One of the problems small business owners face with SEO and Internet marketing in general is the fact that it is not clear how SEO can benefit their businesses and from where to get started. The purpose of this post is to fill in this cap i.e. provide information to small business owners about SEO in simple terms and everyday language.
This is not the first article I have written about small business SEO, I have written about the benefits of SEO for small businesses and also provided 10 SEO tips for start-ups and small business owners. If you are new to SEO then you certainly need to read the first article to appreciate the benefits of SEO for your business and if you want to get your hands dirty you can go ahead and read the 10 SEO Tips article as well.
SEO from a manager’s view
What you will read in this post is how to approach SEO from a manager’s perspective and not from a technical point of view. I have been talking with small business owners the last couple of years and one of the characteristics common to all is that they are not sure how to approach SEO for their businesses. They don’t know what to expect, how much to pay and what is necessary to do first in order to secure a proper Internet presence for their businesses.
The first thing that you should have clear in your mind is why you need SEO for your business .What SEO can offer you and how the Internet in general can help your business grow. As promised above I will try to give answers without going too technical but staying in an executive summary level.
Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing are used by millions of people on a daily basis to find information, new products to buy, solutions to their problems and anything else you can image. I’m sure you have said many times the term ‘Google it’ when someone asks you a question and you don’t know the answer.
All these daily searches create a huge market open to businesses who compete online. If you have a website you can, under some conditions, get some of these people to visit your website and turn them into potential customers by selling them your products or services or by taking advantage of their presence by selling advertising space to advertising networks.
The conditions are simple, your website should appear in one of the top 5 positions (in the first page of the search engine results pages) when people search for keywords related to your business. According to studies the majority of people (more than 70%) will pick one of the top 5 positions with the first, second and third positions to gain the largest part.
Search engine optimization or SEO is short can help you optimize your website so that:
1) It will appear in one of the top positions in the Search engines results pages (SERPs) when people search for related terms
2) It will provide for a great user experience since SEO is also about building high quality websites.
In order to achieve that you need to practice both on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
On page SEO is what needs to be done within your website so that search engines understand better what is you are trying to promote in their index and off page SEO is how you can promote your business online so that search engines are convinced that your website deserves one of the top places in their search results.
So, in simple words SEO is what can get you more visitors from search engines.
Why Google SEO?
While there are other search engines besides Google, the search giant is the most popular search engine (with more than 60% market share) and you cannot have online success without Google. Google is very serious about their search engine and they try continuously to improve the quality of the results they return to searches so it is important to follow these changes and configure your website accordingly in order to stay competitive.
What is not SEO?
I am sure that as small business owners you have already been contacted by many people that present themselves as SEO’s trying to sell you link packages for the purpose of getting higher rankings. Those businesses that got tricked into buying one of these packages most probably experienced some temporary success and then their websites got a penalty by Google during one of their Panda or Penguin updates.
Unfortunately some of my clients are in this category too and we are now trying to design for them a proper SEO campaign that will get them more traffic and customers without trying silly things.
SEO is not about building links, I have said this many times in my articles and book and if you really want to promote your small business online then you should also have this clear in your head. Links are still necessary to rank a website but this is not something you can buy in the form of ‘link packages’ but something you need to gain naturally by proving useful content/services/products to other people.
What to expect from a successful SEO Campaign?
When you decide that you need SEO to promote your business online you can expect the following from a successful SEO campaign:
In terms of your website:
A website that speaks the search engines language (i.e. optimized for search engines)
A website that is easy to use and user friendly
A website that loads fast
A website that is mobile friendly
In terms of your overall internet presence:
Good presence in the most important social media networks (Facebook, Google+, Twitter etc)
A good understanding about the Internet presence of your online competitors
In terms of finding new customers
Top positions when people search for businesses in your area (local SEO)
Top positions when people search for terms related to your business
A constant flow of traffic from all major search engines
In terms of making more conversions
Continuous analysis and testing so that visitors coming to your website become customers.
Ways to interact and engage with your potential and existing customers
Who can help you with small business SEO?
There are two ways to do small business SEO:
1) Do it in-house i.e. you assign this task to one of your existing employees (an employee from the marketing department is a good candidate) or
2) You outsource to an SEO company
If you choose to do it in-house you run several risks like doing it the wrong way and instead of getting results you get penalties, so you need to invest in training and educating your employees about SEO best practices etc. This is not always easy because you need to find the right employees to do this job and also the right company to guide and train them.
On the other hand if you choose to outsource SEO then you need to ensure that the company will not follow practices that will bring temporary results and then disaster.
How much does it cost?
SEO is not an expensive service despite what several magazines are reporting. If you choose to hire a small but flexible SEO firm you can get great results with less than $1000 per month. If on the other hand you choose to pay for hiring a well-known company you will pay more for the brand name without any real benefit.
There is also the option of hiring an SEO consultant, you can pay them per hour and if you are not satisfied with the results you can terminate their contract any time.
Check out our SEO packages for small business and read our case studies on how we helped businesses like yours to succeed online.
SEO is important for every small business who wants to compete online but also for every business who is working offline. SEO will help you get more customers, promote your brand and help your business grow faster than any other marketing technique.
SEO is not hard but it is not as easy as purchasing ‘link packages’ or whatever else they will offer you in a spam email. By training your employees or by hiring a trusted SEO firm you can benefit from SEO without spending a fortune. In fact if you do it correctly, SEO can be the best investment you ever made for your company.