Practical Advice for Small Business SEO

Practical Tips for a Big Impact

Before I begin, I want to let you know that every person gets excited about their company and wants to spread the word as quickly as possible. Unfortunately there’s no cheating with this and you just have to put the work in. Well there is “a way to cheat,” but the risks far outweigh the rewards.

Advertising is a strategic guessing game unfortunately. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

My Background

I normally work closely with a company (usually a vendor) and will split my time between organic and paid advertisement (ads). I work in the aftermarket automotive parts industry; I stick to clients in the same industry since I know exactly how to approach it. I’ve done extensive testing with that industry for the past 11 years; with other industries it’s a hit or miss. I just wanted to briefly touch on this since we’ll be coming back to it later

That’s why I’m always hesitant to take on a client that’s not in the aftermarket automotive parts industry. When I was running my aftermarket parts company, I would do A/B testing. I’d try one type of ad (A) and immediately try another one (B) that’s super close to A. Whichever one wins, that becomes the new A and I would try another ad (B), again, really similar to A, just tweaked slightly. The goal is to beat A and get a new baseline.

As you can imagine, I went through about $200,000 before I figured out some things that worked and some that didn’t; that was in a very small concentration of the aftermarket parts industry. When clients hire me, and I need to write articles for them, the lingo is easy for me since I’ve been in that industry since 2009. I may knock out a well thought out article in about an hour or two. For other industries, you have to do your research on the topic so that you don’t look like a complete buffoon. That one-to-two hours that you spend writing an article turns into 4–5 hours (times 3 days per week); you might as well call yourself a writer.

Actually, most SEO companies will require that you write the content since it’s so time consuming. Clients look at them and say, “I just gave you $10,000 this month and you want me to write my own articles too?” They don’t see the cost of running an SEO/Marketing business. The average salary for an SEO specialist is about $55,000/year; if you want a good one, you’re closer to $80,000/year. If that person was just writing articles, half of his time would be spent writing articles for 1 company. Not an effective use of that person.

Unless you’re really killing it, most of the time local businesses will attempt to do this themselves.

Tips For Your Business

Know that organically getting your name out there, especially for a local business, will take about 6 months to a year to get even the smallest results. Your business may be less competitive so you may be able to achieve some sort of exposure within 6 months. These are the steps I normally follow for small businesses in order of importance.

1. Get Google page reviews. Google is a business. They want people using their search engine. They value their pages the most. The more you help Google, the more Google helps you. Simple as that.

I’d strive to get 100+ Google reviews.

Google is the most important. Google is a company. How does Google make money? Google makes money, primarily, with Google Ads. The more people visit Google, the more Google can charge for Ads. What Google does then is provide people with relevant content. If I type in “Mosquito Control in Tampa, FL,” I want to see some companies that take care of Mosquitoes in Tampa, FL.

If no company is using Google Ads to target these keywords, Google still wants to display relevant search results to the user because if I don’t see Mosquito Companies in Tampa, and I just searched for them, and this happens 2 or 3 times, I might say “Google sucks! Let me try Bing or Yahoo.” That’s why you see those commercials for Bing. They want people to leave Google and use them so that they can charge more for Ads.

If there are companies that are advertising for the particular keywords, Google still wants to display both ads and organic content. The more relevant a result, the higher the chance that the user will click on the site, and the more likely they’ll return to Google and click on an Ad in the future.

How does Google know that you’re relevant? Well, if there are 2 companies in Tampa that treat Mosquitoes, and 1 company has 100 4-to-5 star reviews on the Google page, while the other has 5 reviews, if I’m Google, I’m going to push that one that has 100 reviews. Why? Because people are already happy with it. Google says, “Hey look, I found you a company that you’re going to like because other people like it. Make sure to come back to Google for all of your search needs…and maybe next time, click on the Google Ad.”

Same concept applies when you’re telling people to write reviews on other sites. The only advantage that you have with Google over Yelp is the real-estate that you get on the main page. Google will give you 1/3 of the page to highlight your business vs 1 search result that Yelp gets that’s mixed in with other search results. That’s why Google is the most important thing to develop.

2. Write articles and post them to your website. I’d strive for 2–3 posts per week, 5–7 paragraphs per article. Talk about the jobs you did. Talk about helpful hints related to your industry.

Sometimes people just want tips. They go to Google and they search for “How to get rid of mosquitoes easily?” Google gives them the relevant pages. They see yours and they click on it. Google starts a counter. If the user goes to your website, starts reading an article, and backs out of the website quickly, you get penalized. The average amount of time the user is on your site is recorded. The more time the person spends on your site, the more that metric is telling Google, “Hey, this website is awesome. People go to it and spend minutes on it. This website provides value to the user. Keep showing this website over and over again since people seem to enjoy it. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll also get a click on your Google Ads from that user in the future since you provided him/her with a great website.” That’s why good content is more important than just pumping out content. You can hire some shady company to write 100’s of articles for you per month, but if they’re crap and people keep exiting your website, Google will take notice and demote your site very quickly.

3. Keep in touch with your customers. The best type of business strategy is keeping up with your customers and developing a relationship with them. I can’t stress this enough. I spoke to the VP of Sales of a massive tire company recently and he said that he was able to “increase sales by 40% by focusing on his existing customer base. When you look at a client and they’re buying only a handful of tires from you year-after-year, that customer is surviving somehow. They’re not surviving by selling a 100 or so tires that they bought from you. They’re getting their tires from somewhere else. What can we do to increase sales and reduce their dependence on our competition?”

4. Keep a Facebook page and an Instagram account. Make sure to post something at least once per day but no more than twice. Don’t advertise your business there. That’s not what social media is for, but it is a good way to show what you do. You can post photos of you working but don’t caption it something like “$20 off of your first mosquito treatment.” Instead, write a story around it, “We’ve never seen this many mosquitoes. The challenge with this particular treatment…” Try to make your photos look decent. You can achieve pretty decent photos with a cell-phone camera. Don’t re-post the same photos. If you don’t have anything new, don’t post anything, or take some new photos.

5. Once you get those 100+ reviews on Google, ask your new customers to review you on other websites: Yelp, Home Advisor, Angie’s List, etc. It doesn’t matter. If the site is reputable and deals with people reviewing businesses, go for it. Focus on one at a time. You don’t have to strive for 100 each there, but I would definitely focus on a number close to 20 per site.

OPTION 2, go with Google Ads and hope for the best.

Finally, don’t fall for $99/month service claiming that they’ll get your name out there. It couldn’t hurt right? Yes it could. The company is most likely using unethical growth and as soon as Google finds out, not only are they going to remove any traces of the effort, they’ll remove your business from Google. If you get a quote from a serious company, you’ll quickly see that SEO work will run you somewhere around $7,000 to $10,000/month (easily).

I had an e-commerce business for 9 years. Talking with much larger companies, you realize how these companies get to the point where they’re at. I had a meeting with one company’s SEO department and they shared how much money they were spending each month for advertisement. They started with $15,000/month in Google Ads alone for the first 6 months. After 6 months, they went to $45,000/month.

I’ve seen a Google Ads campaign for $1.2 million/month for a pretty large company. It just puts everything in perspective.

Finally, most small, local companies will gain the most amount of business from their customers: word-of-mouth is the way to go.

Key points

Promote your Google Page. Promote other review sites after the Google page is complete. Create quality content for your website.


Leave a Reply