[Editorial notes: Lately, there have been debates over social vs search and while Facebook and Twitter lead the social business, it’s way too early to neglect the search business. Pratik Dholakiya, the lead SEO and Marketing guy at E2M solutions writes why search engine optimization (SEO) is important. ]

SEO-SMOFor a startup to succeed, it needs to get the word out, but advertisements and marketing campaigns can be very expensive. A brand new business can’t waste resources on marketing: it needs to focus most of its energy on its core products and services. Search engine optimization allows you to focus your resources on targeted customers only, and it does so with cumulative benefits, so that the cost-per-conversion gets lower over time. Here are 7 reasons your Indian startup should take advantage of this opportunity.

1. The Online Indian Presence is Growing

According to research by ComScore, India had the fastest growing online market between July of 2011 and July of 2012. This was a growth from 44.5 million users to 62.6 million users. This was a staggering growth of 41 percent, a huge shift in a short period of time.

Furthermore, this is only a measure of the Indians who use internet at work or home. Ten percent of India’s population, 124.7 million people, went online in July of 2012.

Most of this growth is coming from young users, who are of course also the early adopters and the ones who are most likely to get excited about startups, new products, and so on. Seventy-five percent of India’s online users are aged 35 or younger. This means that for the next several years, India will have the youngest online audience in the world. Since the young are the trendsetters, this is good news for Indian startups.

In addition, as many as 3 out of 5 internet users in India visit online retail sites. That’s 75 million people per month who are buying things online.

2. SEO Helps You Get Found by Your Target Customers Easily

ComScore also reports that 91.5 percent of Indians who use the internet use search engines. This is the easiest way for them to find information online. Unlike television and other traditional media, when a user performs a search, they are looking for something very specific.

By understanding exactly what they are searching for, you can reach your precise target audience. By meeting the specific need of their search query, you will make an impression on them and they will be much more likely to make a purchase.

Compare this with an ad in the newspaper, where readers are not specifically looking for your products or services, and you have to go out of your way to convince them to be interested.

3. SEO Offers a Tremendous Branding Opportunity

Since the percentage of Indians who use internet is relatively low, most businesses are ignorant of the opportunities, and there is a tremendous opportunity for you to take advantage of this. The market hasn’t been saturated, so you can stake your claim early, making an impression before online activity becomes mainstream.

What many fail to realize is that the people who use internet are the trendsetters. They are the young, wealthy, early adopters who determine what will become popular in the coming years. If you make a good impression on them, you will solidify your reputation’s future.

4. SEO Provides Higher, Longer-Term ROI Than Other Internet Marketing Channels

While the profits from online display ads and search engine ads are immediate, the return on your investment is generally lower than it is for SEO. This is because you need to keep paying for the advertisements in order to keep earning a profit.

It’s true that SEO is best as an ongoing effort that you continue to invest in, but unlike advertisements, the impact is cumulative. The very second you stop paying for display ads, you will stop seeing traffic. If you stop investing in SEO, on the other hand, you will continue to see results for years to come, with only slight declines in your exposure and traffic.

The more you invest in the SEO of your site, the less effort it takes for each of your new pages to rank. This process continues until you are virtually guaranteed growth in your number of visitors each month with each new page on your site.

5. SEO Builds Trust and Credibility

Most internet users know that advertisements are paid for and don’t necessarily say anything about the quality of your brand. They tend to trust the organic results more, the search results that appear because they are relevant and talked about frequently on the web.

In order to make SEO work effectively for the long term, you need to build relationships with online influencers with trust and credibility of their own, so there is an inherent implication. You will naturally build trust with the online community the more you invest in an SEO strategy.

6. SEO Takes Your Visibility Global

With SEO it’s possible to earn the respect of the global online community, which takes your exposure much larger than your local community. This dramatically opens up the potential number of leads, and allows you to target much more specific needs in order to reach more targeted visitors.

7. SEO Drives Offline Sales

Increasingly, Indians are using the internet to find local businesses. Studies have shown that, globally, a quarter of the searches on Google have local intent. That means that a quarter of the time somebody searches for something online, their ultimate goal isn’t a place online, it’s a place nearby that they can visit.

These types of searches also trigger inserts in the search results with directions, phone numbers, and other local information. But your startup won’t show up in these results if the SEO isn’t in place to make it happen.

Conclusion

The internet presents a tremendous opportunity to startups by letting them target only the most promising customers without wasting resources on those who won’t be interested. It allows you to build relationships with influencers that you can continue to take advantage from in the long term, and these benefits only grow cumulatively as your branding and exposure reach new heights.

Author Bio: Pratik Dholakiya is the Lead SEO and VP of Marketing at E2M Solutions, a full service internet marketing company. You can stay in touch with him through Twitter @DholakiyaPratik.