Recently a potential customer asked me an SEO question and I wanted to use my conversation with her as a learning opportunity for other new small business owners to learn a little bit from. I hope the following post clears up a few things and you are welcome to share this link with others!
Q: I am a Boston area nutritionist who just graduated and am starting my business and trying to build up a local presence. I have a limited monthly budget of a couple hundred bucks for marketing. Unfortunately it seems like true SEO help is out of my budget and the only help that’s available looks like automated schemes with the same phrases, crazy promises and probably zero to no results. What do I do?
A: Hi Lisa. You are in the same position that many owners start in, and you have every right to be skeptical of the over-promised SEO offerings that are out there. Since you want to establish a local presence I would strongly recommend focusing on Google My Business (GMB, a.k.a. Google Business Profile Manager). GMB helps companies be found within a 100 mile radius of their zip code, is a service that will show your business on Google maps, and will help to place you in the “three-pack” (the first three results on any search results page). Before you start to spend real money on marketing I would recommend trying to learn a few things about SEO and local SEO.
Begin by watching a couple of well rated (liked) YouTube videos that will give you an introduction to Google My Business and how it operates.
Make notes as you are watching the videos and then try to dive a little deeper into some of the interesting things you wrote down.
I would also strongly recommend trying a solid online SEO tool set that can audit your site, review your regional presence and give you tons of valuable feedback on what you are doing right and what needs improvement. I personally would recommend trying SERanking.com that can do all of this, plus it’s loaded with lots of extra tips and tutorials. Utilize this for about a month and get an overall sense of how local SEO works. Who knows, maybe this will do the trick for you and you can do your own marketing by using SERanking plus some researched local ads?
If marketing your business isn’t something you are comfortable with then hopefully you will get an idea of things you are looking for by utilizing an online SEO tool like SERanking.com. With this newly acquired knowledge, reach out to a local SEO specialist who is in your price range and tell them what you want to improve on, plus make them aware of your budget and perhaps they might help you out with a lower price. Prepare a set of clear expectations and metrics you’d like them to focus on and keep on utilizing your SEO tools so that you can see if your hired help is actually paying off.
Lastly, if you do see that this person is helpful then consider increasing your marketing budget. As long as you have positive ROI, it’s a wise idea to keep injecting more money so that you can generate more business!
Advice from Other Agency Owners, and SEO Specialists
I had an opportunity to get a second opinion from other great industry pros. Here are some other opinions and advice on this matter.
Chris Costillo from Toronto Digital Marketing Agency, Propel Digital Media offers the following advice:
With any investment, you’re either trading time or money. If you don’t have the budget to hire an SEO agency, then I’d recommend taking the time to learn some of the basics. My recommendation to any small business owner is to go through the Ahref’s Academy (https://ahrefs.com/academy) in it’s entirety – not for the purposes of doing all of the SEO tasks yourself, but so that you understand who to hire and how to measure their work.
The best place to start to get more visibility online with SEO is ALWAYS with existing assets. This might be blog posts, but often times for small businesses, existing content will likely mean your existing core pages (services/products). Focus on doing everything you can in terms of on-site optimizations (URLs, content, keyword targets, etc). For anything you can’t do, hire someone to do just that one task. There’s less risk and investment required with this approach, since you don’t need a super experienced SEO who can develop a high-level strategy to do something like optimize your content/URLs for keywords you’ve identified. This approach is a great way to leverage your time, when you have more time to invest than money.
If you’re struggling to find keywords or develop any sort of strategy, you can hire an SEO or agency to just build that one aspect out for you. From there, hire people from places like Upwork to deliver singular aspects of that strategy.
I also agree with Fil Galiza that your primary focus after optimizing your website should be Local SEO. Local SEO still requires that you have an optimized website, but once you have that in place, the next logical step will be to focus on the map pack results.
You may visit Chris’s Toronto digital agency Propel by clicking here.
Another great piece of advice from John Kramer owner of John Kramer Marketing, Malaga Spain:
I think the web has become fairer over the years. Semantic search has created parity between small and big businesses. It’s leveling the digital playing field. Technical SEO has also never been more important. You need a fast loading, mobile-focused website, good UX, schema markup, strong local signals etc… but technical reasons aside, the most important thing to do is to help people and lead search engines to understand what you do and why you do it.
You need to provide meaning to who you are and what you do. This meaning needs to be backed up by consistency, trust and reputation. This level of personalisation and understanding is key in the internet today. Especially for smaller businesses.
I’m a big believer in semantics I could go on for days about it. The web is about people.
– John runs John Kramer Marketing, located in Malaga Spain.