Working closely with small businesses has given us great insight into the day-to-day challenges small business owners face. One of them is staying competitive in an increasingly online-dominated world where unless you are one of the top Google search results, you are doomed.
So why is it that even today so many small companies feel daunted by the thought of SEO? Why are small businesses still struggling to find their feet when it comes to online marketing?
On the one hand you have SEO specialists who struggle to explain complex terminology such as no-follow links, editorial appropriateness, and link building strategies in an understandable manner.
On the other hand you have small business owners worrying about making payroll and potentially losing focus and time from the more immediate issues in their businesses.
Many SMB owners and solopreneurs feel like they can’t compete with the ‘big guys’ out there simply because they don’t have the money or the manpower to achieve real SEO success. These technologies seem somehow reserved for the big multinational corporations with deep pockets and whole departments dedicated to online marketing.
But the truth is, you are scared. And I’m scared, too.
I am paranoid when it comes to SEO. When you read news sites like Search Engine Land and Mashable, and log into SEM Rush, it’s scary to see the penalties handed out left, right and center to what you thought were reputable websites, for things that seemed generally white hat just a few years ago.
You become overly-suspicious of the negative impacts the lack of SEO can have on your business as well keep thinking ‘what if I try and get it wrong?’
But these feelings are something we all have to face.
So before we tackle how small business owners can approach the issue of online marketing with confidence, here are the top 3 reasons we have found businesses struggle. And you just might see a little of your own concerns in these struggles.
#1 Too Expensive
SEO is pricey.
Whether you consider the cost of outsourcing the task to an agency, hiring a person to come to you, or even investing in learning the craft yourself, SEO is considered costly. It takes research, a lot of trial and error when it comes to finding out what works for you and what doesn’t.
And that costs money and/or time. Something many of us find we need more of in our businesses.
What’s more, SEO and online marketing in general are highly competitive.
With everybody fighting for those few top spots, you can see how the little fish in the very VERY big pond can feel overwhelmed.
From establishing an initial presence, which takes a lot of effort, to creating the relevant content and then maybe a link-building strategy, everything you do online is somehow associated with a cost. A cost one-man show types of businesses on a shoestring budget find difficult to afford.
#2 Too Complicated
The online marketing environment is a very complex and fast-moving one. What worked for the last few weeks, might be outdated today and unless you have the time to put into it, you might as well not try at all.
Many entrepreneurs find the idea of having to keep up with the latest Google algorithm updates and formulas daunting.
When it comes to the practical side of things, for somebody to dedicate 3 hours to online marketing that means that they have just taken 3 hours away from doing some of the other business-related tasks such as dealing with accounting, managing a team, maintaining your website, customer service, etc.
#3 Time ConsumingGood SEO isn’t something that is done in a week.Click To Tweet
Done properly, it takes good few months to set up and you can expect actual results between 6 and 12 months after that. What’s more, there is a lot of planning that goes into a good SEO campaign that involves on-page SEO, social marketing routines, e-mail marketing and lead capturing, and onsite improvements.
SEO is a long-term project that requires a certain amount of time devoted to it, and as you can imagine, time is a scarce resource in a small business environment when the owner has to wear a few hats at a time.
Whether you relate to one, two or all three of these issues, you have to remember that you are not alone.
But that’s not all! We’ve seen many small companies take on internet marketing and achieve fantastic results. SEO helps you gain more customers, establish your brand and yes, even build better relationships with your audience.
Gone are the days of ‘build it and they will come.
Nowadays, after you build it (it being your business, your brand, or your product) you will have to tell people about it so that they will come. This is where the significance of SEO comes into the equation.
Search marketing can help you reach out to more people. Ultimately, it will help you lay the foundations to a healthy strong relationship.
The typical SEO goal is to increase online visibility of a website (or rankings) to gain a healthy stream of traffic.
This is the motivation you need in order to proceed.
Here are the 3 easiest ways you can overcome the feeling of doubt and face the dragon (the dragon being Google) as well as how to leverage your blog to get the most out of every post for SEO purposes.
#1 Start Learning
Online marketing is really not that complicated of a subject.
Everybody feels overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information at the beginning, but soon enough most find out what works for them and what doesn’t.For a small business marketing strategy to be successful you really don’t need all the bells and whistles associated with every SEO strategy.Click To Tweet
The amount information is overwhelmingly large so to help you find your feet, here is where you should start.
First, you can easily get acquainted with the basics by reading Webmaster blogs, watching YouTube videos and downloading free beginners guides that readily available. SEO shouldn’t intimidate you. It should inspire you!
Pick up tips and apply them to your blog for starters. It will give you an idea of what the basics of SEO optimization and keywords are, and the power a good heading can have on your reach.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the Webmaster tools, I would suggest you start with reading SEO Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. It is in my humble opinion, the single best resource out there. It is jammed-packed with useful information and practical tips you can apply to your strategy. It covers all the bases: keyword research, link building strategy, content etc.
Once you’ve read the guide and know your way around SEO terms, you should go ahead and watch Neil Patel’s (a BIG name in the SEO circles) video series on optimization. In his videos Neil goes a little bit more in depth into how the different elements work together and shows you practical ways to optimizing your site.
Next head over and read this post that looks into how to use SEO tactics to increase blog traffic. The post covers issues such as the curation of useful content, writing keyword-rich and in-depth posts that are informative to the reader as well as good for Google bots to pick up. The post explains the value of referencing reputable websites and how to grow a following. You have a blog? You must read this!
Now that you have a better understanding of the technical terms surrounding SEO, it’s time for you roll up your sleeves and perform some SEO work on your site.
- Here is a great blog post with actionable and applicable tips: SEO – 5 Dead-Simple Tips to Help You Increase Your Organic Traffic
- And here is another one that will guide you through optimizing your on page content
- Need help writing good SEO headlines? Then you want to look at this
Of course there are plenty of books you can buy and learn from (here are a few) but considering how fast things change in the SEO world, you’d be better of reading blogs as they tend to have up to date information.
SO go ahead and start optimizing!
#2 Evaluate Your Options
You can take your SEO in your own hands, or you can assign the responsibility to somebody else. Not all agencies charge an arm and a leg for their services. Alternatively you can consider hiring a freelancer remotely or somebody on part-time basis.
I am sure that a quick search online will help you identify a number of local agencies that perform SEO audits and implement strategies for you. Nevertheless, with the whole world at your fingertips, you don’t have to limit yourself!
Here are a few award winning pocket-friendly SEO companies:
- IKROH – the company offers a list of service (web analytics, blogging, PPC etc.) and it caters for both B2B and B2C customers.
- Absolute Digital Media – The agency prides itself in offering ‘effective yet affordable digital marketing options’.
A tip on how to choose the winning company:
Choose a company with an up-to-date and topic-rich blog. Creating content for your blog would be a huge part of your SEO strategy, so if you are to give that responsibility to somebody, make sure they are good. No company with a poor quality blog and badly written posts would be able to deliver value to you.
Also you can advertise the position and hire somebody in-house. In this case you will have to have done some reading about SEO so that you know what you want from a prospective employee. There are plenty of articles to help you including this one: 10 Questions to Ask When Hiring an SEO Consultant, which will help you in advertising the position as well as finding the right person.
Last, but not least, you can hire a freelancer to do some work for you.
Join websites such as Elance, PeoplePerHour, and ODesk, which are the perfect platform for hiring freelancers. Simply type in what kind of job you need getting done and a list of people with the right skills will appear.
The reason these websites are so popular is because you can see what kind of work the freelancers have previously done, you can check out feedback from previous employers or clients, and you can agree on a flexible payment method (per finished job, hourly etc.).
This particular method is great if you want to see what the freelancers have previously created. Most of them will be happy to show you a portfolio of their projects, blogs they have contributed to and the difference they’ve made for the companies that have hired them.
Some practical tips on finding the right person for you:
- Have a look at what others suggest to look for
- If you are going to be using Elance, have a browse through this article outlining how to post the perfect job description as well as how to find the person you need for your business
Online marketing is an increasingly popular skill and many people will be more than happy to do the work for you for a fraction of the cost big agencies charge. Bottom line is, there are many options when it comes to internet marketing and search engine optimization. Evaluate your options and pick what’s right for you and your business.
As to which options are best for you is entirely up to you. Consider your business needs, how much money, time, and resources you can dedicate. Maybe hire a freelancer while you are learning the basics yourself, or maybe you will find out that an agency is more up your alley. Whatever you decide it will be right for your business.
You are now at the last step of your SEO journey. Now that you have the first two steps under your belt (you know your own way around SEO or you’ve hired someone), it is time to oversee progress.
As I mentioned earlier, it will take good few months before you start seeing any actual results of your efforts. What to look for is increased traffic, better search rankings, and more links to your website.
Not only will it take time for you to see results, but you will have to maintain them too.
If you have a blog, you will soon find out that content has to be updated frequently, new blog posts need to be up and running weekly, and they should all be of good quality. One good post every month, accompanied by 3 average ones is will soon result in a drop in your rankings.Blogging alone is a full time job!Click To Tweet
Your blog can leverage a lot of power and bring some serious bump up in your SEO efforts, however it requires continuous effort. Keep yourself updated on the latest algorithm changes, blogging tips and tricks and generally try to stay informed about how the search marketing environment is changing.
Have a read through this awesome guide that takes you step by step through the process of evaluating your performance. In addition, if you have hired an agency or freelancer, you will be entitled to regular performance reports and targets for the following months.
You Made It!
If you have made it so far in this article, then Congratulations! You obviously mean business!
I know that all this may sound like an overly-complicated and complex process, however I can assure you that the benefits make it absolutely worth every single minute you spend on SEO. Once you get acquainted with the basics, you will soon discover that SEO is not as tough a nut to crack as you might have thought and performing optimization activities will become second nature.
Understanding the basic tenets of SEO will keep your business relevant and searchable, which will amount to added business and web traffic.
You’ve probably heard that time and time again and merely hearing and reading about SEO brings a confused or overwhelmed expression to your face. The good news is, you are not alone! There are virtually thousands of businesses out there who are facing exactly the same struggles as you are.
The bad news is, online marketing is here to stay so might as well put your big girl/boy pants on and face the challenge head-on!
Are you intimidated by SEO? Have you been dragging your feet on your own SEO plan? What fears or challenges have you come across when considering or implementing for your small business?