A Quick Story about SEO
I remember when I was in my early 20’s I built my very first website to advertise myself as a drummer. I did all of the content creation, design, and development myself. After about 6-months of work I got my website online. I remember waiting and waiting for the first contact form submission to come off of that website. After about 6 months, I still had absolutely nothing coming from my website. I had made the fatal mistake of believing the myth that “if I build it, they will come”.
The Truth about Small Business Digital Marketing
The truth about Small Businesses in the Digital Marketing space is that many businesses actually have a pretty good brand. They might even have a really nice website. We’ve seen some great sites in WordPress, SquareSpace, Webflow, etc. However, about 90% of Small Business websites are NOT optimized to actually draw in website traffic. Without website traffic, your business will always struggle to produce leads, prospects, and ultimately sales.
Having a website that isn’t driving in traffic is a LOT like having built a beautiful hotel in the middle of the desert, but you never stopped to build any roads to the parking lot.
How SEO differs from other Digital Marketing tactics
A lot of clients will ask us why they should invest in SEO over social media, email marketing, or paid ads. A lot of times it’s not really an “either/or” situation, but you’ll be interested to know that companies that write blogs and have consistent and new content on their websites bring in almost 70% more in leads than companies that don’t. That right there tells us that SEO and Content Strategy are two of the pillars to marketing and driving traffic.
SEO provides a holistic and long-term strategy to your business that is hard to match with other marketing methods. If there is search volume for what you offer, you really only have a few ways to engage that market. The only one that doesn’t cost you “per-lead” or “per-click” is an SEO strategy. Organic social media is incredibly challenging, so typically businesses will have to pay to play.
While we also do a lot of PPC work (Pay-Per-Click) like on Google Ads, our goal is most often to only run those Ads as needed while the SEO is ramping up. If you can win the battle of SEO (or even get close to winning) it can produce an amazing amount of business for your company.
Email marketing and social media typically will require an internal team to your company (or expensive outsourced team), and the efforts are constantly more and more. With SEO, once you’ve had a team like Muletown Digital do the hard work, you can count on getting leads organically with a much lower cost per acquisition.
Are there times when we recommend Facebook Ads, or Google Ads, or Social Media Management, absolutely. Generally though, a well placed SEO campaign with a content plan will also provide nuggets for social media. When your business can stand up organically as a whole, you’re then able to focus on paid Ads for VERY specific products and services. Allowing you to really push your business as a whole to new levels.
At Muletown Digital, we rarely have paid Ads drive in our leads. Almost 100% of our business comes from showing up organically for searches like “Nashville Web Agency” or “Nashville SEO Agency“. We don’t even have to be first, many of our target searches we’re at the top of page 2, and yet, it’s still more than enough for us to grow and continue to be more and more scalable as a business. If it works for us in an extremely complex and competitive market, imagine what we can do for you!
The Benefits of Small Business SEO
1) Save costs by cutting expensive Paid Ad campaigns
Paid Ads “can” be amazing but as your business gets more established, it gets harder and harder to scale paid traffic. If you’re in an industry like technology, roofing, gutters, general contracting, HVAC, or service based industries, you can sometimes pay up to $25/click.
If your conversion rate is at industry standard of say 3% and you’re able to spend $2k/mo driving traffic to your site that would equal 80 visits per month. You’ll also likely have Ad Management fees in there. So your total spend would be around $3k/mo. You’ll get 80 website visits, and you should expect between 2-3 conversions. So you’re paying $1,000 per conversion. If you sell something at an insanely high margin, this might be awesome for you. If not, you’re likely going to lose money running Ads.
The bigger problem comes into play with Ads when you try to scale it. The only way to grow your Ads is, you guessed it, spend more money. There is no momentum you can build here. If you utilize a more organic approach like in SEO, you can drive in that same steady stream of 80 (or maybe even 300 – 400) visitors, but you’re doing that with a $1500/mo campaign. Half the cost for a greater output in the long run.
2) Increase the Number of Leads you are getting offline
Your website was made (or should have been made) to do a job in your business. That job is to educate and engage your visitors. If you’re short on visitors all of that hard work goes to waste. A proper website mixed with SEO can seriously improve your leads.
We’ve seen clients with brand new businesses, within 6 months of starting an SEO campaign, start to have 10-30 new leads a month. Some, even MORE leads depending on the market. There’s nothing like acquiring new client interest in your business while you’re sleeping. SEO can provide that stream you need, and oddly, it’s sometimes more predictable than paid traffic from a conversion standpoint.
3) More Traffic equals More Brand Awareness
Even if you have nothing to gain because your business does not work on “leads”, there is literally always a benefit to having more traffic. Say you sell a marinade as a product, having people find your website by searching for recipes or how to use a marinade will provide a massive amount of brand awareness. Now, it’s always better if that drives them to buy and doesn’t just provide a nice traffic statistic, but having said that, it’s rare that more traffic is a bad thing.
We’ve had partnership opportunities, found employees, had businesses approach Muletown Digital about helping them with things not even on our website as a service, all from organic SEO. We want more and more people to experience our brand and how we love to help our customers. SEO makes that possible without us having to pay for every single visit we have.
Some Quick SEO Stats
If you’re a big numbers person, these stats will literally blow your mind. All of them come from Impact Plus – Impact Plus
- Google has already received 360 billion searches this year (and counting).
- Out of the billions of searches that happen on a given day, 15% of daily searches are new to Google.
- On the first page alone, the first five organic results account for 67.60% of all the clicks.
- High-quality content and link building are the two most important signals used by Google to rank your website for search.
- 70% of marketers see SEO as more effective than PPC.
There are SO many more just mind blowing statistics about the value of SEO. There was a period of time where everyone started saying “SEO is dead” which was the losing way of saying “we don’t need this anyway” because the big guys were all taking over the SEO market. Over time, the playing field has really leveled, and even a small business in Nashville, TN or surrounding areas can compete with the big guys.
Because of this, SEO is becoming more and more powerful of a tactic for the small businesses. The bigger businesses are having to do it to keep up with the nimble small businesses in the space. That’s what caused the leveling of the marketing playing field.
What to look out for with Small Business SEO
There are some things you need to look out for when you’re either hiring an SEO agency to help you out, or even if you’re doing SEO work for yourself. Here are some pitfalls we’ve seen time and time again. Each one of these could be their own post, but for now, I’ll just give you the “life lesson” level ones.
1. Watch out for exactly what you’re ranking for
Search terms with little to no search volume will not provide value to your business. If someone is offering a promised #1 ranking for your business for $350/mo you should run quickly the other way. You’ll rank for terms like “plumbing services in Nashville, TN for houses built in the 1970’s”. Great to have the long-tail keyword, but with 2 searches per month, likely not worth paying to rank for it.
2. Black Hat VS White Hat
When it comes to on-site SEO and off-site SEO there are definitely black and white hat versions. Buying non-trusted links through 3rd party providers would be an example of black-hat SEO. In the long run, basically, you’re going to end up losing and and all traction you get with those. The agency that sold them to you, they’ll be long gone and you’ll have wasted all of your time and money.
Other examples of bad SEO would be:
- Keyword stuffing where you keep writing the exact same words or phrases over and over again on a page to the point where its unnatural to the reader.
- Pushing out many articles, none of which say anything about what your business does or stands for.
- Purchasing bad backlinks for your website through a 3rd party provider. This will get you on the Google naughty list so fast.
- Spam links into other website comments, pingback requests, and just general bad SEO.
What does White Hat Small Business SEO Look Like?
White Hat SEO typically has 4-Pillars of SEO and those include On-Site SEO, Off-Site SEO, Technical SEO, and Content Building. I’ll do my best to give you a little overview of what is involved in these different components so you can make apples to apples comparisons as you’re searching for an SEO provider.
Of course, everything needs to start with the right strategy, otherwise the work you do will be in vain. SEO is 75% strategy and 25% implementation in my humble opinion. If you get the strategy right, the implementation takes care of itself. If you miss on what you’re going to go after and how, no matter how hard you try, your SEO efforts will not work. So start everything with “what we’re trying to accomplish” and then work down from there.
- Keyword Research
- Meta Titles and Descriptions
- H1, H2, H3, etc titles
- URL Naming conventions and nesting
- Image Optimization
- Website page structure
- Conversion Optimization
- Competitive Analysis
- Link Building of relevant, high-authority links that are coming from trusted sources into your website (Press Releases, Article Sharing, Associations, etc).
- Signaling from Social Media accounts into relevant articles published on your website.
- Don’t let the short list fool you – this can account for about 50% of how effective your SEO actually is on your website!
- Robots Files
- Mobile User Experience
- Page Speed
- Website CMS Technology
- Website Structure
- Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google My Business setup and optimization
- Researching, Writing, and Editing new and relevant content pieces for your website
- Optimization of past written articles
- Interlinking of articles into products and services across your website.
- Snippet building for the Google SERP’s
Additionally, we will cover in future articles, but Local SEO and eCommerce also tend to have VERY specific components that are required. Local SEO involves local specific and map searches. eCommerce SEO surrounds dealing with product names, titles, and search relevance. Those are both VERY in-depth services that I can’t go into detail about here, but generally speaking, they are also important pillars depending on their application into your business.
What to know before hiring an SEO Agency
Before you hire an SEO agency you should be honestly considering what your goal is with SEO. Are you trying to rank for specific services or products. Do you know who you actually compete with in the space. Sometimes your competition isn’t who you actually think it is. You can share ranking with businesses that don’t even do what you do. So, understanding who is in the space will be very helpful to you.
Finally, realize and know that in SEO there are no guarantees and there are NO PROMISES. Anyone who tells you differently is lying to you. We’ve seen SEO completely transform businesses (as you can see in our case studies), https://muletowndigital.com/work/, and we’ve inherited clients with completely failed SEO campaigns. It all boils down to the strategy and then the implementation.
I always tell people, one thing we can never do is create search volume for something that people just don’t search for. If nobody is searching for “Studio Drummer Nashville” – ranking for that term, even number 1 in the world, will be a vanity metric and will return little to no ROI in that business. You should be prepared to work with your SEO team on “what” you’re going to rank for, and then “how” to go after those rankings.
You should also know that your competition – who is likely doing SEO – will be watching as you climb the charts for ranking. When you hit page 1 you’re a problem for the people in the 1,2 and 3rd positions and their teams (like ours) will now be watching everything that you (or we) are doing as far as SEO goes. Know that people will copy you, and it is a battle that never ends. You should know going into it. If you’re like me, and you enjoy competition and you like watching people try to figure out what you’re doing and what you’ve done, SEO is going to be awesome for you.
If you’re afraid to lose, its not a strategy I can recommend for your business. But hey, they say the road to success is paved failures. With SEO, even a failure, can create a business for you moving ahead that you’ve never have dreamed of, and for most businesses, the biggest failure is NOT TRYING SEO at all.
Do you need help with Small Business SEO?
If you need help, please go here to book a call so I can help you get unstuck. We offer a completely FREE SEO Feasibility Analysis, done by hand by me and my team. If you want to know if SEO can work for you, we’ll tell you the truth, even if the answer is “no”. Let us know how we can help you!