEO work for SME?
- And more
Before We Continue …
SEO can come off as a little technical at times. Don’t worry about it. The basics are actually simple and straightforward.
Also, remember SEO is only part of the digital marketing process.
By itself, SEO can’t replace good marketing strategy and planning.
PS: If you’re already familiar with SEO and want to use it in your business, book a strategy workshop with us. If not, read on and find out why you should be using SEO as part of your digital marketing starting today.
What Is SEO?
So we’ve established that getting into the first page of Google search results is important. But what does Search Engine Optimization (SEO) mean?
What do we have to optimize to rank better in search engines? Is it the technology we use for our websites? Is it the writing of our web pages? Or is it the design and graphics we use?
The simple answer to all the above is, yes. SEO involves all three areas and more!
So let’s start with the basic question of what SEO is.
The Definition of SEO (Explanation + Example)
To begin with, let’s look at the Wikipedia definition of SEO:
“Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the online visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine’s unpaid results…”
This is a good definition but it’s a bit too focused on how SEO functions and not what it does for your business.
At SDM we explain SEO as:
“Digital marketing that gets you more and better traffic through organic search results.”
And it’s the term ‘organic search results’ that is key to understanding SEO.
Organic vs. Paid Search Results
We mentioned the term ‘organic search results’ above. So let’s have a look at the screenshot below:
In this example, we searched for the keyword ‘klempner Bern’. What Google returns to us are two different types of results. It provides us with both organic and paid search results.
Paid search results are adverts served through Google Ads (aka AdWords). Advertisers pay Google to have their ads displayed on the search engine results page (SERP). These ads trigger when people type in specific search terms, known as ‘keywords’.
On the other hand, organic search results are not paid for. They are web pages that appear because of their relevance to the keywords users type into Google.
SEO is the method of ranking a web page (or site) on the first page of Google.
To clarify, in the previous example we used Google but SEO isn’t limited to Google.
YouTube and Amazon are the world’s second and third most popular search engines. It also works as well for videos and products as it does for web pages.
At this point, you might be asking yourself how SEO works. Let’s have a look and find out.
How Does SEO Work?
When you type a question or term into Google and co., you get a long list of web pages that might have what you’re looking for.
But how do search engines generate these lists?
Basically, search engines use software called “crawlers” to search through the Internet.
Crawlers then bring all the information they find back to the search engine for indexing. It’s this index that sophisticated algorithms search to answer your questions.
It’s at this point that SEO comes into play.
SEO presents your content based on the factors that the algorithms use to rank relevance.
There are many ranking factors that determine how well your content ranks. Different engines have different factors and priorities. What matters to Google is different from what matters to Amazon.
You’d think that ranking involves satisfying as many ranking factors as possible, and you’d be wrong!
Simply creating content based on ranking factors will confuse and frustrate your audience.
SEO is about making sure that both search engines and people understand your content. One great way to do this is to use evergreen content.
Optimization isn’t just about fixing meta descriptions or getting backlinks. Neither is it only about making sure your page loads quickly. It’s about providing valuable and easily readable content.
Don’t let all the jargon scare you, we’re going to explain it in a minute.
Because now that you know what SEO is and how it works, we’ll look at the two different types of SEO – On-page & Off-page.
On-page SEO deals with the optimization of individual web pages.
When we optimize for On-Page SEO we focus on:
- Content: including website copy and images. Readability plays a big part here.
- Meta Tags & Titles: these determine the snippet and description that you see on a search engine.
And much more.
Check out this Moz article on On-Page ranking factors for more information.
It involves all actions taken outside of your website that affect its ranking in the SERPs.
Here we focus on improving the perception that search engines have of your website based on:
- Site popularity (i.e. social signals)
- Relevance and trustworthiness.
The main way to do this is to get credible sources on the Internet (e.g. influencers etc.) to link back to your site. We call this “backlinking”. Think of it as reputable sources ‘endorsing’ the quality & value of your content.
Off-site SEO matters because 50% of your ranking in the SERPs comes from it, according to our colleagues at Moz.
Technical SEO focuses on making it easier for search engines to index your site.
Search engines give a boost to search results from websites that adhere to set standards. Some of which include:
- Using SSL to encrypt communication between your website visitors’ browsers and your server
- A mobile-friendly design, to ensure that people can access your site from smartphones
- Ensuring that your site loads fast, i.e. using a good web host for your site
- Creating an XML sitemap that makes it easy for crawlers to index your site
There is of course much more to technical SEO then this, but if you cover these basics, you’ll be fine.
Now that you know what it is, let’s clear up something that confuses a lot of people.
Is There A Difference Between SEO & SEM?
A lot of people confuse Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Because these two terms are closely related to each other, it’s easy to see why.
SEO is a sub-category of SEM. Since we already know that SEO is the practice of optimizing websites to rank higher in SERPs. We now need to define what SEM means.
According to Wikipedia, Search Engine Marketing:
“…involves the promotion of websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) primarily through paid advertising.”
This means that SEM uses both SEO and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads to rank websites.
A great example of PPC ads on search engines is Google AdWords.
White Hat Vs. Black Hat SEO
Long-term success in digital marketing is built on trust and SEO is no exception to this rule.
Unfortunately, there will always be people who try to bend and break the rules. And that’s what black hat SEO is.
Black hat SEO uses spammy, low-quality web pages that manipulate or abuse search engine algorithms to generate traffic. Instead of optimizing content for people, it optimizes for search engines.
While these sorts of tactics might work in the short-term, they will also get you banned (eventually). This means that black hat users are always looking for some new way to flaunt the rules.
Google and co. punish businesses who use black hat tactics. If you value a sustainable business and a good reputation, stay away from black hat SEO tactics.
On the other hand, white hat SEO is all about creating valuable and relevant content for real people. When you give your target audience the best content possible and stick to the rules, you’re using white hat SEO.
When we talk about SEO in this article we mean white hat SEO.
How Does SEO Fit Into My Digital Marketing?
The core of successful digital marketing is great content.
But how do people find your great website or blog posts? If you don’t have traffic coming to your content and thus into your marketing funnel, what do you do?
This is where SEO shines! It generates traffic for your content.
Content is all the communications you publish. Be they text, video, audio or graphic that engage your prospective customers.
Without content, there is no SEO. And without it, your content will get less attention and interest.
It’s the channel that delivers customers to your business and gives you a chance to pitch to them.
SEO is a core component of your digital marketing. It’s one of the main ways customers find you online. In fact, it’s our opinion that every solid digital marketing plan needs to include SEO.
Why Does SEO Matter For Swiss SMEs?
Now you might be asking yourself why SEO is important for Swiss SMEs.
Your business might be doing great with traditional marketing. Why should you bother with getting attention online? After all, why fix something that isn’t broken?
Let’s start with how people in Switzerland shop for products and services.
According to Ernest & Young, 77% of Swiss start their purchases online. They start by researching new products and services on the internet. Additionally, EY reports that 42% of Swiss would rather order and buy online than offline.
These facts are a strong motivation to make it easy for people to find your business online. But how does this relate to SEO?
SEO makes your business searchable.
Being searchable means that it is easy for customers to find you online. If your brand doesn’t appear when they are searching for products & services, you lose out.
To emphasize this, Google says that 39% of purchasers were influenced by a relevant search result. Can you afford not to rank and let business flow to your competitors?
There’s a huge opportunity for companies in Switzerland to dominate their niche’s SERPs. Most Swiss industries have been slow to tap into the opportunities that SEO provides.
Are There Any Disadvantages To SEO?
So now you might be asking yourself if there are any disadvantages to SEO?
The short answer is no!
SEO doesn’t have any disadvantages in our opinion. In fact, we are convinced that it is an essential part of your digital marketing mix.
Think of it as your online reputation. And a good reputation is not built overnight.
But some of our colleagues feel differently. They point out the following ‘weaknesses’ in SEO:
- SEO takes time
- It does not provide immediate ROI
- SEO requires time & effort for competitive niches
- It does not guarantee a # 1-page ranking
- SEO performance is controlled by search engines
- Black hat SEO will get you penalized or banned from SERPs
All the above are valid points, yet we don’t see them as weaknesses.
Yes, SEO takes time but what marketing doesn’t?
Yes, it requires extra time and effort in competitive niches. But if it was easy then your niche isn’t competitive.
And yes, SEO depends on search engine algorithms and you’ll get punished if you try to cheat or abuse them. Is that a bad thing?
The ‘weaknesses’ above are only weaknesses if SEO is the only thing you’re doing. A strong digital marketing plan never depends on only one method to deliver results.
The Most Important SEO Ranking Factors + Examples
Search engines use dozens, if not hundreds, of factors to rank organic search results.
However, not all these ranking factors are public knowledge to avoid abuse. Google and co. have published some, others have been figured out by experts and some are only guesswork.
If you’re looking for an in-depth, technical breakdown of ranking factors, check out this page.
Generally, results that are trustworthy, authoritative, readable and useful rank higher in SERPs. Let’s take a further look at these factors:
Trust & Authority
Search engines want to serve their users relevant content from trustworthy sources. Which makes sense. Why would you want to use a search engine that doesn’t give you the results you’re looking for?
So search engines start off by looking at the quality of your content. Is the content relevant, readable (more on that later) and well-structured?
Next, your content is graded on how trustworthy and authoritative it is.
Now there are many ways search engines do this, but the main is by looking at the quality of your backlinks. Backlinks are links from outside your website that bring visitors to your website.
The more backlinks you’ve got from high-quality sources, the more trustworthy and authoritative your own website is considered to be.
For example, when we check the authority and backlinks of a major Swiss newspaper, we find the following:
Straight away, we can see that this website has very high domain authority and millions of backlinks from thousands of other websites. But what really matters is which those sites are:
The image above shows us that the newspaper gets backlinks from a lot of very prominent and well-respected sites.
Google sees this too and takes backlinks as a form of ‘endorsement’ of the newspaper by other credible organizations. Which increases the trust and authority level that it allocates to the website.
This also includes social signals, i.e. links, from social media mentions and shares.
Readability & Accessibility
We’ve mentioned the issue of readability before because it’s a major indirect ranking factor. Content that is valuable and easy to read is also user-friendly and very accessible.
There are several things you can do to make your content more readable and accessible.
Use the Flesch-Kincaid readability test.
This is a simple test that analyses your text and determines how easy it is to read. It then assigns a ‘grade level’ to your text. Ideally, you want to target a 5th-grade reading level to make your text as accessible as possible.
Another thing to watch out for is to keep your paragraphs short. Shorter sentences are easier to read and understand. They are also easier to remember.
Lastly, you want to write in the active voice. The active voice makes your content more immediate and motivates readers to take action.
The Swiss Connection: Organic & Local SEO
Geography matters in SEO and Swiss companies can use this to their advantage.
Local search involves search queries that are limited to a geographical area, like a town/city or region. You definitely want to make sure that your business shows up in these results.
Here is how local search works in Switzerland.
If you are in the mood for pizza and live in Zürich you can search for the keyword ‘pizza zürich’ on Google. You will get something like this:
Now, these results are relevant and valuable to you because they are local. Search engines are smart enough to know that when people type in a keyword + location they are looking for a solution that is close to them.
In fact, most search engines will assume that you have some local intent if you type in certain keywords like ‘doctor’ or ‘restaurants’ for example.
This makes local search a powerful marketing channel for SMEs that run ‘brick-and-mortar’ stores.
Which leads us to the difference between ‘organic’ and ‘local’ search results. Organic results are general and could be from anywhere in the world. Local results are focused on a specific area.
If you’re a Swiss business, you may want to rank for both, but the local results will get you the best results. And you might also be interested in using Google My Business to improve your local SEO.
How Do I Get Started With SEO?
On-Page SEO: Use The Yoast SEO Plugin For WordPress
Getting started with SEO is simple. Start by downloading the Yoast plugin for WordPress.
According to research over 30% off all websites on the internet use WordPress to run their sites. So it’s very likely that you’ve got it too. Ask your web designer/developer if you’re not sure.
Yoast is a powerful tool that will help you make your content search engine friendly.
It helps you with a bunch of technical and content related SEO functions. But it’s most powerful features are the readability analysis and focus keyphrase.
When you upload a web page or blog post, SEO scans them for ease of reading and your primary keyword. You’re then presented with a checklist that you can use to improve both these areas.
Follow the instructions on this checklist and you’ll increase the chances of your content ranking well. To learn more about using Yoast read this guide.
There’s a lot of things you can do to improve your off-page SEO.
Firstly, if you already have a website, check your website using Neil Patel’s SEO Analyzer.
This will give you an idea about what you can improve on your website to rank better. The tool makes both on-page and speed (technical SEO) recommendations.
Secondly, sign up for the Google Search Console. This will give you a lot of useful metrics to measure your results and allow you to make sure that Google is indexing all your web pages properly.
Lastly, you will want to work on your off-page SEO by generating some backlinks to build trust & authority for your website.
SEO Hack For Competitive & Small Niches in Switzerland
Here’s a handy little hack for competitive and small niches in Switzerland.
If you’re trying to rank a website for a competitive keyword, try ranking it in another language.
For example, if we try to rank for the keyword ‘spielzeugladen Basel’, we get the following results:
All these sites are well entrenched and relevant to the search term. When we try again with the term ‘negozio di giocattoli Basilea’ we see something different:
All the top rankings are websites that are only indirectly related to toy stores, i.e. a museum and etc.
This means that a website that ranks for the keyword in Italian will be judged to be more relevant. And is likely to rank higher in the SERPs.
Now this hack might not be the best option for your business depending on your target audience. But in multi-lingual Switzerland, it creates great little SEO opportunities.
Does SEO Work For SMEs?
Yes, SEO is a wonderful tool for SMEs that are looking for long-term success online.
It allows small business to compete with large brands on an even footing.
Why? Because search engine rankings can’t be bought!
While you can buy adverts on Google & co., you can not pay to rank higher for organic search results. And that’s an amazing opportunity for SMEs!
SEO is scalable. It allows you to reach out to and provide relevant information to your target audience. All without any extra effort or cost, once your content has been created and ranked.
Lastly, it’s also a great way to create a brand presence and build credibility in your industry. One of the first things that potential customers do when they meet you is search for your business online.
What happens when they find nothing? Or worse when they find wrong or malicious information put out by dishonest competitors or people with a grudge?
This is why it’s is so powerful! But only when used together with other digital marketing methods. As part of a well thought out marketing plan.
How Quickly Will SEO Get Results For My Business?
As you know by now SEO is part of a long-term digital marketing strategy. It’s a powerful tool that can get your SME new clients without extra work once it’s setup. But it does take time.
When you’re using SEO you’re playing the ‘long game’, i.e. taking the time to build your reputation and authority online.
Generally, you’ll see positive ROI within 6-12 months depending on your niche and target markets.
This is why at SDM we never use SEO alone. Instead, we combine it with targeted Google Ads to generate traffic for our clients. This is all part of our growth hacking philosophy.
What Kind Of Budget Do I Need For SEO?
Your budget for SEO depends on your business, target market and goals.
Also, you have to decide if you’ll outsource the work or handle it internally.
If your strategy includes SEO, your costs depend on the content (on-page) and off-page SEO you will use.
Well researched, professional content costs both time and money. And the same goes for good off-page SEO (e.g. building backlinks).
But, the key is to focus on relevant, valuable and local content. The more relevant you can be to customers near you the better.
Lastly, you’ll want to combine SEO with other traffic generating methods. All to get more website visitors, and more chances to convert them into paying customers.
BONUS: I’m Ready To Try Out SEO, What Do I Do Next (How We Can Help)
You don’t have to figure out SEO all by yourself! Book a strategic workshop, and we’ll help you put together a clear digital marketing plan that will show you how and where to use it.
But that’s not all…
Together we’ll plan out how to automate your lead generation, close more sales and grow your business. All in one, half-day workshop.
When it’s done, the plan is 100% yours – unique to your business needs and goals. You can use it to get started with digital marketing and your SEO right away.