Small Business SEO Link Building Principles Published

Small business SEO is different and requires different approaches to protect valuable online assets. We just published the second part of our link building series that covers link building principles for small business SEO.

In part 2 of the series, we cover:

  • Be careful who you link to – avoid “bad neighborhoods”
  • Be A Good Net Citizen – Don’t Spam
  • Go slow
  • Keep visitors and customers in mind
  • Don’t Buy Links
  • Start a campaign that you can maintain
  • Stay Away from Link Building Schemes

There is a real danger when first approaching SEO. You may unintentionally make mistakes when linking that violate search engine terms of service. The danger is that your rankings may fall, or your site banned for bad practices. Following these principles, will go far in keeping you out of trouble and building a valuable long term asset.

Link Building Series

Link Building Basics – Part 1
The basics of link structure including HTML code, anchor text and dofollow and nofollow taqs. Link Building Principles – Part 2 Basic principles that must be followed when building links for small business SEO.

Small Business Link Building Principles – Part 2
Link building principles that must be followed when building links for small business SEO.

Local SEO – Big Google Places Changes

Google Places BombGoogle made some big changes to Google places this past week that will affect local SEO. How much we don’t know yet, but we’ll watch and see what happens.

Google Places Review Purge

If you go to your Places page or any other Places pages you’ll see a huge change to reviews and citations. Google has removed reviews from Yelp and other 3rd party review services and replaced them with a big red button for a Google Review.

Google Places Citations Killed

Citations are gone. They’ve been removed. I believe Google will still count them, but just like most of the links they have in their databases for a site, they’re not going to show them. This makes it more difficult for SEO because competitor citation sources are not longer there for easy pickings.

Matt McGee at Search Engine Land has more:

Local searchers and local businesses will see a fairly substantially different Place Page the next time they’re poking around Google Maps/Places. The company announced a new look Thursday and promises more changes to come.

The new layout of Place Pages puts a heavy emphasis on reviews. More specifically, it emphasizes reviews from Google users and no longer shows review content from third party sites. (Google had issues with both Yelp and TripAdvisor over review snippets last year, you may recall.)

Go to Google Overhauls Place Pages, Emphasizes Reviews & Kills Citations to read his story.

We can see it’s very important for small business SEO to stay up on changes at Google. Why, because they are making them all the time. Stay tuned for more.

Local SEO – Race Horse or Race Track?

There are many decisions required for best results from local SEO and local internet marketing. Many small business owners don’t have large marketing budgets and SEO takes a back seat in their plans.

Local and small business SEO is a long term program. Effort and investment today will not pay off for a few months or longer. Print advertising, pay per click and other forms of immediate gratification advertising are easier to execute and justify in the short term. Search engine optimization is a mid to long-term payoff and it’s not nearly as easy.

Who Makes The Money?

In the horse racing business, who makes the most money? Is it the owner of a race horse, or, is it the owner of the race track? You know it’s the owner of the track. A horse can only race a handful of times in a year. There are a lot of horses in every race, but only one winner. The track has nine to ten races a day and owners make money all day long.

It takes time to build a race track. It takes some time to build the business, but once it’s built and bettors and fans are coming to the races, the owners make money from the betting, attendance, parking and concessions.

Horses have short careers. They run for awhile and then they no longer generate money for their owners. Advertising has short duration. As long as it’s effective, it runs. Once it’s no longer effective it’s gone and the advertiser must find a different media.

Advertising platforms like to see advertisers succeed and stick around, but like the horses at the track, they don’t really need any one particular horse. They need horses. Online, the owner of the race track is the owner of the website where you advertise.

Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and other sites where you can place your advertising are the race track and you are the horse. You can make money in the short term, as long as you keep paying.

What If You Owned The Race Track?

When you own your own website and visitors come to you site, you own the race track. No, it’s not Google size and you’re unlikely to make billions of dollars, but it’s yours to control and build. The danger with Facebook and similar sites is that they will make it more expensive and less effective for small business owners to advertise on their sites. Google has made it more expensive for many small business owners to use AdWords over the years.

The reasons are simple – would you rather deal with 10 big businesses paying $1,000,000 a month each, or 100,000 small businesses pay $100 a month. Google wants the big players and so do the other platforms. As they become more effective, your costs as a small business owner will go up.

If you own the track and use Local SEO to send the visitors, you’re doing two things:

  1. Building a source of customers that will increase with time
  2. Protecting yourself against rising costs and decreasing results

Local SEO and your own website may not be the only tools you use for your small business marketing, but even if it’s $200-300 per month in investment, you should consider building out the only program that brings you free customers over time.

The Ultimate Small Business SEO Measurment

Measuring your small business SEO and internet marketing results can be tricky. Too many small business owners measure the wrong things.

What’s the Best Measurement of Small Business SEO Success?

What’s the source of sales and revenue for your business or organization? I can tell you one thing, it’s not traffic. Yet, many small business owners will obsess over search engine traffic. There’s a note on my desk that says sales, not traffic.

Sales Not Traffic

Now, yes you need people coming to your website and in SEO it’s called traffic, but traffic is not prospects or customers or sales. Sales and revenue are the measures of your success and SEO should be measured as:

  • Sales directly attributed to SEO
  • Cost of SEO Customers

What’s Most Important to You?

My ideal customers is ___________. That’s who you are after with SEO. In a small business SEO campaign, why not go after them first. Then the next most ideal and then the next. What do they want and how can you give it to them? If your ideal customers were to search for you or your competition, what search terms would they use?

Throw It Over the Wall SEO

Many small businesses do not target their ideal customers because of throw it over the wall SEO. You know how it works. Small business owners don’t have time to do this stuff. They hire a company that doesn’t know their customers to do it. There are some cases where this will work, but not as well as if the managers and owners were involved.

For instance, if you hired me as your real estate SEO specialist, I would know enough to get you ranked for many of the right terms, but I would still need to spend time with you to flesh out those things most important about your local market. Those sessions would probably be the most important in the entire process. Please, don’t throw your SEO over the wall.

How Do You Know SEO is Working?

How do you tell if your local SEO is working? You will need some way to measure the source of contact. Now this is not as easy as we would like it to be, especially if you advertise extensively. One simple way of tracking is to ask how you heard about us, but it’s not very scientific. Coding can work, but don’t use a special phone number because that can cause local SEO problems.

Google Analytics is a tool that will give us good information; probably good enough to tell us what’s working and what’s not. Using Google Analytics we can see where visitors come from, where they go and how long they stay. For instance, if you were selling luxury homes in Winter Park, we could see how many visitors came to that page or group of pages, how they got there and how long they stayed. You could see if they go to your contact page, but we can’t see if they call you.

These measurements are not going to be exact. No one has invented an automated tool for that and people frequently give us incomplete or poor information. Our advice, pick a method, stick with that method and measure the relative value in increased sales and revenue from your small business SEO program. Once you have the best idea of how much of sales is coming from SEO, you can look at your costs and determine your return.

Small Business SEO – Think Like A Small Business Owner!

Affordable small business SEO is not about attacking huge competitors for major keyword phrases. It is about finding keyword variations and long tail keywords.

You have a huge advantage because you know your customers, their needs and the questions they regularly ask. The people doing SEO for big companies have probably never met a customer.

Chris Anderson wrote The Long Tail in 2006. Here’s how he summarized the long tail (www.longtail.com):

The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.

The long tail is your advantage. That’s were your internet marketing can make you the most money.

Big Company Weakness – Your Opportunity

Service is the weakness of big companies and big brands. It’s expensive for them and the people making decision often haven’t talk with a real customers in years. You know when companies are trying to figure out how long a caller will wait on hold without getting angry, there’s an opportunity for real people doing business with real people.

You frustrate and anger your customers when you act like a big business. Small business SEO is about small business and you need to think that way. I hate it, yes really hate it, when a small businesses starts telling that something is against their policy. That’s a big business cost control response. Why would a small business do that?

Who Are You?

You’re not this:

McDonalds Store Phote

You’re more like this:

Paris Cafe Small Business

Be A Small Business – Act Your Size

Acting like McDonalds when you own a cafe, it just plain not going to work. Acting like McDonalds in small business SEO is not going to work either. Big companies have national brands and lots of locations or outlets. You have service, flexibility, speed and local knowledge.

You cannot compete with a national brand on their terms, but they can’t compete with you on your terms. You can be finished with making a change or pursuing a market opportunity before they even have their first meeting.

Small Business is Beautiful

You can pursue market opportunities profitably where your big competitors can’t even afford to analyze the market. They need big numbers to cover big costs. You don’t. You can dominate smaller market niches and segments where the cost of entry for them is too high.

Leverage your advantages and don’t compete against big competitor strengths. Small is beautiful and keep that in mind when you approach local SEO and small business SEO.

Small Business SEO – Understanding The Search Process Video

What happens if you have traffic coming to your website, but your results are much less than you expected? If you’re focused strictly on small business SEO and you’re generating traffic, then now is the time to understand the SEO search process that visitors use.

The search process video below is about 5 minutes and 15 seconds, but could be the best five minutes you invest in a long time. Internet marketing is a two phase process:

  1. Generate traffic with SEO and other methods
  2. Converting traffic to your desired action

If you have traffic, but no results it’s likely a mistake in strategy.


 

The Big Internet Marketing Mistake

What do visitors do when they come to your site? It’s a big mistake to think they come to your site to read the content. They don’t. When they first come to your site or a page on the site, they are still in the search process.

The video describes the five phase search process:

The SEO Search Process

The search process steps are:

  1. Search Engine – type the search term into Google or one of the other search engines
  2. Skim / Read the search engine results page (SERP)
  3. Click the most the result that seems most relevant
  4. Evaluate the page the search engine serves
  5. Read the content

Visitors don’t read your content until the fifth step. If you have spent valuable time and money generating traffic using small business SEO and local SEO, but you’re not getting the results you expected, misunderstanding the search process is probably why. You may need to change your content, website design and structure.

I could attempt to explain it here, but the video is a much better way to do that, but let’s look at a couple of images from the video. Which one do you think would get the visitors attention and entice them to read more?

SEO Content Comparison

Wham! What a Difference

I’m reading the page on the left side. I’m betting you would too. Now, the question is, which of these examples is closer to your site. I urge to the watch the video for more.

Local SEO and Slow SEO

Slow SEO Turtle

We rush, we rush and then we rush some more. We look for magic bullets, low hanging fruit and quick hits. Not all things can be done quickly though. We know it, even if we don’t like it. Local SEO results can take much longer than we like, but that’s not so bad. Let’s look at a new idea I had today when writing some new content. Let’s talk about Slow SEO.

Slow SEO Turtle

What is Slow SEO?

Slow SEO is what happens when you don’t have the deep pockets to spend lots of money on search engine optimization and internet marketing. Well, that includes most of us. But this is not all bad. Slow SEO is mostly what happens anyway for small businesses.

Slow SEO is building your small business SEO program over time and affordably. The content that I was writing when this idea came to me is our new page on affordable small business SEO – SEO on $100 a week. Yes, a solid SEO program is possible on $100 a week, but the trade-off is in time and patience, and patience is what slow SEO is all about.

Why You Should Consider Slow SEO

If your a small business, going slow with your search program is probably the best strategy from a return on investment point of view. If you go slow and methodically, you can adjust to what’s working and spend more time and money on that. You can stop what’s not working and you can do it before you spend a ton of money.

Going full-out and spending $20,000, only to see some small results is $20,000 gone. Spending that money over 20 months is a different story. You expect to see results as you’re spending the money and you will. There’s a fast way to driving search traffic to your site and it’s called PPC – pay per click advertising. It skips all the time and hassles of building organic (free) search traffic. Of course the big problem is that it costs you a bundle and you keep paying.

Affordable is Relevant

If your breaking into the running shoe business you will be competing with Nike and Reebok and other big players. Affordable in this market is still a lot of money. $100 a week won’t make a dent. However, if you’re a local dentist or doctor, a local shoe store, a local restaurant and such, you are likely to see big results for your $100 a week investment.

Google is Slow

Google is slow to rank and slow to keep ranking. The reason is a good one – trust. Google wants to return the best results for their searchers who are their customers for paid advertisements. They want to know that if they rank you, you’ll be around for a while and won’t hurt them.

My experience with our real estate website and local SEO is that I saw some good results in about three months, but it took two years to get the full benefits. There’s a lot of competition for our terms, so we had to prove our worth to Google first. Yahoo and Bing are a little different, but the same principles hold.

Going the slow SEO route makes sense for many small businesses. Build your SEO content slowly and steadily and over time you’ll see solid results.

Small Business SEO – SEOMOZ Link Building

Backlinks ImageLink building is a challenge for most small business owners. It’s a lot of work and the temptation for often disastrous shortcuts is always there. But, link building is a critical component to small business SEO success.

Josh Gill over at SEOMOZ, published a good post this morning at the SEOMOZ blog – The Daily SEO Blog. His The Five Linking Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making, is a great start for anyone new to link building, and a really good reminder of some link building basics for the more experienced practitioners.

First, I agree with Josh’s Five Link Building Mistakes to Avoid:

#1- Judging a Site’s Authority by PageRank Alone:
#2 Building Links with Only One Keyword or Keyword Phrase:
#3 Aiming for a Billion Links!
#4 Only Link to Your Homepage:
#5 Analyze Competitors Backlinks Who Don’t Rank for your Target Keywords:

That being said, there are a few points that I believe add to the conversation (remember these are mistakes to avoid):

#6 Don’t Have a Plan for Linking:

Linking when you get the urge usually means that you’re not going to do much linking. Once you figure out what you need in the number and quality of links, put a plan in place to get those links. For small business and local SEO, I usually set the goals of building links over 3 months period. The first three months for a campaign will be the most intensive. After that, it’s a regular, but reduced schedule for a year. Finally, once all the targeted rankings are reached, a link maintenance plan is put into place.

#7 Link Once in awhile with a big push

Sending a bunch of links to a site and then dropping down to nothing is not a good idea. It’s not natural and there’s a good chance that the links are discounted by the search engines. If your going to send 1,300 links to a site over 13 weeks, make the rate about 100 per week, not all at once.

#8 Forget About Your Internal Links

I see it over and over again. Site owners, blogger’s, small business SEO practitioners, and others are on an internal link diet. There are no links in the content. Your pages count just like external pages. If your pages are in the search engine index, link to your money pages, your main content and other pages that need a boost. Put in one link to one of your own pages or posts for every 100-150 words.

Read Josh’s post here ==> The Five Linking Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making.

Are You Advertising for Your Competition?

Local SEO Example Uncle Bill's DinerIf you rank number one for your own business name, you’ve met the most basic local SEO requirement. If you’re not, you are advertising for your competition.

The most basic local SEO requirement for your website is ranking number 1 in Google, Yahoo and Bing for your own business name. If your business is Uncle Bill’s Pancakes, you must rank number 1 for Uncle Bill’s Pancakes.

Even if you’ve done no local or small business SEO, you may rank number one for your business. If not, you have some work to do.

Why You Must Rank Number 1 for Your Business Name

If I’m looking for you and typing your business by name in the search engines, I want to know about you and how you can help me. If your website doesn’t return as number 1 in the results, or is not there at all, you have placed your trust in another site to deliver your business to the customer.

The problem with someone else providing information to your customer is that for them, you are advertising bait. They are using you to bring people to their site to sell them something else. They have their own interest above yours. I’m not criticizing them, just pointing out that it’s not the best result for you.

It’s About Control

When your business website is ranked number 1 for your business name, people will go to your site and you can give them what they’re looking for. You control the content without ads to competitors and other sites. You can begin building a relationship right away. You can give them information to contact or visit you and you can give them reasons and enticements to do so.

Are You Advertising For Your Competition?

Imagine this scenario. You advertise in the local newspaper and a customer sees your ad but doesn’t know anything about you. They want to know more. There’s no website address in the ad, so they go searching.

They type in your business name, but you’re not there. Instead there’s a directory site of some type. The searcher, your potential customer, clicks on their site to find out more. They get very basic information about you, but they also get an ad from a competitor and one from Amazon.com.

What’s their next move? You don’t know. They could call or visit you, or they could click on one of the other options. If your site ranked number one they would have one option. Now they have three or more.

Use Local SEO to Rank Number 1

If all you’re going to do is create a website without SEO, then use your business name (unclebills.net) as the domain name. This will almost guarantee that you will be ranked number 1 for your own name.

If you are planning to rank for more competitive terms and use seo for small business, then you may use a domain name more related to the business (manhattanbeachrestaurant.com) instead of your business name. In that case, make sure your business name and address with telephone number are on every page. It can be in the footer, but make sure it’s there.

Finally, regardless of which way you choose to go, make sure you claim your Google Places listing and do the same with Yahoo and Bing. Be certain to associate your website with those services.

I’m a local SEO specialist serving small businesses. Please contact Mike Byrne at 386-295-2049 for more information, or leave a comment below.

Small Business SEO – Barrier to Entry for New Business Startup?

Starting a new business is a challenge. There’s finding the right location, buying furnishings and equipment, hiring people, business planning, marketing planning and more. Recently though, there’s a new barrier that’s entered the mix for business startups – small business SEO.

Small Business street scene

People are online. For most, if not all businesses, people are using the internet to find products and services. They may be using search engines or social media like Facebook to start their search or find out more about a business. How are your potential customers and existing customers using search?

A New Barrier for Small Business Startup?

Is there a new barrier to entry for starting a small businesses. If a high percentage of your customers and potential customers will come from the internet, you must be able to get your business in front of those people. If you can’t, because of costs or resources, you may not be able to generate enough business to survive.

Starting a business today without an internet presence visible to your customers is like building your store in the middle of the desert. No one will see you.

Choices for Internet Marketing

Your choices to establish a presence depends on where your customers go online. Here are the basic options:

  • Pay Per Click (PPC) Traffic
  • Ads on Other Sites
  • Small Business SEO
  • Local SEO including Google Places, Merchant Ciricle, etc.
  • Facebook Pages and Facebook Ads

Several of these choices are an ongoing expense. You will pay every time a searcher clicks on a PPC ad. Ads on other sites will be expensive, often hundreds of dollars a month for one site. Small business and local SEO will require time and money to set up and maintain. Facebook Pages are free to set-up, but take time and resources to make attractive for your customers, and, Facebook Ads will require a regular expenditure.

So What Do I Do?

You, or someone you hire, must do the research to find out where your customers are online. I’ll admit freely that if there is significant search traffic, I will pursue SEO for small business because the costs of the program decrease over time. While building traffic through local SEO, pay per click advertising may be needed. If your business is suited for Facebook, you need to have a solid presence there, but Facebook will not be effective for all markets.

Basically, find your customers online and meet them where they are!

Due Diligence

When starting or buying a business, due diligence is required to be sure that the investment will be profitable. Today, due diligence includes research and analysis of online marketing requirements.

Small business SEO and internet marketing can make or break a new business. Make sure you know how it will affect yours.