“Wait – What?” is probably what you’re saying right now.
Trust me, I get it.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important phenomenon in the business marketing landscape.
It’s the thing most businesses – particularly those with an online presence – are talking about. In fact, for many of these businesses, SEO is synonymous with online marketing.
The advantages of SEO are undeniable. Increased site traffic, brand awareness, site usability, and more sales can all result from a solid SEO strategy. Any business would want these results.
I meet with clients often from businesses small and large and they all tell me the same thing. Either they want to be number one in the search results for a set of chosen keywords or they want to increase their organic rankings in the search results pages.
Bottom line is that they want to be ranked high – if not first – in search results and rely on SEO as a key method in generating new leads.
Good Marketing Gets Us Every Time
A small business simply can’t afford to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars and not see immediate results. This is one of the main reasons why I advise small businesses to NOT start their online marketing with SEO.
To put it more clearly, small business should avoid SEO – initially. I’m going to give a few reasons why.
1. SEO Is Not Free
As I started to lay out above – SEO is not free.
Think about it: Most small businesses, especially new businesses, need assistance with planning, executing and managing their SEO strategy. They have to pay someone or some service company to help them.
Then the question becomes – how long will they need help? What we know to be true about SEO is that increasing a ranking within a search engine doesn’t happen overnight.
It can take a few months to increase search rankings. I’ve seen businesses wait six months before seeing a rise in their ranking. In a few instances, I’ve seen businesses wait a year or more before benefitting. And for those businesses in very competitive industries – it can take years before they begin to see results from SEO.
For those months or years that a small business is paying for help – and ideally good help – the fact remains that they’re paying. So now, what was marketed as free traffic is actually not at all free.
In contrast, a small business can opt not to pay for SEO as a service and go at it alone. However, that small business would have to invest a lot of time into optimizing their website, getting links, adding fresh content, abiding by Google’s rules, etc. to increase their rankings within the search results.
This will take a lot of time and for a small business owner, time is never free.
2. SEO Takes Time
I want to emphasize and provide an example of the time factor as it pertains to SEO. I worked with a client who needed to market his law firm online. The law industry is one of the most competitive industries – in addition to financial services – online. It took this client four years to start seeing results from the firm’s SEO campaign.
That’s 48 months of continual search engine optimization efforts before climbing the search rankings. That’s 48 months of waiting to attract leads. 48 months before realizing results. Again, the law industry is competitive online but 48 months of waiting to see results is something most small businesses can’t afford.
SEO is a long-term strategy; it takes time to see results.
Most small businesses can’t afford to wait a couple of months or years to see results. They need to see results, leads and sales as quickly as possible. They need to see things happening right now.
Considering statistics for small businesses, almost 60% don’t make it to the 5-year mark. Waiting months, 2 years or 48 months for SEO results to materialize is not an option for small businesses. It is why I do not recommend that small businesses start off with SEO as their method or strategy for generating new leads and sales.
3. SEO Is Unpredictable
Don’t you hate when rules change? Better yet – don’t you hate when rules change while you’re playing a game? What if the rules changed and no one has told you?
When it comes to SEO marketing, the rules are bound to change. It’s happened in the past; it will happen in the future.
You can invest all this time, resources and money into SEO and one day you’ll learn that Google changed its algorithm – AGAIN. Yesterday your site ranked high (or number one) for one or a set of keywords and today upon typing in that keyword you’ll find your site on the 2nd or 3rd page of the search engine results.
Just like that, your business website was knocked down and now you are behind a bunch of other competitive businesses. Even worse is that your business website can be knocked out of search engine results altogether. This has happened to hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses.
SEO is unpredictable and your rankings can change on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis. Small businesses need consistency and predictability. SEO cannot be the primary method for attracting leads and sales for a small business.
A small business relying on SEO as a key strategy of attracting traffic and leads, especially if they perceive it as “free” traffic, will find itself burned if there is an unpredictable algorithm change that results in no visibility, no leads and therefore no sales.
4. Good Help Is Hard To Find
It’s difficult for businesses, especially small businesses, to find good SEO service companies.
I talked a lot about the time required for great SEO execution. The reason being is that it requires a great amount of effort to optimize a website for SEO. You have to invest time into keyword research to know what keywords people use that relate to your business service or product. Then you have to integrate those keywords into your code and webpages.
Next you have to ensure that good content, such as articles, blogs, e-Books, whitepapers, infographics, etc. is on the website. You have to keep content fresh, create additional pages within the website when necessary, and possibly maintain frequent blogs than have at least 1200 to 1500 words.
And it’s not just about creating content for the sake of it (or just to throw in keywords) – you need valuable and engaging content that your audience likes and shares.
Your content has to resonate; it has to convert.
Finding a SEO service company committed to helping small business with all that’s required to deliver the desired SEO results is challenging.
For one thing, small businesses typically can only afford to spend a couple hundred dollars per month for SEO as a service. As a result, small businesses contract with SEO service companies that charge them between $100-$300 per month and the likelihood that these service companies will do all that’s required for optimal SEO is very low.
There are, of course, exceptional SEO service companies that can do it all, but they are more expensive and, therefore, not affordable for most small businesses.
If Not SEO, Then What?
Instead of SEO, my recommendation for small businesses is simple:
Pay to Play – Invest in Paid Advertising.
Small businesses need to drive site traffic and generate leads quickly. The best way to accomplish this is through paid ads. So as an alternative to SEO, Google AdWords is the most effective method for small businesses looking to increase their visibility and generate leads within search engines.
There are a few reasons why I recommend Google AdWords for small businesses.
One, it’s easy for small business to track what will drive online marketing results. With AdWords, business advertisers investing in the platform are able to see what keywords potential customers are using. For a small business, this is huge. Knowing the keywords that are most likely to convert into actual clicks, phone calls, emails and ultimately sales is critical.
The second reason is speed. Once a business has set up a Google AdWords account, chosen desired keywords and is ready to launch ad messages, they can immediately appear within the search engine results. In fact, their ad can potentially land at the top spot on the first page of the search engine results pages (SERPs). There’s no waiting for months or years like with SEO. The speed of acquiring leads through paid search ads can have a profound impact on small businesses.
Third is flexibility. Businesses can start their paid search ad campaign when they’re ready. They can also pause or stop the campaign whenever they need to. Suppose a business needs to make a few website changes for whatever reason. Instead of paying for ads that drive to the website while it’s in transition, the business can pause their paid ad promotions for the necessary time period.
Finally, Google AdWords is scalable. You can start with any budget and scale at any time. Small businesses starting with a few hundred dollars per month can eventually invest more once they get better insight into what keywords, ad messages, landing pages, etc. are driving the best results.
Investing more provides increased targeting capabilities, which then helps small businesses attract more customers to grow. Targeting with Google AdWords offers more precision than SEO. Small businesses can target by zip code, city or state or even within a radius of either three options. SEO doesn’t offer this type of flexibility.
Once small businesses learn what works and drives profit from their Google AdWords campaign, they can enhance their long-term SEO strategy. They’ve seen what keywords work and can now incorporate the right keywords into their websites. I’ve seen many businesses run SEO-only campaigns and make attempts to guess about what keywords to use. Insights from Google AdWords takes out the guesswork.
Starting with Google AdWords is the way to go for small businesses. They can immediately get to market and drive results. They can use what they learn to optimize their SEO strategy, reducing the time spent to increase their organic ranking.
If all of this is done well, a small business now has the chance of appearing 2-3 times, through paid and eventually organic marketing, on the first page of search engine results for their most profitable keywords.
This is the right approach for small businesses marketing within search engines. This is a strategy that can lead to a positive snowball effect for most small businesses.