The Yellow pages has gone the way of the dinosaur, yet many small business owners still rely on it to attract new business. A more effective strategy and one growing in popularity with businesses of all sizes is search engine optimization or SEO.
The idea behind SEO is to have your business show up high in the search results when people are doing an Internet query. Since most people use the Internet to research products and services before buying, having your business appear in the first page of the results can increase the chances of getting new business. Seems like a no brainer right? But the costs and complexity of launching a SEO strategy leaves many business owners sitting on the sidelines.
“If you're selling products or services and have an older demographic that may still use Yellow pages, or may be receptive to other traditional forms of marketing such as direct mailers, etc., then it's still quite possible to thrive,” says Sean Bolton, co-founder and Chief Executive of online marketing company Lead To Conversion.“However, if you're selling products and services and your target audience references online resources with great frequency, then the probability of ‘thriving’ diminishes.”
Not only will SEO get your business found by potential customers, but Julie Joyce, owner of Link Fish Media says it can help generate clicks to your website, which will hopefully turn into paid customers.
Many small businesses who want to launch an SEO strategy will hire a firm to handle it for them. According to Bolton, it can cost anywhere from $500 a month to more than $3,000 a month. While price will dictate which SEO firm a small business goes with, Bolton says business owners have to carefully choose the company they work with.
Bolton says he’s consulted many small business owners who are on their second, third or even fourth SEO company, which means they are throwing away money in their quest to build their brand.
It’s also a bad idea to shop on price alone.
“It is important to remember you are looking for the best service and highest level of expertise to drive results,” says Eric Schiffer, CEO of DigitalMarketing.com. “There are companies that promise cheap/quick fixes but they are usually black hat at best and only result in temporary results that can later get you penalized. A great SEO team will be bring top strategic counsel.”
If you are going to do it on your own, experts say the first thing you want to do is set up Google Alerts to track how often you and your business are mentioned on the Internet. You also want to look at your current search results and, according to Schiffer, ask yourself if the titles and descriptions found in the search results are compelling enough to get someone to click on your link. Answer no and he says you have to update and rewrite them.
It’s also a good idea to keep your Website fresh with new content and to embrace social media.
“If you don’t have a LocalYahoo! page or a Google+ page for your business, you are literally invisible to hundreds and potentially thousands of online users in your area,” says Schiffer. “These items are free to register and build, and you can give your website some valuable site links from authoritative domains by linking your site to your local listings.”
According to Joyce, another way to improve your standing in search queries is to make your content easy to share on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Let’s say you have a blog but don’t have an easy way for people to share what you wrote. That means fewer people will read and know about your business.
“By taking the time to add some social buttons to each blog post you are automatically increasing the odds that you'll generate more traffic,” she says.
At the end of the day, one of the best ways to optimize your search engine results is to think about how people are searching for your products and services and make sure those keywords are included on your website. According to experts, you want page titles that incorporate the main keyword phrases -- and have those keywords embedded in the content of the Website.