SEO Services For Small Business
A recent survey showed that half of all small business do not use SEO or think that SEO is a good marketing investment. As an SEO company who sees the benefits of a well organized SEO program, it got us thinking about why. We see consistently good results from local SEO services for small businesses like garage door companies and asphalt paving contractors, moving our clients from back pages in Google to page 1 for relevant keywords. But it’s not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. We generally see significant changes in the 8 to 12 week range, which is why we recommend a minimum of 3 months service. But why the hesitation for small business? Turns out, there are plenty of reasons.
SEO Fear Factor
To be fair, there is no shortage of SEO horror stories of unscrupulous SEO companies promising the moon and stars for some cheap monthly rate. They promise to get your website on page 1 which sounds great! But wait – for which keywords? Are the keywords they get on page 1 going to bring any meaningful increase in traffic or leads to your website?
The other challenge is the length of time to achieve results. We are all accustomed to getting things fast. When you buy something at the store, you normally get what you paid for right away. You may book a plane ticket 6 months in advance, but you know you have a seat reserved when the time comes. But with SEO, you are asked to pay for a service that really can’t guarantee specific results. So that’s a hurdle – small businesses can’t afford to waste money and they need to know what they’re getting in return for their money.
On top of all that, SEO is complicated. Much more so than you might imagine. The Google Search algorithm uses more than 200 “signals” to index web content and their algorithm is constantly changing. Backlinks, meta-tags, Domain Authority, keyword density and so much more. A good SEO provider spends a lot of their time keeping up with the myriad of technical aspects that are necessary for good SEO. As a small business owner, unless you’re particularly tech savvy, this stuff is hard to understand.
It’s no surprise then that a small business owner, who is already weary of being ripped off, is reluctant to pay for a service that doesn’t guarantee specific results and is really hard to understand! This is a challenge for any SEO company and small business owners alike. We of course, want the business and offer competitive SEO services. That’s what we do so that’s not hard to understand. It’s more of a challenge for the business owner. Traditional marketing strategies like Yellow Pages and mail flyers are expensive and are getting less and less effective. Most people are using the internet to find what they are looking for, whether it be Google Search or social media. And if your business doesn’t rank well, growing your customer base will be tough.
SEO Services For Small Business Basics
Whether you choose to hire an SEO consultant or not, there are some fundamental concepts you should know. SEO is complicated, but knowing some basics should allow you to have a meaningful conversation with an SEO company and hopefully weed out the crooks.
Most people know conceptually what a search engine is. Many view it as an application that searches the internet for website information in response to a search query. But how this is done is very complicated and has given rise to the behemoth search engine known as Google. Google is the most popular search engine because most people feel it provides the best results. How it does that is a very closely guarded secret, but we know some things Google considers when it evaluates a given web page. While it is complicated, considering hundreds of variables for indexing, its goal has always been the same: providing the best results for a user. Google spends a lot on engineering defining what is a good result and rolling that into its search algorithm.
Search engines work non-stop. They are continually evaluating content and updating the rules they use for that evaluation. So what might work today might not be as effective tomorrow. The key is to avoid “gaming the system” and give Google what it wants – quality content. Content that would be considered a good answer to the questions your audience may have. How to create quality content is where an SEO consultant can help.
Keywords are the phrases you want your website to rank for in search results. An SEO consultant will do a keyword analysis early on in the project to determine what keywords make sense for a given website. There are tools to help determine which keywords are most popular for a particular topic and how easy or hard it is to rank for them. If you’re a plumber in Santa Rosa for example, ranking well for “plumbing services” would be great, but you may be competing with plumbers all over the world making it a hard keyword phrase to compete for. “Santa Rosa plumbing services” may be more appropriate for a plumber working in Sonoma County.
An SEO consultant will help create a list of keywords and work with you on defining which ones are most important. They will also provide information on search volume and ranking difficulty to guide your content strategy.
Backlinks are one of the most important factors for site ranking and one of the hardest to optimize. Google considers backlinks to a website or page as a vote of authority. If many other sites link to yours, it must mean your website content is important. In the old days, people would set up link farms and you could pay to get a bunch of backlinks to your site. But Google soon realized that this was compromising the quality of their results and modified their algorithm to consider the backlink quality. Once that update was rolled out, many sites using link farms disappeared from the rankings incurring heavy Google ranking penalties.
Apart from industry related backlinks and relevant organizations, the real gold is creating a piece of content that addresses some issue that many people have. For example, a painter might write an article on different paint sheens, their applications and how they are made and any cost variation. This article may in turn be linked from a blog or some other high ranking site which in turn gives the painter’s website a vote of authority.
As you can imagine, obtaining high quality backlinks takes some time and effort, but can do wonders for your website rankings.
Technical SEO refers to well, technical stuff! It covers a lot of the “behind the scenes” details of a web page like security, load times, proper tag usage, valid links, markup and so much more. All SEO tools do a good job of evaluating a website for a whole array of technical issues. Individually, a single issue may not have too much impact but many websites have plenty of technical issues and fixing them can give your site a noticeable boost in rankings. This is one of the first things an SEO consultant will address so that your site as a minimum appears technically sound to the search engines.
Content quality was mentioned above in the context of link building. In addition to providing something for other sites to link to, Google interprets content for readability, grammar and organization. There is a whole industry build on Content Marketing and there are things that an author should and shouldn’t do when creating content. While a small business owner may not be an English major, your SEO service provider should have a decent understanding of grammar, spelling and content organization so that your content is appealing to both human readers and search engines.
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals is a set of user-focused metrics that Google has recently adopted (2021) as a factor in ranking web pages. There are a number of factors taken into account when assessing a web pages Core Web Vitals but main factors include performance (like page load time), security and mobile friendliness. Your SEO consultant should be well aware of these factors and the details associated with each and include a strategy on how to optimize each. Page rankings have been updating based on this since July 2021. If your site or some pages are doing poorly in this area, it could be impacting your rankings.
Cost For SEO Services
Most SEO consultants charge on a monthly basis and the fees are based on the amount of time they will put into your SEO in a given month. A good SEO can charge a fair hourly rate ($50/hr and up) because they are bringing a solid value to your business. Larger SEO agencies may also have to account for support staff and office space overhead so it can start adding up. In addition, an SEO expert is using one or more tool sets that add to their monthly cost. When considering an SEO’s fees, think about how many hours you would expect them to work on your site and then multiply by an expected hourly rate. Less hours worked means it will take more time to see results, more hours can mean more significant results in less time so there is some room to accommodate varying budgets.
SEO Services For Small Business – Solutions
Hopefully this article has provided you enough insights to begin a conversation with an SEO company. This will be helpful if you decide that SEO is a good place to spend some of your marketing dollars. Ranking well on Google and driving more prospects to your website is always good but it’s not free. The following sections outline how you might want to approach SEO services for small business and find a solution that fits your needs.
Set Your Goals
One of the first questions we ask our clients is “What are you trying to accomplish?”. The short answer is usually to rank well on Google. But it’s helpful to be a little more specific. Rank well for what? You should do a little digging on your own to see where you rank for critical keywords to get a sense of where you are in the rankings and where you’d like to be. Some businesses find themselves in very competitive industries and this may impact what are realistic goals in a given time period. Having a set of goals gives you specific items to discuss with a prospective SEO company.
Determine Your Budget
Like setting your goals, you need to determine what you’re willing to spend. Good SEO isn’t cheap and cheap SEO isn’t worth it. You can usually get a quick bump in rankings in 2 to 3 months but to solidify a top position in a competitive space can take much longer. Also, SEO isn’t a one and done deal, it really does need ongoing effort. Your competitors also want top spots and Google is continually changing how it indexes sites. The ideal approach is to determine what you can afford on a regular basis. Either way, you should figure out what you are willing to pay and how you will determine if SEO is worth it.
Find the Right SEO Provider for Small Business
With all this knowledge and preparation, you’re ready to find your SEO provider. SEO services for small business can provide a significant boost to your business levels. Like hiring any service provider, it makes sense to talk no less than 3 SEO companies unless you’re acting on a referral and know what and who you’re getting. Your SEO consultant will become a key partner in your digital marketing efforts so treat this like hiring a new employee:
- Are they pleasant and courteous to talk to?
- Do they sound knowledgeable?
- Are they responsive?
- What do they think of your goals and budget? Look for honesty here.
- What timeline are they proposing to achieve your goals?
- What strategy do they have in mind?
- What, if any, SEO tools do they use?
- Do they have web design experience or do they need an outside web designer to implement changes?
Competing for business online is more important than ever and it’s getting to be a crowded field. Chances are, you will need to get help with SEO to become or stay competitive. We hope this article helps you understand enough about SEO so that you can have an informed discussion with any SEO providers.