Small Business Marketing and the ubiquity of SEO

Ed Marsh | Sep 12, 2012

Small business marketing?

What's a workable definition of small business? The SBA has different guidelines by industry, but generally the number of employees can't exceed 1,500 and revenue must be below $21.5 million.

My definition?  A company that's chronically understaffed and under capitalized - or put more succinctly, one where everyone is working their tail off trying to keep up, and never quite has the time or cash to fully fund and support critical business initiatives.  That's reality for most businesses.  It's simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting.

But here's the rub - two many small businesses shortchange themselves by never reaching out to get the external help that could really help them achieve breakout success.  And sadly, sometimes when they do, they end up engaging the "friend of a friend" who sounds knowledgeable....you know where that's going.

The SEO "black box"

small business marketingSearch engine optimization, and marketing in general often fall into this category. And the "website designer" who professes expertise in both is as likely to under-deliver results as the SEO expert who doesn't understand how his discipline actually fits into broader inbound marketing.

Let's start with some basic truths of small business marketing (because for most companies marketing now means on-line in one form or another, and rarely brand building specifically)
  1. SEO as a stand-alone discipline is dead. 
  2. Google won’t spend much time discussing the trend, but Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is on life support. 
Here are a couple important facts:
  1. Organic search results get the clicks 94% of the time.  Pay-per-click (the paid ads that show up when you search in the colored box to the top or right) get clicked only 6% of the time.  That means you can't buy your way in now - there's no alternative but doing the grunt work.
  2. Success in organic searches now depends on Google’s judgment of your content relevance.  What’s relevance and how’s it established?  That remains a bit of a black box.  But they have given a number of hints and we know that they assign priority by considering factors including:
    1. Relevance of content – it’s got to really be about what you say it is – and inbound links (other people who link to your content) from various sources figure prominently in this rating
    2. Volume of content – if relevance is assumed, then greater volume wins
    3. Freshness of content – if you aren’t continuously adding more, fresh, relevant content then you will slip
    4. Variety of content – not just static webpages, but blog articles, infographics, webinars, slideshare presentations and especially video are all forms of content – and some carry lots of weight
    5. Fabric of content – islands of content are of little value; a fabric woven from all your forms, speaking in the voice and style of your target customer persona, is the only really effective strategy – and consistent optimization against specific long-tail keywords (not just a single word but rather a phrase or question) must pervade all content
Have you noticed a theme here?  Content? It will make you or bury you, and as the saying goes "The Devil is in the Details."  If you try to learn this as you go along the way you did business finance?  At least the marketing police can't bang on you the way the IRS could, but the market may be even more brutal....and you won't have an accountant to help you pick up the pieces. 

"Content" 

That’s the backbone of any effort to rank well in searches now….and ultimately ranking well in searches is the amazing equalizing opportunity that companies of any size have now.  Do this right, and you can compete effectively against anyone.  Period.

Here’s the “but”…creating a successful inbound marketing program is hard work.  It takes time – in creating the right strategy; in routinely creating effective content; and in duration until the amazing results become apparent.

If you want “tangible results” immediately, book another trade show, offer an iPad, and collect business cards in your fishbowl.  If you want to grow your business, commit to a year, engage a partner who can support you with the work that takes time but doesn’t require your particular expertise, and prepare to look back in a year and chuckle.

But don’t fall prey to “geek speak” – your marketing dollars are too precious to waste on hocus pocus that delivers outputs (increased ‘eyeballs’ – what kind of a metric is that anyway) vs. outcomes like growing qualified leads.

Contact Consilium Global Business Advisors today to discuss your business development and inbound marketing requirements.  And check out our great information below.

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