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.
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