As a small business owner or manager, growing your company can be challenging, especially when working with a somewhat limited budget and a lack of brand recognition.
How do you get your services in front of the right people?
To raise awareness about your company, it seems reasonable to invest in advertising and marketing. However, 69 percent of small businesses in the US dedicated less than $10,000 to advertising and marketing in 2015, and only 22 percent plan to increase their advertising and marketing spend in 2016, according to new survey data about the state of digital marketing in the small business market.
In many cases, when it comes to designing and executing a marketing strategy, there is a bootstrapping mentality, whoever has the time, interest, or basic knowledge volunteers to own the task. This approach to marketing means your company’s growth goals depend on a single person’s ability to get your business’ content, products, and services, in front of the right people, both on and offline.
Investing human and financial resources in learning about and engaging in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is imperative to developing an effective marketing strategy.
Small Businesses Forgo SEO Due To High Cost, Gaps in Knowledge
SEO is one way to increase visibility and improve reputation online. Unfortunately, half of small businesses that maintain a company website do not engage in SEO, according to a 2016 study about small business SEO and paid online advertising engagement.
Why the neglect?
Industry leaders posit that cost is the main reason why small businesses neglect SEO. “To be effective at SEO, you need to invest in your strategy, and as a small business, every dollar makes a big difference.” – Matthew Goulart, Founder, Ignite Digital
Another explanation is that small business owners are unfamiliar with SEO basics, such as the tactics to use and the metrics to track to gauge success.
It is important to keep in mind that SEO is a fairly new strategy that did not truly mature until Google rolled out its Penguin update in 2012, “the update that shook the SEO world.” The change made keyword stuffing a thing of the past and started the slow transition to the algorithm we have today, which ranks “human readable” pages the highest. Now, effective SEO requires a comprehensive approach.
“An integrated, multi-channel approach to SEO emphasizes the importance of building your brand’s presence online, rather than just striving for higher rankings for particular keywords.” – Igor Shvydkoy, Marketing and Business Development Consultant, Promodo
Using SEO to Meet Growth Goals Requires an Integrated Approach
The good news is, within the next few years, more small businesses plan to use SEO to meet their growth goals.
Industry leaders advise small businesses to educate themselves about the tactics that foster a successful SEO strategy.
Overall, multiple factors influence where a business falls on a search engine page, including website design, user experience, content, and backlinks.
“The search engines don’t want to send people to a poor experience. … Small businesses can prevent this from occurring by creating excellent experiences for website users.” – Duane Forrester, Vice President of Organic Search Operations, Bruce Clay, Inc.
Off-site SEO Tactics, Content Creation Are Key To Success
Creating quality content that earns links is important for SEO success. Industry leaders advise following an 80 to 20 rule, which means focusing 80 percent of your energy on off-site activities, such as content creation, blogging, and contributing to other sites, and 20 percent on on-site activities, such as optimizing the company website for local search and usability.
In light of this rule, small businesses need to familiarize themselves with the different ways to create and distribute content.
Content creation is not limited to what you publish on your business’ website only
1. Guest articles for reputable, relevant online sites
Contributing unique content to other websites not only allows you to accrue backlinks to your business’ website but also casts you as a thought leader in the industry. Your company gains the reputation as a reliable resource because the content it produces answers potential and existing customers’ questions about a certain topic.
2. Onsite blog
Small businesses often neglect maintaining an onsite blog, due to concerns about producing enough content to make it worthwhile.
3. Positive attributions
Duane Forrester, Vice President of Organic Search Operations at Bruce Clay Inc., compares positive attributions to a complimentary statement about a new restaurant. For example, mentioning that a restaurant has a great menu and fast service in a conversation triggers the process of building a positive reputation for the restaurant. On the other hand, demanding that a person visit the restaurant immediately is akin to a direct backlink.
Although SEO may be daunting at first, getting started is easy, and many resources exist for marketing professionals and ordinary people to learn the basics.