By Hannah Marr
SEO has become one of the most important aspects of marketing for businesses large and small. Yet for smaller businesses, competing with the top dogs for search results can be tiresome work without very many rewards. In order to better understand how we can make SEO work for small businesses, I reached out to SEO professionals all over the country, and came up with the top 3 SEO challenges facing small businesses and how to solve them.
1. Merging Social and Search
One of the biggest challenges, according to John Colascione, the CEO of Searchen Networks, a search engine optimization firm based out of New York, is “effectively merging the optimization process with social media marketing strategies so that the process of link building is genuine and mixed with well-written, ‘sticky’ news and information that people are willing and eager to share.”
So what exactly constitutes as “sticky” news? “People want something of value,” says Colascione, “They also genuinely want to share. What they don’t want is to consume advertising or share or push that onto anyone else.” Instead of advertising, businesses should focus on producing great content, whether or not it is related to their business or their products. “The content you push,” according to Colascione, “needs to be good, because the better it is, the faster it will travel across the social web.” Colascione adds that this should be done gradually, and in networks where it will reach the most eyes. “Get your content to reach people who have built big connections. One person on Facebook or Twitter who has a lot of friends or followers can send something viral pretty quickly.”
By creating interesting, shareable content, you make it possible for your business to find customers, instead of customers finding your business. Does your business have those loyal regular customers who love your products? Reach out to them via social media and watch as your content is shared across their social networks and finds potential customers who may not have even heard of your business before. Even if you are a new business just getting started, social media can provide a launching point for getting your area buzzing. By offering exclusive deals or discounts, or spreading word about your grand opening, you’ll end up with a social following before you even open your doors.
2. Lack of Immediate Results
Another SEO challenge that small businesses currently face is a lack of immediate results.
Whether your SEO campaign is small or large, it takes time to build momentum and see your search engine visibility improve. Jayme Pretzloff, Online Marketing Director for Wixon Jewelers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, says that small businesses are often discouraged by SEO because of a lack of immediate results. “You get what you give in terms of SEO,” says Pretzleoff, “You can put in a little at a time, and slowly improve in rankings and visibility, or you can go for a full-on campaign and see drastic results.”
Although many small businesses choose the former for their SEO campaigns, Pretzloff says that the blame is not always on the small business owner because he is not presented with realistic goals and a reasonable timeline for reaching those goals. According to Pretzloff, “There are countless SEO hacks in the industry that prey on the naiveté of these owners because they know the owner doesn’t understand what they’re doing.” However, Pretzloff maintains that small businesses should not give up on SEO despite these challenges. “The fantastic thing about SEO is it is completely scaleable and adaptable to any business model and in any budget.”
In order to help boost your site’s SEO, begin by researching the keywords that you want to rank for. Create content with these key words, but be careful not to stuff your content with these words. Google has natural language algorithms that can catch a page purposefully stuffed with key words and will penalize your page for this. Instead, write naturally and work hard for organic results, as these mean more in the long run. It also helps to have your key words in your URL, as a part of your title, and in headings in the body. The search engine crawlers use these parts of your webpage to determine what the page is about, and if they do not properly reflect your key words you will have a much harder time ranking for them.
3. Getting Customers to Commit
According to Ross Hudgens, Digital Marketing Consultant at Ross Hudgens Digital Marketing based out of Seattle, Washington, the biggest challenge in SEO is getting clients to implement a strict content strategy. “Google’s Penguin Update has forced business to actually have a connection between links and the content they have on-page, so the trouble has been to get businesses to change that kind of strategy, which is impossible to do overnight,” Hudgens says.
His advice to small companies is to invest in smaller strategies, “Like getting listed locally, leveraging writing skills to get published on other sites, and also leveraging established competencies from outside agencies to build links through white hat methods such as guest posting.” However, these kinds of practices takes time, which we already have determined can deter and frustrate small businesses. In order to solve this problem, Hudgens offers a compromise: “The ideal compromise can sometimes be to use a good agency,” he says, but adds that they must “spend a lot, a lot of time finding the right agency to do the work for them.”
Even though SEO can be a complicated and time-consuming practice, when utilized correctly it can spell big gains for your business. Despite SEO being dominated by large corporations with big budgets, small businesses can still get results by optimizing their sites for long-tail searches and localized key words, as well as by becoming a driving force in social sharing and connecting with customers.
Hannah Marr is the Content Director for http://www.bizbrag.com BizBrag, a small business marketing platform. BizBrag helps small businesses, enterprises, and franchises to push their content to a larger customer base through social media and search engines. Hannah develops content for these businesses and would love to help your small business, enterprise, or franchise to reach a wider audience through BizBrag technology. You can also visit the BizBrag Blog for more information about http://www.bizbrag.wordpress.com