WESST Teaches the ABCs of SEO

It’s hard to imagine that just a decade ago, most small businesses couldn’t see why they would ever need to have a website. Fast forward to 2008—with more than 30 billion web pages indexed by Google alone—and the question for small businesses isn’t whether or not to have a website, but how to get found.

A new WESST consulting program, called ezSEO, is helping small businesses do just that by teaching them the techniques and strategies of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is an ongoing process that enhances both the search engine and user friendliness of a website. The objective is to increase both the volume and quality of traffic to a site so that it is not only easy to find, but more likely to convert a visitor into a customer.

Ideally, SEO starts before a website is even built, but more often than not, SEO work is conducted on an existing website. This involves tweaking everything from visible on-page content to the behind-the-scenes architecture and coding of a site that determines its crawlability by search engine spiders.

“SEO isn’t a one-time fix or magic bullet,” explains Clare Zurawski, director for WESST’s ezSEO program. “It combines many processes—from developing a keyword strategy that targets the right online consumers to promoting your site on an ongoing basis to attract quality inbound links from related websites.”

While many website owners perceive SEO as a highly technical procedure that only programmers and web developers can understand and only large companies can afford, Zurawski says that once the essential practices of SEO are laid out and explained, SEO isn’t nearly as intimidating.

“Education is integral to WESST’s underlying philosophy. Our ezSEO service provides our clients with a step-by-step action plan to help them put our recommendations into practice—for a fraction of the cost of what most search engine marketing firms charge.”

Prices range from $75.00 for a basic 30-minute site review to $849.00 for a comprehensive written report that includes everything from keyword research (compiled from actual search engine database statistics) to identifying content, coding, navigation, and internal and external linking issues that could be hindering the search engines’ ability to index and rank one’s site.

Special discounts are available for rural businesses willing to track and share their results with WESST, thanks in part to a Rural Business Opportunities Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “SEO offers rural small business owners a tremendous opportunity to put their brand in front of millions of people worldwide,” says Zurawski. Agnes Chavez, founder of Sube, a Spanish and ESL language learning curriculum based in El Prado, New Mexico, couldn’t agree more.

“When I approached WESST to optimize my site, I was making zero dollars from my site. After the first round of changes recommended on my ezSEO report I saw an exponential sales increase from month to month.” Chavez says that her web site currently generates close to 50% of her revenue.

Today, www.Sube.com consistently ranks on the first page of results for targeted keyword phrases such as “elementary Spanish curriculum” and “elementary ESL curriculum.” “I moved from no placement for the term ‘ESL curriculum’ to top rankings in a matter of weeks,” Chavez said. “Optimizing my site has helped me attract traffic from all over the world. There’s no doubt that ezSEO is responsible for the huge income increase that I am experiencing.”

Daven Lee owns a home-based rural business in Glorieta, New Mexico, where she makes handmade soaps and salves using goat’s milk and honey. She credits her ezSEO report with helping her expand her market beyond the limits of her community. “I’m thrilled with the depth of information I received in my report,” said Lee, noting the rapid rise of her Google rankings after making some simple changes to her home page that had been preventing search engines from indexing her site.

“A strong web presence is critical in today’s world,” says Julie Brown, owner of Tours of Old Town in Albuquerque. “WESST’s ezSEO program helped me understand how my clients search for my product online and showed me easy steps I could take to ensure that they find me before my competition.”

Lee and Brown were part of WESST’s pilot ezSEO program, funded in part by a grant from the Ms.Foundation, in which 69% of participants experienced at least a 30% increase in traffic within one year.

Several studies have shown that SEO is a top performing marketing tactic for driving online sales. With the recent series of pronouncements that the U.S. economy is heading for a recession, Zurawski believes more marketers will allocate their budget to SEO where they will get the best return on advertising investment. “Opportunity is wide open for those willing to invest in this simple, yet highly effective marketing technique.” For more information about ezSEO visit www.wesst.org call Clare Zurawski at 505.241.4767.

WESST is a statewide non-profit economic development organization headquartered in Albuquerque with offices in Santa Fe, Gallup, Rio Rancho, Roswell and Las Cruces. The organization provides training, technical assistance and loan funds to entrepreneurs. For further information, please call 505-241-0794.