Small Business & SEO: Two Unlikely Marketing Peas in a Pod?

As the 2017 Web.com Small Business Digital Trends Report highlights, only a measly 17% of small business owners plan to invest in SEO.Over half of the 500 small biz owners they surveyed didn’t even have a budget for SEO. The study also revealed that an even smaller percentage (less than 10%) were even concerned about their SEO efforts in the first place!

The problem is, big business is paying attention and investing big bucks.

Here’s why…

Putting Blinders on Your Pageviews: The Dangers of SEO Ignorance for Small Business

Living in SEO ignorance as a small business is possible, but it can be very risky. On one hand, you could miss out on potential customers. On the other hand, you could end up getting on Google’s bad side if you use bad SEO practices like keyword stuffing or not having a mobile-friendly  site. Google (and other search engines) punish sites, whether you know that you’re committing a major “SEO sin” (like paying someone to stuff your site with keywords) or not.

Penalties can range from not being listed on the search engine or seeing a potential massive drop in traffic to your site. Recovery from a penalty can take a few hours or a few months. In the meantime, you are losing future customers and making it harder for your current customers to find you.

SEO as Large Biz Marketing Perk? Think Again

View of desks in a corporate office

Many small business owners, however, hold onto misconceptions about SEO, assuming that SEO is a high-priced “perk” that only works for big businesses. (Don’t even get me started on the owners who have no clue what SEO even means!). These misconceptions keep small businesses from capitalizing on the successful business they could have.

In reality, SEO is a practical and necessary set of tools and strategies that will help every business that wants to continue maintaining and growing their customer base.

For small businesses, the first step starts with breaking up with the myth that small businesses can’t win with SEO.

That’s what we’re here to discuss.

Why Small Businesses Don’t Like SEO

Having said all of the above, it’s still understandable why small businesses don’t get involved with SEO. After all, there are quite a few of reasons why small businesses don’t naturally gravitate toward SEO.

  • SEO is complicated.
  • SEO can get expensive
  • SEO isn’t magical
  • SEO is biased toward brands

The truth is, despite all of their potential good that SEO can do for your small business, SEO isn’t as simple as placing an ad in the newspaper. (SEO, however, can be more accurate and targeted, though.).

SEO requires learning a new set of tools and skills or hiring someone who knows how to use them. It isn’t an immediate win either. There can be a significant delay between using SEO and results, ranging from weeks to months or even longer.

Plus, there’s one other thing

The SEO industry itself. The SEO industry (and yes, Google to a slight extent) focus on large companies. SEO tools focus on websites that get thousands (or more) customers on a regular basis. Articles and blog posts focus almost exclusively on big businesses successes (or failures) with SEO, not the corner shop who has a simple one-page website.

Why Small Businesses Should Love SEO

Man in dark outline surrounded by a wall of colorful hearts

So how can SEO help small businesses use SEO to compete, get customers, and avoid the fate of other small businesses with a weak or low online presence?

Let’s look at some of the ways….

  • Small businesses want local results

When it comes to a local service or product, small businesses have the advantage of a larger business. Why? Customers are increasing their search for products and services near them. When they are looking for a plumber, they aren’t looking for a big-name brand that may or may not be near them. They are looking for a brand that can get to them RIGHT NOW.

  • Local businesses can get better SEO results

Continuing the point above, customers don’t want to spend a lot of time looking for a plumber or dentist online. As shared above, they rarely (and I mean rarely) go the second page of search results. If your business is local to an area to the area your customer is searching (and you pay attention to SEO), your business will appear at the top of results, helping to draw customers to your business.

  • Better Experience for Customers

As Tribute Media shares, website owners only have about 7 seconds to get your customer’s attention. Customers don’t like sites that don’t load properly, require them to dig for information, or provide content that isn’t helpful. (This goes for device that customers use to get to your website including desktops, laptops, apps, smartphones, tablets, and/or gaming devices, etc.)

If your website doesn’t follow good SEO practices, your site is literally driving customers away from your business.

  • Keep Track of Your Competition

Good SEO practice isn’t just about your website. It’s also about your competitors website. Using SEO, you can gain a deeper understanding of

    • Who your competitors are
    • What words you have in common with your competitors
    • When a customer mentions your business (or your competitor’s) name on social media or other places online
    • Trends you can capitalize on…before your competitors do.

These outcomes from SEO can serve as  powerful tool that can help your business stay ahead of your competitors and connect deeper with the customers you want to focus on.

  • Learn more about your current (and future) customers

The other area SEO can help you is with customers. One of the pitfalls of traditional advertising is the mystery of who will actually see and respond to your ad. With SEO,you can get some much-needed data on who saw your content, what they were looking for and how your content either helped or did not help them achieve what they needed. This is valuable information that can help any business maintain customer relationships and develop marketing that pulls in new customers.

How to Love SEO, CRO, etc….Without Going Broke

Image of man with empty pockets

OK, you might be saying. I’ll give this “SEO thing” a try for small business. You might be wondering how you can get started when you’re a tight budget and don’t have time to learn everything there is to know about SEO.

Start off with these tips and suggestions and you’ll be in the right mindset to take your first steps into a SEO-optimized presence for your small business.

  1. Understand what SEO is (and is not). SEO is not a magical “easy button”. Your goal as a busy small biz owner using SEO is to figure out what tools work for your goals and resources.
  2. Focus on the fundamentals. SEO techniques range from the simple (changing the URL on a page) to complex (executing a link building campaign to improve your site’s domain authority). Start off small and build up as you go along.
  3. Look for data, not miracles. Don’t fall into the hype of SEO “miracles”. Instead focus on your goals and the best tools to accomplish them.
  4. Shop for “experts” with caution. If you prefer to have someone work on SEO for you, look for someone with a track record of believable and verifiable results, preferably someone who has worked with clients in your industry.
  5. Plan for the worst-case scenario. For the majority business owners, the worst thing that happens with a SEO failure is a lack of website visitors. For other business owners who hire SEO agencies or freelancers who use banned SEO practices, the results could be worse. Make a “worst case scenario” now before you get started on SEO.
  6. Get ready for the long haul. Focus on the long-term objective with SEO, making it easier for customers to find your products and services, and not the cheap and quick superficial results (“Get to a #1 ranking on Google in 30 days!”). Focusing on the right things will keep you, your customers, and Google (or Bing) happy.

Final Thoughts: SEO is Vital for Every Single Business Who Wants Online Customers

Man planning on a whiteboard small business SEO

From the beginning, SEO focused on the big businesses. At the same time, SEO has grown into a complex industry with a barrage of tools and techniques to help those big companies get more visitors. These two factors, along with others, made small businesses feel like they didn’t belong.

We need to change that.

SEO offers plenty of benefits and tools for small business owners. In fact, the very same tools that big businesses use can be tailored to give small business owners the advantage. Small businesses can their flexibility, creativity, and relationships with a smart use of SEO to maintain and profit from that advantage.

All it takes is making the mental leap from “I don’t do SEO” to “What can I do with SEO?” and the journey will begin.