Large corporations invest significant amounts of money and resources into SEO strategy to gain more online visibility and achieve high rankings in Google searches and other search platforms. But, as Neil Patel points out, many small businesses believe that their website is too small for SEO and therefore, they see no compelling reason to spend time on search engine optimization.
Interestingly, Search Engine Watch cites recent research from the SBA indicating that, “Less than half of small business owners in the U.S. consider search engine traffic to be an important source of new business opportunities.” Furthermore, in a 2015 article, Forbes found that only 17% of small business owners surveyed were actively investing in SEO.
According to Forbes, studies have shown that SEO can significantly improve ROI:
- Leverable.com found that 72% of business owners using SEO felt that it improved their bottom line
- In another study, SEO leads were shown to have a 14.6% conversion rate compared to outbound marketing
- On average, SEO leads are 61% less expensive to obtain than outbound leads
So why do thousands of small business owners continue to let the potential benefits of organic search engine traffic pass them by?
Here are some common misconceptions about SEO, and why they shouldn’t keep business owners from moving forward with their search engine optimization strategy:
SEO Has a Bad Reputation
“It turns out that SEO has something of a bad reputation because it has been associated with some bad, unethical, and deceptive practices.” ~ Practical Ecommerce
Because the early days of SEO were riddled with spammers and scammers who employed sneaky tactics to shove their way to the very top of the search rankings, SEO’s reputation as a black hat scheme still persists today.
Consequently, some companies believe that their involvement with SEO will tarnish their reputation, so they choose to avoid it entirely. Practical Ecommerce offers a description of SEO that should put the minds of small business owners at ease:
“Search engine optimization, at its most pure, is the act of ensuring search engine spiders (bots) can find a web page, discover the page’s purpose or meaning, and catalog (index) the page’s content for future reference. It focuses on users first, organizing pages so that they are easy for people to read and understand, knowing that when a page is well organized for a person, a search engine can understand it too.”
Done properly, white hat SEO “focuses on the human audience first and applies optimization techniques that provide a better user experience while also organizing information in a way that search engines can easily comprehend.”
So, while SEO’s reputation has been tainted, it does matter. Search engine optimization should always be a part of every small business’s marketing strategy, suggests Practical Ecommerce. The key is to focus on customers and prospects.
SEO is Too Difficult & Time Consuming
According to Forbes, lack of desire or time to learn about SEO is one of the biggest hurdles preventing small business owners from taking advantage of SEO.
Understandably, most small business owners are swamped with the demands of day-to-day operations. So, squeezing in time to delve into the unknown world of search engine optimization probably doesn’t stand a chance of showing up on their marketing strategy radar.
Plus, “the perceived technical complexity of SEO” no doubt makes it seem like years of experience is required for SEO to be effective, which isn’t necessarily true. Here’s what Entrepreneur has to say about it:
“While there are some architectural strategies and coding tactics that you should employ as part of your strategy, for the most part, modern SEO can be implemented without any prior experience, and without any technical knowledge of how websites — or Google’s algorithm — work…”
“…Ultimately, there’s only one motivation that drives Google: the experience of its users. It wants its users to be happy so they’ll keep coming back to Google. So Google favors sites that make their visitors happy in turn. Ignore all the technical terms, all the details of execution and all your preconceived notions for a moment and focus on this: the happier your users are when they visit your site, the higher you’re going to rank.”
Entrepreneur suggests implementing the following practices into to SEO efforts:
- Offer a good website / onsite experience
- Write Good Content
- Get Recognized as an authority in respective industry
- Increase your social media popularity
- Optimize for Local Relavance
SEO Is Too Expensive
Because small businesses are often in the early phases of development, they generally don’t have additional funds to spend on new strategies such as SEO. Not having the budget to afford a good SEO program, or hire an expert to do it for them, many small business owners probably don’t even consider SEO as a possibility.
While $100 a month isn’t enough to retain a good SEO service, it doesn’t mean that SEO is impossible for small businesses under budgetary constraints. For companies trying to keep costs down, Big Mouth Marketing suggests making the time to learn SEO (“All it takes is a laptop, cup of coffee, and a free afternoon”).
Anyone can start by googling “understanding SEO“. Sticking to the results on the first two pages, small business owners can learn enough about SEO to implement some white hat optimization practices and start driving traffic to their site.
Conventional Advertising Works Better
Conventional forms of advertising—such as television, radio, newspaper, billboard, and other printed materials—feel comfortable and stable due to their long history and straightforward planning and completion process. Plus, these long established advertising methods are less intimidating than their digital equivalents for people with little exposure to technology.
While still popular and even effective for many local and small businesses, conventional advertising continues to see a yearly decrease in ROI when compared to digital marketing alternatives. Yes, “traditional advertising can net a positive ROI in the short term,” a perfect scenario for small businesses looking to bring in more revenue quickly, “but SEO has the potential to be more rewarding in the long term.”
Small business owners with an adequate budget, along with several hours a week to learn and implement white hat SEO practices, will be well on their way to building a solid foundation. When “done properly and consistently,” says Forbes, “almost any business can achieve a positive ROI”.
According to Entrepreneur, modern-day SEO all comes down to one thing…make users happy. If consumers who visit small business websites are finding what they’re looking for and enjoying the experience, Google will notice and their site will start climbing in the search rankings.
While technical proficiency helps, notes Entrepreneur, a common-sense approach to SEO (including a focus on relevant, useful content and optimizing the user experience) often works just as well when it comes to increasing overall rank.