The web is crawling with articles and blog posts urging business owners to adopt SEO principles on their websites to improve their search rating and gain more customers. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and encompasses techniques used by site owners and developers to convince search engines, such as Google and Bing, to give them better rankings on specific keyword searches. But Search Engine Optimization is only a means to an end, and there is much more to running a successful business than just tweaking your website.
“We landed our first customer in New York,” says Danny Sattar, 28, who is the customer service representative of EMFURN, a furniture store in Montreal, Canada. “They discovered us on the web.”
EMFURN was established as a small business in 2014, and as is the case with all small businesses these days, the owners decided to set up a website and a host of social media accounts to improve customer service and advertisement. With the advent of webhosting services, setting up a website for your company has become much easier and more affordable than the old days, where you had to invest in dedicated servers or data centers, and hire a team of IT professionals to run your business online.
“It was initially meant to be a local business,” Danny says. “We never thought we could reach so far.”
Soon after their first sale, EMFURN owners decided to allocate more resources to their web services, setting up a team to take care social media and SEO issues to improve their business. Danny has since become an invaluable member of the crew. “It was amazing. With a little research, we quickly became comfortable with the notion of SEO and social media marketing,” he told me. And after that, the company started receiving a steady stream of new customers.
“We continue to do business locally,” he says, “but most of our customers are from the States.”
I asked him which SEO technique he would most recommend to other small business owners. “I guess doing a little keyword research should be first priority for any business,” he said and mentioned several useful tools that can help in this regard. He also mentioned a few blogs that regularly post contents that are both helpful and easy to understand for non-technical readers. “But more important than all the tech stuff,” he emphasized, “is to have high-quality, professional content on your website. Visitors do not like to see poorly written and uninformative posts.”
The company also added a blog section to their website. “The blog allows us to help establish trust with our customers and help them choose their furniture and décor settings,” Danny says. “Many of our customers come back to our website to see if we have new suggestions. And we always make sure there’s fresh content on our website.”
In fact, I myself stumbled upon EMFURN’s blog when Googling for furniture settings.
But when I asked him if SEO was the key to the company’s success, Danny answered, “It takes more than just SEO techniques to run a successful business. If you can’t live up to the standards and offer customer services in accordance to your Google ranking, you’ll end up doing more damage than good.”
Testament to the fact is many companies who only vie for top Google rankings but fail to take the next step and meet the demands of their customers. We’ve all had negative experience with web sites that rank top in Google searches but fail to respond to visitors’ requests. Whether its lack of LiveChat services, phone numbers that never answer, or emails that are never replied, a single point frustration can prod customers to avoid your site again and go for the thousands of others that offer similar services. Surveys show that most web surfers do not go beyond the first page of search results. It’s a shame that companies that actually reach top rankings fail to live up to customers’ expectations.
“We only tweak the site’s search ranking to the extent that we can offer customer services,” Danny says. “I know the value of a satisfied customer. Our primary objective is to hang on to and grow our cache of loyal customers.” Although most of their sales take place online, he tells me that he continues to receive calls from people who have heard about EMFURN through previous customers.
The bottom line is, if you’re going to invest on SEO techniques to prop up your search ranking and get more customers, you better think in advance about allocating enough resources to respond to those customers’ needs. Not doing so can leave your customers disenchanted, and we all know how much disenchanted customers can be damaging to your reputation and your business.
“The web helped us get our first customer,” Danny says, “but it was the care we put in responding to the customers that keep my business running.”
Ben Dickson is an analyst. He writes about politics, business and technology
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