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SEO for Small Businesses

I recently got into a discussion with someone on Twitter about SEO (search engine optimization) and small businesses. She had been advised that small businesses often do not have the budget for SEO and ranking organically. When I asked what the proposed solution was, I got a surprising answer.  The advice given was that,

“Sometimes PPC (pay per click advertising) is the best, fastest, and only way to go. So don’t be afraid of ONLY doing PPC.”

I have to disagree with this statement. PPC is expensive, especially for small businesses with limited advertising budgets.  These companies will often find themselves bidding on the same keywords as much larger competitors, with much larger budgets. Even if they outbid their competitors, in reality they’re still paying for every single one of those visits to their site.  And in a way, PPC has an addictive quality. Once you start getting clicks, you want more.  And in order to get more, you have to spend more. Worse yet, to maintain the level of traffic they have, they are forced to maintain their spend.

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of improving the visibility of a website or webpage in a search engine’s organic (unpaid) search results.  What does that mean? It means that visits from organic search results are FREE! Once you get into hiring an agency or a contractor to do your SEO work for you, yes, you’re talking about some major cash flow. But where does SEO start? It starts with good, quality content and you don’t have to be an SEO “guru” to write it.  Any small business is capable of becoming effectively involved in SEO by producing good, keyword focused, quality content on their own without burning holes through their already shallow pockets. But where should they start?

The first thing is to do your research. Find out what keywords are relevant to your product or service and find out what keywords are receiving high search volumes. I like to use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool.  First I plug in the web page I want to optimize without any keyword suggestions and let Google come up with keywords it thinks I should focus on for that page.  Then I’ll start coming up with variations and long-tail forms of those keywords to see what their actual search volume is. Long-tail keywords are more like phrases. Rather than focusing on marketing training I am going to focus on social media marketing training or even social media marketing training in Raleigh.  These two long-tail keywords are going to have lower search volume than marketing training but they’re easier to rank for in search engines and correspond to more niche markets. Once you have your list of keywords you want to focus on, you’re ready to start writing content.

Now going back to PPC, I’m not saying it isn’t a great advertising tool for small businesses; it is – it’s just expensive.  But optimizing your pages for quality, keyword focused content is the first step to getting the most out of your PPC budget.  If your landing pages are keyword optimized for the same keywords you’re bidding on, you’ll increase your quality score, increasing your impressions and improving the position of your ads, therefore, paying less per click.

Here’s the bottom line: the only cost associated with small businesses becoming effectively involved in SEO is the time it takes to write quality, keyword focused content.  If they have the budget for PPC, they have the budget for SEO. PPC, although a great advertising tool, is extremely (and increasingly) expensive when used alone in order to be effective.  To get the most out of your advertising budget it must combined with SEO efforts.

So now that you have my 2 cents, I’d like to know yours. Do you think SEO is futile for small businesses? Leave a comment and let me know your opinion.

Are you a small business that wants to improve your visibility in search results? Have you been outsourcing your SEO work and want to bring it in-house? Check out our Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Boot Camp and learn how to develop a strategy that fits your business, no matter what size or budget. Go a step further and learn how to incorporate PPC into you advertising efforts or become a Google AdWords Certified Professional. Check out our Mastering Google AdWords course for in-depth knowledge and hands-on training to help you achieve greater results from your AdWords campaigns.

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