The top priority in digital marketing for any small business is ranking well in search. It doesn’t matter how much you love social media, how fun it is to engage customers there, how exciting it is to see your open rates on email newsletters climb and the like. Search engine optimization (SEO) is always priority number one.

Ranking well in search for small businessesThat isn’t to say that social media, email marketing or any other number of digital tactics shouldn’t be prioritized. It’s only that the hands-down, clear cut winner of the top spot on your priority list has to be ranking well in search.

Search engine optimization should be our No. 1 priority in any digital marketing effort. That’s not to say social media isn’t a high priority or shouldn’t be a priority at all. In fact, I would argue that social media should be a close No. 2. (More on that in a moment.) But search has, is and should be – for the foreseeable future – the primary focus of any digital marketing effort.

It’s Because of Intention

What is your intention when you go to a search engine? To find the answer to a question or solution for a problem. What is your intent when you open an email? To discover, read, scan and delete. What about your intention with social media? Look at pictures of your friends’ kids, see what your friends are up to.

Do you see the difference?

On a search engine, you are in active buying mode. You are primed to click, purchase, download, read, etc.

In other areas of your digital life, be it email, social media or some other avenue, you are in inactive buying mode. (Notice I didn’t say passive. I said inactive.) You aren’t there to buy things. You might be there to read things and perhaps maybe even click on something that might appeal to you, but you’re not there to shop or seek solutions.

Prove it to Yourself

Go look at your website analytics right now. If you use Google Analytics, click on the Acquisition tab. If you’re in other analytics packages, look at the acquisitions or referral sources. Look at the different channels that provide traffic to your site and consider what you see.

Only in rare circumstances is the top traffic source not organic search results.Now go see how much of your total traffic is from social.

Ranking well in search drives more people to you than other channels.

Social is Hand Raisers, SEO is Hand Shakers

People who like or follow your pages on social media are not necessarily customers. They’ve simply agreed to have your content in their stream. People who connect to you via search are looking for an answer to a problem and found you. They’re ready to do business with you so long as you answer that question or solve that problem.

For that reason alone, ranking well in search should be your top priority.

What are you doing then to rank well in search? Tell us about your efforts in the comments.

UPDATE: I found a handy beginner’s guide to SEO worth checking out, if you’re interested.

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