Consumers are utilizing digital channels more often than not to conduct research about businesses prior to making a purchase or visiting a store. Mobile phones, in particular, have become an invaluable resource for consumers in their moments of need. A Google study revealed that 70% of smartphone owners who bought something in a store first turned to their devices for information relevant to that purchase. Additionally, 30% utilized a search engine specifically prior to purchasing.

When a customer conducts a search on a search engine like Google, there’s an algorithm in place that helps provide the searcher with the most relevant results. And if you want your business to fall onto the first page of those results, you must have a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy in place.

With 93% of online experiences beginning with a search engine, a well-organized, tactical SEO strategy has never been more important in setting yourself apart from the competition. Here are a few reasons why SEO is necessary for small businesses in 2018.

Increase Website Traffic

You want your business to rank as high as possible for keywords and phrases that fall into your niche. That way, when consumers type in those keywords and phrases, you’ll be right at the top for them to click on. For Google specifically, 18% of organic clicks go to the number 1 position, while 10% go to the second and 7% to the third, so the higher you rank, the more traffic you’ll receive. This is a great way to educate potential customers and help them with their needs, which can eventually lead to increased sales and growth of your business.

Your Competitors are Doing it

Cutting to the chase, your competitors are utilizing SEO. And, just like you, they are vying for those top spots in organic search results. Gaining one of the top spots is difficult in itself, and you must then work constantly to maintain that position. And don’t be afraid of big brand name competitors. Small, local businesses have a great shot at ending up in the top of organic search results, so long as their SEO is properly implemented using the right strategies.

It’s Here to Stay

So long as search engines and algorithms exists, SEO isn’t going anywhere. SEO’s importance will only increase as time goes on, so there’s no better time than the present to start putting together your strategy. Tactics and best practices for SEO will continue changing and evolving, so it’s important to stay well-educated and updated on these trends in order to increase your chances of falling into and remaining in a top spot.

Build Credibility, Brand Awareness

Say you’re operating a salon and someone in your local area is searching for a place to get a haircut and some highlights. If you’ve implemented your SEO correctly and filled your website with high-quality content packed with these keywords, ideally, you’ll show up in those search results. And, that potential customer just may click on your site to learn more about your business. This type of educating helps build trust and credibility with consumers. It will also increase your chances of them choosing your business over a competitor.