Why SMB owners should care about SEO

Your customers are looking for you. Can they find you?

When potential customers have a problem and need somewhere to go, they search for it. They head to their favorite search engine, type what they want and are presented with a list of results Google promises can help them. If you don’t appear in those results, you don’t exist. You miss out on the sale, the branding opportunity and the ability to convert that targeted searcher into a lifelong customer. And that’s the value that search engine optimization (SEO) brings to small businesses. It puts you in your customers’ line of sight and establishes you as an expert.

A lot of small businesses don’t fully understand SEO. They think it’s dirty, that SEOs are snake oil salesmen, that it’s out of their budget, or that it’s something they don’t need to worry about because they’re not a major brand. The truth is, the Internet has changed the face of business and leveled the playing field for everyone. By investing in SEO, you allow your company to show up for those targeted local searches, while also putting yourself in the position to compete with the big dogs.

Here’s what a lot of small businesses don’t realize about SEO.

It’s affordable: Whether you’re doing it yourself or paying someone to help you, SEO doesn’t have to break your budget. Most of your attention will go towards ensuring that your site is set up correctly, that you’re listed in all the appropriate local indexes (which is free and something you can do on your own), and helping to target your site for very specific, locally-based terms. For most businesses, you’re going to find that this process probably isn’t anywhere near as expensive or difficult as you’d imagine. It’s also one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies out there as you’ll continue to benefit from good optimization for years to come. Quite simply, a site that is properly constructed will rank better than a site that is not.  And you don’t have to drain your budget in order to pay attention to fundamental SEO.

It means being creative: Small businesses have a huge leg up over larger brands when it comes to their SEO and marketing campaigns. Unlike them, you have a license to be creative. You can take more chances, try things faster and engage easier. Use all of this to your advantage. Launch that Twitter campaign now, experiment with on-page SEO strategies, test different Title tags to see which convert better, do interesting things for links and to create buzz, etc. One of the great advantages to being a small business is that there’s no legal or PR red tape to step though. It makes you more agile and gives you a lot more freedom to do great things and to quickly test what works and what works even better.

It’s effective: You will make back what you invest in SEO. If you can get your local business to show up in Google’s 10-pack, you’re going to greatly increase the exposure, branding and profitability of your Web site. All of the little things that go into local SEO are designed to attract people who are naturally looking for you, to let them know you exist and to make it easy for them to find you. Launching a Web site without worrying about the fundamentals of SEO is like writing a great novel only to hide it on a shelf in your basement. There’s no sense being great if no one knows it.  Search engine optimization puts your Web site in front of your customer base.

It’s creates better Web sites: There’s no black magic here. The core of SEO is simply creating great Web sites.  It’s about making them content-rich and useful for searchers, while also taking the time to make them accessible and easy to understand to the search engines.  That’s the goal of being on the Web and SEO helps you accomplish that.  It ensures that your Web site is set up correctly from the very beginning so that it’s naturally a hit to both users and the search engines. It’s about make usable sites. And that’s something absolutely every business can benefit from.

Your competition already is: More and more small businesses are realizing the impact search engine optimization can have on the success of their company. And they’re investing in it. The longer you wait to make that same investment, the harder it’s going to be for you to match their efforts and stay ahead of the pack. When someone in your area heads to Google because a pipe just burst in their home and it’s now flooding with water, they’re going to grab the name of that plumber listed first in Google Local.  They’re going to perform a second search or waste time weighing their options. They have a flood and you need to be there immediately.

SEO is no longer something businesses can ignore, regardless of their size. If you’re thinking of finally dipping your toe into the SEO waters, make sure you check out Janet Meiners Thaeler’s recent post on how to find a reputable SEO company or Lee Odden’s post on SEO hiring tips. Both are filled with great information.

More in: 33 Comments ▼

Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

33 Reactions
  1. I think that Search Engine Optimization will be a natural ingredient in a successful online presence in the future. I think the best way to look at is with an integrated approach. I know a business contact that has created a system of 10 different parts for online marketing.

    You are right about that it is not about “black magic”. Content is king and you will eventually get a better position online when you write in a natural way without trying to “game the system”. My guess is that the organic link exchange between parties over time is one of the most important things for reaching to the top of search engines. I have seen this firsthand, from my own blogging for more than seven years. I have received links from so called “A-list” bloggers with huge site traffic (from >1000 – >100,000 visitors per day).

  2. I agree, if a company wants to create a strong online presence, Search Engine Optimization needs to be part of their online marketing campaign. But SEO can’t do it all, and it can take 6 months to a year to show any effect. If you want to create brand awareness and increase your sales now, you need to tap into social networking sites. Social Media Marketing should be a high priority when creating your online marketing campaign.

  3. Nice post Lisa! SEO is nothing more than a fancy acronym for doing what is essentially today’s yellow pages. It’s nothing to be afraid of it’s just the way we do business today.

    Many years ago, no smart business would be caught without a listing in the most important business bible the Yellow Pages. It even spurred a flurry of naming creativity to get your business listed first hence AAA ACME Tool or AAA Henry and Son etc.

    SEO is essentially the same idea finding the string of words that get you to the top of the listings.

    One way to quickly learn is “borrow” what other smart companies are doing.

    Type the keywords into Google yourself and then see what companies are listed on the first page. Click on each of these companies and see what they have done how their landing page is laid out especially what title tags (the stuff in the blue line at the top of the browser) they use Here’s a great explanation of title tags http://bit.ly/KSPyT. Look at their use of headlines (H1) and subheads (H2, H3). See what words they use in the first 250 characters or so

    Getting these basic elements lined up is a start in the right direction.

  4. Great comments Martin and Grant. SEO isn’t as hard as people think. There are numerous articles out there that explain how to do certain SEO tasks (all for free) and their are many tools to help you along the way (free or very affordable).

    (Self-promotional, read with a grain of salt!) If you need help finding ways to get links from other websites to your website, try out LotusJump. Read the SmallBizTrends review here – https://smallbiztrends.com/2009/05/lotusjump-review-online-marketing-service.html

  5. Martin Lindeskog


    Thanks. I will contact you for more information on LotusJump later on. I want to discuss my upcoming site (EgoSoleTrader.com) for sole traders (sole proprietorship in American English), solo entrepreneurs, freelancers, and other individuals that want to have moral and practical support for “traders in matter in spirit.”

  6. Once you learn the basics of SEO and what it does for you, it’s really not difficult to understand enough to do it yourself. After you catch the hand of it, it gets easier to improve upon it as you go.

  7. I just gave some great insight about social bookmarking and ideas for small business today. You can click on my name and see today’s blog post.

  8. It’s important for business owners to avoid obsessing about SEO – it’s not the answer to everything. Consider creating solid content and you’ll attract links, which in turn will enhance your rank. It’s an ever-changing science that might not even exist one day depending on Google’s plans, so keep in mind while writing, but by no means obsess over your meta.

    Check out these 3 Organic Business Tips for Business Owners: http://bit.ly/hXzH5

  9. Lisa,

    Great post– the seo charlatans out there cast a bad name across all of us. I highly recommend that small businesses learn to do their own SEO, since it can’t be just “thrown” to a vendor.


  10. im remarkable review

    Excellent post.SEO must take care of everything – including contextual links, backlinks and must be in terms with money available in hand.Because there is no limit of expense which can be made in SEO.

  11. Miles Technologies

    Great information on why SEO is critical for SMB’s! Keeping up with the competition and remaining highly visible in the virtual marketplace is more important now than ever before.

  12. Thanks for the tips on SEO. Like many small businesses, SEO was a mystery until I made the time to understand it and get my hands dirty. I would not be getting the organic search results that I do without the effort that I put into it.

  13. Unfortunately, just like lots of other businesses and industries, the snake oil salesmen of SEO have kind of ‘tainted’ the industry. There are lots of SEO sites that promise much more than they deliver. I’m heading over to your referral to Janet Meiners Thaeler’s post on reputable SEO companies and Lee Odden’s post on SEO hiring tips – I’m interested in finding some quality companies to work with (ps I receive three emails in the last hour (in my junk folder) from SEO companies promising to increase my traffic hundreds of percent (they don’t even know if I have a website – I do).

  14. I agree with you Lisa. SEO is really affordable. All we just have to do is study about it and then apply what we’ve learned. 😉

  15. Good one Lisa
    After searching for a while what i feel is that a combination of SEO and SMO provides you with much more stable visibility and better prospective clients.
    I agree to whatever you stated, it’s just the add on which I felt was missing. A good article on SMO and useful suggestions on it’s implementation for everyone’s reference:

    Sonal Maheshwari
    USourceIT your single source for all IT needs

  16. Great post. I think it will really help small businesses take the leap. Many people are uncomfortable with what they don’t know and SEO is out of a lot of individuals comfort zones. The key to any great e-marketing campaign is a great website. The site must be optimized with SEO in order to find it.



  17. RedHotFranchises

    SEO is the tool that can be used to insure that your site is listed as close as possible to the top of the relevant search results.
    Without SEO it will be as if those customers drive by your shop without even knowing that you are there

  18. Everything you say is correct, all that companies see when you speak to them, is what works now and not the long term, all future advertising will be through the internet, if you do not currently use as seo company then the future is bleak, all the good seo consultants will be obligated to another company.

  19. SEO is crucial to the success of businesses. When ranking is up….business is up! It’s a constant battle for the top.

  20. I think this pretty much sums it up the future of SEO:

    “There’s no black magic here. The core of SEO is simply creating great Web sites. It’s about making them content-rich and useful for searchers, while also taking the time to make them accessible and easy to understand to the search engines”

  21. SEO is now beginning to branch into other arenas as well. Once the Website is optimized its also a good idea to generate partnerships with other sites that might be relevant to your business in some way. Another good technique that I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about lately are Online Video Ads. In my opinion, this is one of the most creative and effective way to get your message across to your audience while also keeping them entertained enough to listen to your whole message. There are even sites on the web that allow you to upload your content for free thus helping to further improve your online visibility and yes even your hit ranking. Adwido.com and Viddler.com are a couple that come to mind. In the end a well rounded approach will always be the best recipe for success.

  22. I agree with it Lisa. SEO is very essential for business nowdays…

  23. Small businesses may have license but this often goes unrecognized because of fear and being overwhelmed.

  24. Thanks for the great info. I am a small business owner and am taking your points to heart. Thanks again!

  25. Lemuel Gerbino

    Hi! I’m David and I am from UK, Tonbridge .I am new to this forum. I have just set up my new Plumbing site and i am interested in your Blog. I have just qualified as a central heating engineer. My site is a bit basic,

  26. With physical forms of media fading away, companies must have an online presence to succeed. The old method of direct mail and yellow pages are gone. In fact, I dont even know where my yellow pages are. But with most homes having internet access as well as mobile internet. We have information at our finger tips.