SEO may not be the first thing that comes to mind after ’Brexit,’ but it may be the first line of defense for SMEs during this time of uncertainty. Discover the 5 SEO steps you can do right now to protect your business from the impacts of Brexit.
Regardless of whether you’re a staunch Leaver, a die-hard Remainer or just one of the millions of European nationals watching the carnage unfold from the sidelines - I’m sure we can all agree that the lack of clarity surrounding Brexit is creating uncertainty that’s not conducive to business. According to broad surveys of the economic and academic literature available, the consensus appears to agree that Brexit will make the United Kingdom poorer by creating barriers to trade, slowing down foreign investment and limiting immigration.
But what does this mean if you’re running a small or medium sized business? In fact, for UK companies of all sizes, Brexit so far has meant delay, with the uncertainty of the situation preventing many businesses from making important decisions; i.e. employing new staff, expanding the company or investing in new opportunities. The Financial Times have recently reported on this slow down, arguing that the UK economy was roughly between 1 to 1.5 percent smaller than it would have been if the referendum had never occurred – other reports, such as the one undertaken by the Centre for European Reform, put this figure closer to 2.5 percent.
Writing for Forbes magazine earlier this year, Bianca Cole stated it was likely that small and medium businesses would bear the brunt of this economic slowdown. If this is true, then the impacts of Brexit could be devastating for large swathes of the UK’s population, particularly for those who are managing their own companies.
However, don’t lose all hope just yet as there is plenty that can be done right now to protect your business from some of the impacts of Brexit. Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, is now your best friend and a pivotal tool in offsetting the negative impacts of Brexit on your business. By implementing SEO into your company’s strategy, you may even be able to turn what seems to be a terrible situation into a fantastic opportunity for your business. Read ahead to discover the 5 SEO steps you can do right now to protect your business from Brexit!
SEO can certainly help offshoot financial uncertainty! Making sure your website is properly optimised for search engines to crawl, is an effective way of ensuring your business has potential access to a steady stream of customers over the next few uncertain months.
Anybody who’s even slightly switched on will be able to tell you that online retail is here to stay, and passing a cursory glance over the majority of the data regularly published regarding online retail would support such an assertion. For example, data published by the Office for National Statistics clearly showed that by the end of 2018’s financial year, roughly 20% of all retail sales in the United Kingdom were online.
Any sensible business owner worth their salt would likely cringe at the prospect of missing out on such a large number of potential customers, especially with all the uncertainty Brexit is generating. But how do you even begin to mine the prospective vein of online retail? Assuming your business already has some sort of online presence, the first step would be to draw-up and begin to implement an effective SEO strategy.
Although implementing an effective SEO strategy is a mammoth task to undertake, it can be done effectively without spending enormous quantities of money. Much of the process can be self-taught, and there are many free SEO resources available online that will help you out, Google have even published a Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide themselves! Furthermore, you could always make use of this brilliant guide, produced by Gorilla Marketing, to help generate customers and grow your business even with all the on-going Brexit uncertainty.
However, it’s understandable that many small, local and medium-sized business owners don’t often have the time to commit to learning SEO, never mind managing an effective SEO strategy. There’s no need to worry though, as luckily there are now many talented SEO agencies and freelancers available to help your business get an SEO strategy in place for an affordable rate.
As Brexit has yet to be clearly defined, specifically in terms of what it means for free trade and economic opportunities, it’s hard to give specific advice as nobody’s entirely sure what’s going to happen. With that being said, however, access to both national and international markets and tariffs are a metaphorical knife, and knives can naturally cut both ways; therefore, if your opportunities to access international markets are decreasing because of tariffs, then the opposite can be said of your domestic opportunities. If European businesses are staggered by steep tariffs when operating in the UK, there may be opportunities for your company to compete where it once was impossible.
One way of ensuring this readiness is to make sure that your business’ online presence is geared up for Local SEO. You want your business to be the first thing that’s coming up in organic local searches on Google, but it would also be ideal if your company showed up in the Map Pack (the Google map that often appears under local Google searches). For example, if a European supermarket chain ran a convenience store in your vicinity, let’s say a borough of Manchester like Trafford, but suddenly closed down due to their inability to compete – you’d want to ensure that your competing convenience store was SEO ready, so it would now hopefully occupy the first returned search results for “Convenience Store in Trafford”.
One way to begin improving your company’s ranking on the local search engine result page, and increase the possibility of your business being placed in the Map Pack, would be to create a Google My Business account and verify your company’s location and address. Google are sticklers for consistency, so once you’ve created your account, you’ll also want to make sure that basics such as contact information and addresses correlate between your website and your Google My Business account. Although this sounds simple, it’s incredible how many people overlook this or forget to keep consistency between their website and their Google My Business account. On top of this, the content on your webpages should include location-specific keywords – this will increase the relevance and prevalence of your site in local search results.
Utilizing the Google Map Pack and making sure your business is competing effectively for local search queries can help a multitude of business owners in different industries. This is primarily because Google’s Map Pack, coupled with Local SEO, offers businesses the potential of presenting their goods and services to an enormous mobile audience - a gigantic potential audience you can’t afford to miss out upon if the worst Brexit predictions are to come true!
The massive potential of mobile audiences can be seen by taking a brief look at data publish by Statista, the online statistics portal, who have uncovered that roughly 52% of the entire globes’ search traffic reported in 2018 came from mobile devices. As a consequence of this, any business that has a poorly optimised website for mobile viewing could be missing out on an incredibly large number of potential customers.
Dynatrace, a high-tech data monitoring company, recently set out to discover more about the impacts of poor mobile responsiveness on online audiences. According to the data they compiled, around 53% of mobile users will abandon your website if your landing page takes over 3 seconds to materialise. On top of this, when users have a negative experience on a website, over 79% of them will never return.
Furthermore, if those two statistics weren’t convincing enough, Google officially announced in 2010 that a website’s site speed would be an important factor in how its algorithm decided to rank search results. Google have even gone so far as to state that ‘mobile pages that provide a poor searcher experience can be demoted in rankings.’ It should accordingly be a priority for any company that has an online presence, to ensure that their company’s website is properly optimized for both mobile and desktop browsing.
If you are concerned about how well optimised your website is for both mobile and desktop users, I would recommend using an online tool such as Lighthouse to find out what’s going on under the bonnet. The Lighthouse Google Chrome Plug-in can help you quickly gain oversight of your website’s responsiveness. The Plug-in will give your website a score out of 100 for Performance, Accessibility, Best Practices and SEO – it will also break these scores down for you, showing you useful information such as how long your website took to generate.
If your website is taking too long to load then it should be a priority to uncover what’s causing this delay. A good starting place would be to ensure that your images are all as small as they can possibly be, excessive use of high-quality images is almost always the root cause of poor website responsiveness. Another quick fix would be to discuss with your webmaster the speed of your hosting, if you run a website that deals daily with high traffic, then you will want to make sure that you are a recipient of dedicated hosting. High traffic + poor optimisation = Latency and a potential loss in revenue.
Your website’s audience, and arguably its potential revenue, can also easily be lost by a poorly structured website. If your audience is deterred by unconventional navigation on your website, they may decide to take their business elsewhere. Perhaps the customer still wants to make the purchase with your business, but your website’s navigation is so confusing they get lost every time they attempt to complete the transaction. Both of these factors are enormous deciders regarding whether or not a potential customer becomes a converted sale. But how do you go about improving your website’s navigation and structure?
One easy way to improve your website’s navigation and structure is to assess your URL pathway’s effects on your website’s navigational experience. By URL pathways I essentially mean how many links it takes to reach a webpage on your site. A good rule of thumb is to try and ensure that none of your website’s webpages are any more than three links ‘deep’, or away, from your website’s landing page.
Interestingly Google have also confirmed that they consider a website’s URL usage and a website’s navigational features an important ranking factor. According to recent research, snappy, descriptive and short URLs tend to rank much higher than extensive and overly complex URLs. So, make sure your webpages aren’t too deep into your website and your URLs are short, snappy and keyword dense to ensure that Google favourably ranks your website – this should give you an upper-hand competing in the post-Brexit marketplace.
One common error that I’ve encountered is the incorrect formatting of a website’s Titles, Headings and Meta Descriptions. Many website owners tend to choose their website’s heading and title formats purely on how they look on the webpage. However, what many people seem to be forgetting when participating in this practice is that Google isn’t yet able to SEE text in the same way humans do. It only sees what the formatting looks like in code – that’s why if you’ve used multiple Header 1s (H1s) when you could’ve used sub-headings or Header 2s (H2s), you’ll be penalised by Google’s algorithm.
This is because Google primarily interprets H1s as page titles, so if you are loading your webpage’s content with page titles – Google isn’t going to be considering this beneficial to a user’s experience on your site. The same can be said of using H2’s inappropriately, so it’s important to keep this in mind when formatting your website’s content.
Meta Descriptions are snippets of text that appear under your website’s link in the search engine results pages, they are usually around 155 characters in length and provide a brief description of what can be found by following the link. You want to ensure that your Meta Descriptions are concise, accurate and contain keywords you want to compete for in Google’s search results. Doing this will allow Google’s algorithm to recognize that your website is more relevant than your competitors to the search criteria being entered.
In conclusion, Brexit is very much synonymous with uncertainty at the moment, and until there’s further clarification on the terms of the country’s withdrawal, certainty will not begin to return to the United Kingdom. By applying these 5 SEO steps to your company’s online platforms, you can begin to take a pro-active approach to protecting yourself from Brexit’s uncertainty. You should begin to see a gradual and noticeable increase in your website’s ranking position on Google, as well as its traffic. This increase in ranking’s and traffic will hopefully increase your company’s exposure online, in turn generating countless opportunities to makes sales - I think all business owners can agree, that when you’re generating sales and revenue, feelings of uncertainty begin to be replaced by security.
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Published on 04/03/2019 by Sarah Mitchell.
Sarah Mitchell is a content writer with over a decade of experience in the Digital Marketing Industry. Having worked with name-brand multinational organizations, she knows what it takes to improve a website’s performance on Google. She’s currently the head of Current & New Business Management at Gorilla Marketing in Manchester.