While there are always lots of marketing contests going on aimed at small business owners (usually for an iPhone/ iPad), there’s a new one that just kicked off that I think SMBs are really going to want to pay attention to. The contest comes from Internet marketing company Bruce Clay, Inc., which is offering up a free 3-day pass to Search Engine Strategies San Francisco, as well as a seat in Bruce Clay’s famed SEO training class. If you’re a small business owner who finds this SEO thing a little confusing, Bruce Clay, Inc. is essentially allowing you to get a world class education for free. It’s a pretty sweet offer, and all you have to do is answer one question.
The question is this: What one recommendation would you share with small business owners to improve their online presence?
You can answer focusing on one of three categories: SEO, PCC or social media marketing. SMB owners can also submit one entry for each category, to better their chances of winning.
Because it’s such a great opportunity, I decided to talk to Bruce Clay, Inc. Marketing Manager Paula Allen to get an idea of how BCI felt small business owners were doing on the Web overall and how this contest could help them. You’ll find my interview with her below.
Thanks for talking to me Paula. Let me ask you, how do you think SMB owners are currently doing in terms of leveraging their online presence?
I think small businesses today realize that online is where they need to be. Business owners surveying their industry today probably see a lot of wreckage, competitors who are no longer in business. However, they also see some new growth from companies who made the Internet work for them. The statistics bear this out, that while overall retail spending severely declined over the past couple of years, e-commerce spending grew – 3% or so year-over-year, but that’s still growth.
So SMBs recognize the need to develop an online business presence, but I don’t see many of them doing it. My favorite local printer closed its doors last year, despite being state-of-the-art and doing everything right as far as quality and service. But they never got listed in the local directories, had an all-Flash website that couldn’t be spidered, and didn’t use social media. Online is the new battlefield where businesses triumph or die.
It’s great to see small businesses winning that battle, though. For example, a deli in Boulder, Colorado, uses Twitter to send out daily lunch specials that make my mouth water (@LindsaysDeli), and their simple website ranks second for [boulder deli].
What are some of the biggest issues SMBs are having in taking charge of their online Web presence? Where are they still struggling?
Optimizing a small business’s website for search is the biggest issue, which is why one of the contest’s article categories is Small Business SEO. A business owner may hire a webmaster who says he “knows SEO,” but it’s often a case of a little knowledge being dangerous. Businesses know they need SEO, but the next steps are learning the best practices and/or getting guidance from an expert.
We’ve seen an increase in our SEO Training course sign-ups this year, and many students have been SMB owners or marketing people. There’s also been a lot of interest in our SEO services for small businesses. So they’re looking for authoritative information and help with SEO – this is a good sign for SMBs!
The Small Biz Discovery Contest also has a PPC category and a Social Media category, because SMBs often aren’t sure how to venture into these arenas. With PPC there’s a perceived monetary risk; with social media, the potential risk is wasted time if you don’t have a plan. SMBs want to be strategic with their PPC and social media campaigns so they can manage the risks, but many of them jump in without much guidance. We’re hoping marketers will contribute articles that will really help small business owners move forward safely, with a plan.
The Small Biz Discovery Content seems like an awesome educational opportunity for SMB owners. What was the idea/goal behind the contest?
The Small Biz Discovery Contest is meant to engage the Internet marketing community to benefit small businesses. Previous Bruce Clay, Inc. contests have focused on charitable organizations, with prizes going to the marketer who could create and implement the best SEO plan for a nonprofit. This year we decided to help the small business community, which has been through two rough years economically.
We want to bring together articles written to help small businesses thrive online. By offering a big grand prize for the best article – a free pass to SES San Francisco and SEO Training – we hope to motivate many marketing professionals to share their knowledge. Articles are being accepted May 1-31, 2010.
What is the benefit of attending a conference like SES or your training seminar for an SMB? What will they come away with?
People taking our SEO Training course learn search engine-friendly best practices for optimizing a website, including site theming, proper navigation, on-page optimization, ethical link building strategies, avoiding spam, using engagement objects for blended search, etc. They come away with a solid grasp of SEO principles and actions they need to take to make their site relevant enough to rank in search results, attract targeted traffic, and increase their site revenue.
The Small Biz Discovery Contest includes a drawing for a free Bruce Clay, Inc. SEOToolSet® Standard Training course. Anyone who comes to the site to vote during the month of June can enter!
Thanks to Paula for answering my questions, and make sure you check out Bruce Clay, Inc’s small biz contest. As a small business owner, how have you grown <em>your</em> online presence? Let Bruce Clay, Inc. know. Entries will be acceptable through the end of the month.