If you run a small business, chances are good you’ve heard about countless small biz magazines and blogs tout the benefits of SEO. Unfortunately, and despite all the buzz, there is precious little information about what search engine optimization is and entails, and how you can go about jumping on the bandwagon. What little information does filter through to most business owners is either so technical as to be completely useless, or so watered down that it is mostly incorrect. What’s a small biz owner to do?
Let’s Define SEO
The basic premise is that search engines, Google in particular, uses a set group of “signals” to determine how they order results for any given search.
Since 35% of all searchers click on the top result of a Google search, and 95% never make it off the first page of results, it makes sense that you want your website to show up at the top for searches that are relevant to your business. SEO is the art and science of figuring out which signals Google uses, how your website stacks up to others who are competing for those results, and how those signals can be tweaked and enhanced to get you to the top. This should not be mistaken for SEM (search engine marketing), which is the practice of paying for ad space above or next to search results.
So, is the buzz real?
Do you need SEO? Probably. If you don’t yet, you will shortly when your competitors begin taking a serious shot at getting to the top of rankings. Search is a zero-sum game: if you aren’t in the top 3 results, you are going to get a tiny fraction of clicks. How tiny?
The number one result on Google gets 3 times as many clicks as the number 3 result, and 6 times as many clicks as every result past the first page put together.
In fact, simply moving up from the first result on page 2 to the 10th result on page 1 will boost your traffic by 143%. The numbers are clear: if you want to get any significant number of web leads, you need SEO.
“I Get Most of My Business Leads from Referrals”
This is probably the most common objection my SEO agency gets when dealing with new prospects, and generally runs along the lines of “I don’t need SEO because I get most of my leads through referrals/my sales team/print advertising.” And my answer is always the same: “Of course you do. You haven’t done any SEO and your website is nowhere to be found.” It’s akin to expecting to get leads from print ads without actually taking out any ads.
The deeper objection here is the assumption that no one is looking online for the service you offer, either because it is too specialized, too personal, or too expensive. It’s a fine notion, but falls apart after a little research. Let’s take a couple of common objectors and see for ourselves*:
1) My Business is Too Specialized
CNC machining: most people have no idea what a CNC machine is, yet using Microsoft’s AdCenter, we see that there are over 50,000 searches a month for this and related keywords.
2) My Service is Too Personal
Home health care for dementia sufferers: this is obviously a very personal decision, and one that is probably based on trusted referrals, right? Again, over 50k searches are done each month.
3) My Product is Too Expensive
Home builders/contractors: certainly no one would trust a 6-figure purchase to the web, right? Yet, close to 300,000 searchers a month do just that.
The point of these examples is that no matter what you do, people are out there looking for you on the web. If you manage to capture even a tiny fraction of those results, how much is that worth for your business?
SEO routinely tops marketers’ lists of highest ROI techniques, and as more people move to the web, it becomes increasingly more cost effective. More importantly, it’s a constant, “always-on” form of marketing. Instead of waiting for referrals or constantly renewing print ads, you have a fairly steady, predictable stream of leads coming in: for small businesses, this escape away from the boom/bust cycle of many start-ups is the critical missing step between start-up mode and a serious, self-sustaining company.
Lauren Fairbanks is a Partner at Stunt and Gimmick’s. Stunt and Gimmick’s is a content marketing firm that helps companies build thought leadership, educate prospective buyers and convert leads into customers. Stunt and Gimmick’s works with companies to develop an editorial voice, plan and execute content, and help share it throughout the global web to generate buzz, educate buyers and increase search engine rankings.
*Examples are for any age/income range searchers speaking English in the US, as tallied by
Microsoft AdCenter. Keep in mind, Google gets about twice the monthly searches as Bing.