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It’s difficult to imagine a solid SEO strategy emerging from a business that doesn’t understand both the importance of that strategy and the basics of how it would work. But a surprising number of businesses will practically acknowledge that they fit that description. And in reality there are probably countless others led by executives who aren’t aware of what they don’t know.

According to a recent survey of nearly 400 business owners, about 35 percent have little to no understanding of search engine optimization. Of the remaining 65 percent, the vast majority rank their understanding as only moderate. And that is surely not enough to create the foundation for an effective SEO strategy.

The same survey finds that well under 20 percent of respondents rank SEO as very important to the health of their business. Most others say that it’s of moderate to fair importance. But more than 25 percent of business owners think their SEO strategy holds little or no importance whatsoever.

And these responses all come from people with fewer than 100 employees. Half of them have fewer than five. Such small companies risk serious damage to their business prospects if they ignore their SEO strategy or attach no importance to their online presence.

Large companies may have sufficient name recognition to rely on people searching the web specifically for their name. But everyone else should always be fighting for every inch of online real estate. If business owners understood this properly, surely more of them would identify SEO strategy as an important part of their business. And if they did, you would also expect more of them to have a solid understanding of SEO principles.

That’s not to say that a small business owner should be able to manage an SEO strategy on his or her own. That’s a tall order, especially for someone who is already busy with day-to-day operations and management of a busy, tight-knit staff. On the other hand, most business owners should understand the topic well enough to be able to ask the right questions of a local SEO company. No one ought to have little to no understanding of how search engine optimization works.

And if 35 percent of small business owners are willing to say they lack that understanding, there’s no telling how many others are just overestimating their own expertise. If practically no one sees SEO strategy as “very important,” why would they be expected to seek out better than “moderate” knowledge of the topic?

Ultimately, the sense of importance is the more meaningful figure here. Good managers know how to delegate specialized tasks to in-house experts and outside contractors like a local SEO company. But they’ll only do so after they recognize the sort of return on investment they can expect to obtain from a well-run SEO strategy.

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