In a recent interview with the VP of marketing at SurePayroll, Scott Brandt brought to light an interesting problem for SMBs and business owners alike. Last quarter, a SurePayroll survey indicated that only about 30 percent of small-business owners said they focus on search engine optimization (SEO) for their websites.
Certainly in 2015, SEO and its close cousin, content marketing, won't be going away. If any part of your business is online--whether you're in e-commerce or you simply use your website to make people aware of your products and services--where you appear in Google's search rankings continues to be critical for most small (and large) businesses.
If you sell cakes in Tucson, Arizona, you're going to want to come up when someone in Tucson searches "Cakes near me."
The problem with SEO for small businesses.
Unfortunately, the SurePayroll survey also found that 22 percent of small businesses would like to do more, but don't have the cash to spend a significant amount on SEO--be it to hire consultants or to pay for content creation that ultimately results in links pointing back to their sites.
Another 60 percent said they don't spend a significant amount because it's not necessary for their business.
Half said they do not even monitor their search rankings.
There are two critical issues at stake here. One is helping small-business owners realize the importance of SEO. The other is helping them find an entry point given their budgetary constraints so they can begin to monitor their site's performance related to SEO.
Why SEO is important.
Google and the other search engines want you to be there. They're emphasizing local search results and that could mean more exposure for a small business, even if it's competing against a much bigger company.
Prospective customers are looking for you; they just may not know it yet. Whether someone needs a dentist or an accountant or a mechanic, they're almost inevitably going to search for one online at some point. Having visibility in the search engines gives your business credibility and the opportunity to become part of that customer's consideration set, meaning you have a chance to win their business if they can find you.
You can track it. Using a free tool like Google Analytics, you can take a deep dive into how many people are visiting, where they're coming from, and what they're looking at on your website. You can see if they're coming to you through search, social media, or other websites. And you can find out which pages people land on when they find and click on your search engine listing. Armed with this information, you can then ensure those pages are providing relevant content the user is seeking and the best opportunity to create a lead or even a sale.
Getting started with SEO.
In some ways, Google's recent algorithm changes have leveled the playing field for small businesses. Building an SEO strategy is no longer about hiring someone to place a bunch of spammy links on low-quality websites or trying to game the system by stuffing webpages with tons of keywords that provide no value to your visitors.
Now when someone searches for a product or service, Google is doing its best to produce actual results of what that person is looking for--vendors that sell that specific product or service, and/or quality, detailed information tailored to a visitor's needs and location.
So how do you accommodate SEO best practices when you don't have money to spend on it?
Update your website on a regular basis. This is a good way to start. You don't want static information that hasn't changed in years. It makes Google (and other engines) believe you're not relevant to the search engines because your content is so old. How? Try adding a blog, or simply updating what's going on with your business--new products, weekly or monthly promotions, testimonials and reviews from customers. Make sure you don't simply replicate content across multiple pages of your site; search engines don't like duplicate content.
Adding a story to your webpages will also help. If you've been providing only the most cursory material along with contact information, you may not be providing enough relevant content that search engines find valuable. No one knows your product or service--and how it can benefit a potential customer--better than you. Make sure you're providing all of the relevant features and reasons that would make someone choose your company over another. And add testimonials where customers share their experiences so potential new customers can read them.
Links. Make sure there are links connecting the different pages on your site, and even a few links to outside sites that may provide quality information for your prospects/visitors. This doesn't mean hyperlinking every possible word that could lead to another page. But strategically placing two or three intrasite links on a page sends the signal to the search engines that your pages are connected to other important pages, increasing your authority. It also allows your users to better navigate your website.
The most valuable links are those from other websites to yours. For example, if a publisher site like Inc.com, or even a local newspaper's site, were to write a story on your business and include a link from their article to your website, search engines are likely to reward your website and view it more favorably than a website than have no links pointing to them.
It's important that small businesses not leave this important tactic out of their marketing strategies. Just because a company is small doesn't mean it's not serving an important niche in the marketplace, and search is incredibly important in helping potential customers find your business as they surf for solutions online.
With the right approach, it's relatively uncomplicated and inexpensive for small businesses to take advantage of SEO.
How are you managing your SEO? Please let me know in the comments section below!