Bob Bly, copywriting guru, asks if small businesses can really compete in SEO. He says:
A bigger company can afford to dedicate one or more employees full-time to each of these major tasks. For instance, I know a company with a full-time staff person who does nothing but seek incoming links, one of the steps in SEO.
And my answer is, “Hell yes, small businesses can compete!”
Scads of small businesses give up on SEO because they figure that the big boys dominate the landscape. And in some cases, it’s true.
For instance, some publishers and large brands have, as Bob mentioned, large teams that measure their SEO results down to the penny. They know what works, when it works, and have a rocking in-house or outsourced staff that makes it happen.
However, many, many companies — and again, I’m talking big brands here — are totally messed up. Even with an in-house team, they have a poor site design, dismal copy and they ignore SEO’s “low hanging foundational fruit.” Instead of getting all their pages in Google’s index, they argue about the latest site design or technical tweak. They don’t do SEO as much as they talk about it.
That leaves lots of room for their small-business competitors.
But here’s the deal: If you are a small business and want to compete in the SEO space, you have to take responsibility. You can’t figure that the “economy is bad,” or “you’ll get to it later,” or “maybe you can trade with a SEO company someday.” Just like with any other marketing play, you have to take priority and make it happen.
Here are some ideas:
If it’s totally overwhelming, outsource it. Yes, this costs money. And yes, you may not have money to spare. But think about how much it’s costing you to not have a SEO campaign in place. Many of the top experts have small-business rates, and there are other SEOs that focus exclusively on small business. This is a good solution for businesses who want faster results and everything done correctly the first time.
Hire an expert for training and strategy. This can be a smart move for companies that have a hard time learning from books (or can’t translate what they read to their own site.) The expert would strategize a master SEO plan, plus teach you the basics as they apply to your site. The nice thing about this solution is, after the training, the owners/principals of the company know what SEO tasks to do and when to do them — and can train other folks to take over some responsibilities.
Read everything you can about search. This is probably the clunkiest option. There is a lot of misleading information on forums that is still promoted as “fact.” Additionally, what works for one site may not work for your site, so it’s smart to take all advice with a grain of salt. However, there are some good resources out there for the do-it-yourselfer.
Find a niche. This is where thinking out of the box can be incredibly profitable. What do you offer that’s decidedly different? How can you compete with less competitive — yet incredibly targeted — keyphrases? Yes, you may need to hire someone to help you ponder your profitable opportunities. However, the right keyword niche can help you dominate in markets where your larger counterparts can’t (or won’t) compete.
Here are some great resources for the DIY SEO:
- Jennifer Cario’s “Small Business Guide to Search Engine Marketing.” Jennifer has been in the search world a long, long time, and has written an easy-to-understand guide for newbie search marketers.
- Search Engine Optimization in One Hour a Day.” This book helps you break your SEO into bite-sized chunks so it’s not so dreadfully overwhelming all the time.
- Danny Sullivan’s SearchEngineLand. As the “Godfather of Search,” Danny’s site (along with Chris Sherman of Searchwise and a host of other experts) give folks the straight scoop on everything search marketing. Although this may be a tad overwhelming for newbies, everything you want to know about search is bundled into this uber-informational site.
So, small businesses — don’t get discouraged. Get excited. Sure, you can’t beat big business all the time. But you can take a bite out of their market share and send it your way. There’s always something a small business can do, even with a tight schedule or a tighter budget. Stop the excuses and start your SEO process. As a friend of mine likes to say, “Get ‘er done.” And start (finally) seeing some SEO success.