Why Small Businesses Should Take A Closer Look at SEO

By Nina Anthony | September 10, 2010

As companies search for ways to spend their limited marketing resources more efficiently, more and more businesses are shifting their focus from traditional mass media spending to online media. Anyone picking up a newspaper or magazine in the last few months can see the effects of big companies trimming the fat from their traditional advertising dollars. Newspapers and magazines seem to be wasting away as their advertising revenues dwindle. In uncertain times, one thing is certain: smart companies are relying more on inbound marketing strategies such as search engine optimization (SEO) and social media to save money and create revenues.

Top 4 Benefits of Internet Marketing

1. Cost. Traditional offline advertising simply isn’t as cost effective as internet marketing. You can advertise and promote your brand online without spending extensively.

2. Measurability. You can measure the impact of your advertising strategy and return on investment (ROI).

3. Flexibility. Changes can be made quickly so you can fine tune your marketing strategy to improve performance.

4. Precise Targeting. Online marketing provides you with unprecedented capacities to target potential customers who are actively seeking your goods or services. Immediate access to detailed descriptions about your company and its offerings can help customers make quick decisions and contact you at the exact moment they’re ready to buy.

What’s the Best Recession Marketing Mix for Small Business Websites?

The primary reason behind the growing appeal of Pay-Per-Click advertising is that you pay only for search ads that result in a click-through rather than paying per impression. The value of a search-based “click-through” can easily be calculated by the impact on sales. Still, depending on your industry, it can be tough for small businesses to compete with bigger companies with deeper pockets.

If you don’t know have the time or the knowledge to invest in the rigorous management of AdWords campaigns, PPC can be a huge waste of money. It’s not uncommon to waste anywhere between 10% and 40% of your pay-per-click budget on non-productive ads if you’re not monitoring your ad spending carefully.

While paid search is inherently more valuable than traditional media advertising, and it’s a great way to drive traffic quickly to a new website, SEO provides an even better value for small businesses. It may take a bit longer to provide measurable results, but SEO gives you more bang for your buck in the long term.

SEO: A Strong Strategy for the Weak Economy

Aside from an initial upfront investment to either pay for professional SEO services or to learn how to optimize your website yourself, SEO costs little more than time. You don’t have to keep paying for every user who comes to your site because you’re getting your traffic through natural search engine results.

SEO also enables you to reach a larger proportion of the search universe because more users click on natural results than paid listings. A study conducted by Jupiter Research found that 6 out of 7 clicks are from organic search listings as opposed to Pay-Per-Click or sponsored ad listings. Today’s search savvy internet users recognize the difference between paid and natural listings and hold natural listings in higher regard. A study by eMarketer found 7 out of 10 Google users cite natural search listings as more relevant than paid ads.

Another study, conducted by comScore Inc., a leader in measuring the digital world, shows that the search market is far from saturated. In its monthly analysis of search queries, comScore found that Google saw a healthy increase in the number of search queries on its core U.S. search engine in January 2009. Google’s query growth rate was 38.4%, outpacing the industry’s overall 28.6% growth in search queries. This seems to confirm what has occurred in past recessions: that even in the darkest of times, business goes on and people continue to buy and sell.

Social Media: Broad Reach for Little to No Cost

Social media, otherwise known as Web 2.0, has given businesses the opportunity to share knowledge like never before. It gives you the power to influence the opinions and actions of customers while giving your customers virtually unlimited access to the information you share.

Best of all, unlike traditional outbound marketing, in which you have to buy space in print media or airtime on broadcast media, the social Web has created an almost endless array of distribution channels to directly reach and influence consumers – many of which are free.

So, what are some of the ways your small business can participate in this increasingly social world of consumer-business mass collaboration?

  • Utilize social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc., to connect with your peers, customers, and influencers (people who submit high-quality content to social media sites regularly and who have a strong following of friends, fans, and supporters as a result)
  • Create a Fan Page for your company on Facebook so that prospective and current customers can stay updated about your business and you can gain instant feedback from your customers about your products or services.)
  • Create a blog if you don’t already have one and syndicate it with an RSS feed so that subscribers will automatically receive new posts. Blogs are an extremely effective way to interact with your customers and strengthen company-client relationships. (Creating a personal bond with your customers is even more important during tough economic times to help set your company apart.) Blogs that have interesting content and that are updated regularly are also a good way to attract inbound links, which in turn attracts search engines.
  • Write and publish articles and online press releases. Google “submit article” to find suitable article directories that publish original articles to help build backlinks and traffic to your website. When you have something newsworthy to share about your company, service or products, write an optimized press release for online distribution and submit it to some of the free and subscription-based online newswire services.
  • Participate in social news sites like Digg, Reddit, Mixx, and/or niche social news sites that cater to a narrower topic or industry-focused audience. Submit original articles or share links to articles that you think resonate most with the social community of users. Keep in mind that before you can promote your company brand, you have to build your personal brand in the community as a thought leader. Establishing an influential reputation on broad-focus social media sites like Digg can be a powerful asset if you are selling services or consultation.
  • Take advantage of video search to build your brand. The popularity of videos provides you with another low-cost opportunity for spreading your marketing message online. According to the latest search engine numbers from comScore released on February 17, 2009, video search on YouTube now accounts for 25% of all Google search queries in the U.S. Be sure to weigh the benefits of hosting your video exclusively on your site to attract the most traffic and link juice versus uploading your video on 3rd party sites, such as YouTube, MetaCafe, and social networking sites, which will allow more people to see your video, but may cannibalize your link juice if people link to these sites rather than your own site.

The bottom line is that every business should have a social media strategy designed around the needs and interests of its customers. Success in social media and SEO comes from a long-term commitment to continually publishing high-quality, relevant content that earns links and dramatically improves your probability of ranking for keywords on major search engines. Yes, it takes time, but if you’re diligent about creating and sharing quality content, it’s well worth it in terms of your ROI.

Is your website optimized for search and social media? For information about WESST’s affordable SEO and social media consulting services for small businesses request a one-on-one business consulting appointment via the WESST website.

About the Author

Nina Anthony

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