SEO advice for small business

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve most certainly heard all about the importance of SEO. It’s not enough that you already wear 20 different hats to run your business. You’re also being told that you need to be a whiz at internet marketing. So let’s say you actually find yourself with some free time, and you decide, “Hey, let’s research this SEO thing today.” You throw on your new SEO hat and start researching the ABCs of SEO.

What is SEO?

To begin with, what is SEO, exactly? Clicking away at the keyboard, you find no shortage of articles on the topic. You’re not surprised to find that SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization. Sounds about right. Reading on, you learn that SEO is an internet marketing strategy that involves editing content and code in order to increase visibility and ranking in search engine results. This gives you some pause, but you press on. You discover that SEO is inextricably linked to web coding. Terms like backlinks, inbound links, keywords, heading tags, and HTML dominate your research.

At this point, most will say “oh I see, no thank you,” drop mic, and walk away. Understandable. But let’s say you’re actually intrigued by coding and the vast workings and mysteries of the internet. Maybe you even created your own website and you’re familiar with HTML & CSS. As fascinated by SEO as you might be, you inevitably come to the realization that tackling this sort of pursuit isn’t the best use of your time. Afterall, you’re running a small business. You can’t exactly let the other hats become dusty.

Who will do this online marketing hoopla?

So now you think about the viability of adding online marketing to the manager’s role, or the assistant manager’s role, or someone, anyone’s role. Then you remember that your best employee for the job already juggles 10-12 hats and just might quit at the mere suggestion of a new SEO hat. Not many small businesses are in the position to hire a marketing team, or even one full-time marketing employee.

If a business can financially justify even one marketing employee, this candidate needs to be proficient in front-end web design, email marketing, social media marketing, and SEO. This employee extraordinaire also needs to be skilled in design, specifically the design of quality digital media, graphics, and ideally, print design. Not only should the employee know how to use a variety of complicated design software applications, it’s also necessary to have a solid understanding of design principles. Graphic design is a skill that typically develops through years of quality art education. I have serious regret that I didn’t select Graphic Design as my undergraduate major. There are still days when I spend several hours on a design project that rightfully ends up in the Macbook cyber trash.

Outsourcing SEO

Okay, so maybe you decide that you can’t justify adding marketing to your payroll after all. What’s your next move? Outsourcing. Of course. Brilliant. Outsourcing is essential for business growth. SEO outsourcing makes good sense. So you call up a recommended marketing firm, and when they nonchalantly mention the price, you explain that you will have to think it over with an uncharacteristic squeak in your voice. Hanging up the phone, you wonder if you’re having a stroke. Then you rationalize that they must be a fancy pants marketing firm. You don’t need fancy pants. You pull yourself together and call more marketing agencies. Call after call, however, you fill up your notepad with spirit-crushing information, big numbers, and scary doodles. It turns out that all of the marketing companies deliver a ballpark figure of, “you’ve got to be kidding me?”

SEO Isn’t For Me

What do you conclude? “SEO isn’t for me. SEO, clearly, is not for the small business.” To some degree, you’re kind of right. Let me be clear, though. SEO is very important for the small business. Accessibility is the problem. SEO isn’t budget-friendly. The industry is booming and it focuses on corporations and big companies—big budgets. We live in a tech-savvy world. The internet has become bigger than anyone could have imagined. It’s no wonder that SEO is revered and rewarded with big money. Maybe there are affordable SEO freelancers out there, but I haven’t heard about them. That said, don’t go and toss SEO out with the bath water. You just need to think creatively. Think smart. Think big picture. Think macro, and then go back in for the right micro. Good luck!

No, no, I kid, I’m not done yet. I want to leave you with hope, with some small business SEO advice. There are many branches to SEO. I want you think about the “content” branch.

Think SEO Content | Think Blog

Scenario #1: You already maintain a blog, and you post frequently. Guess what? That’s amazing! You already rock. I bet you’ve seen results. If you haven’t considered an SEO strategy for your blog, then you can do even better. My advice to you is to research a few SEO Blogging Tips, and then edit your blog for SEO. A small chunk of your time will yield substantial results—results being more readers, which are, of course, more potential customers.

Scenario #2: You already set up a blog, wrote 2-3 blog posts, and then promptly forgot all about it. When you remembered it, you were too busy or too uninspired to return to the pesky thing. This scenario is quite popular, so don’t feel bad if this is you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this with my own art blog. If you feel inspired right now, then dust that sucker off, and get to it! See scenario #1 regarding SEO Blogging Tips.

Or, brace yourself, make a definitive decision not to maintain a blog. Which is totally okay! If you try to force it, you might get through 1-2 more arduous entries, and then it’ll wane, and you’ll feel guilty about it all over again. You’re back in the Blog Wasteland. Don’t torture yourself. However, you don’t need to give up on SEO. If you like to blog occasionally, consider guest blogging on a site related to your business or on a local media website. This way you don’t have a sporadic blog (which looks unprofessional) and you gain the “SEO benefits of linking back to your own website” from a reputable site, which gains big points with search engines.

Scenario #3: Does writing a blog, or writing at all, sound about as unappealing as, well, the word blog? Be honest with yourself. If one of your chakras seized up at the thought of blog writing, you should probably let yourself off the hook. Instead, consider hiring an SEO Content Writer. This specialized writer can write about your business (or a topic related to your business), edit and optimize for search engines, and then link to your website and social media sites—again, big points with search engine ranking.

If you’re unsure about trying this kind of marketing, take a moment to compare the expense and visibility of an ad space versus a good SEO article. It may be worth giving the SEO article a chance. There are far more benefits to an SEO content piece than to an advertisement block that usually ends up in an awkward place, and then screams, “Hey, come spend money here! Because I said so!”

SEO Content Writing

SEO is essential for every business, including the small business. In fact, it can be argued that SEO is particularly effective for the localized small business because of Local SEO Benefits. The problem with most SEO marketing agencies is that their strategy has been designed for big business. Not only is it too pricey for the small business marketing budget, the strategy is actually less effective. Think macro, then back to micro. The small business has much to gain from SEO content in the form of blogs (online articles or journal entries). Posting frequently is where it’s at. If you post occasionally, consider guest blogging. If you’d rather not blog at all, then absolutely give a shout out to an SEO content writer.

Thressa Willett is a freelance writer specializing in SEO content writing. She also writes for the Portland Buzz, a media website that provides quality content and exposure for businesses in and around Portland, Maine.