What you should know about Search Engine Marketing for Your Local Business
So you’re just getting up, planning your day for your business, trying to be productive and this guy calls you out of the blue:
“Howdy, my friend. Aw’m a close associate of Google, and I want y’all to be way on top of the first page of the organic search engine results as we optimawz for y’all’s business. Just pay me $1000 a month and we’ll git ya all set up, so people can find ya. What? You don’t to pay up? Well, technology’s changin’ my friend. Y’all be out of business soon, but with Honest BillyBob’s SEO service we can keep that from happenin! What’s your credit card number, my friend?”
In the meantime, you’re scratching your head, thinking who are these guys and what are they talking about? And what do you need to be seen by Google? Okay, bear with me and I’ll explain.
Search Engine Marketing
Search Engine Marketing? What are you talking about? People keep saying my small business should be doing it. If I only had a clue what that means!
Okay, I’ll explain it as best I can. Some will remember how people once used Yellowpages to find your business. Now they use Google on their laptops, phones or tablets. Google and Bing and few others are called search engines. Businesses want to be found by the potential customers using those search engines, and so it is a form of marketing.
Hence the phrase “search engine marketing.” When people refer to “SEO”, they mean “search engine optimization.” That just means your website is set up so people can find you better on Google and other search engines.
If you want you can call it Google marketing or whatever makes it easier for you. But basically you want people to find you on Google, Yahoo, Bing, social media platforms or whatever else they’re using to find the products and services they need.
When they talk about keywords, all they mean is phrases people are typing in to Google. If I want to find Cuban cuisine in Portland I type in “Cuban restaurants Portland.” Hence the keywords are Cuban, restaurants, and Portland. A keyword phrase is that particular combination: “Cuban restaurant Portland.”
What you want are people to find YOU with those keywords for your particular type of business. That’s why search engines are such an effective form of marketing. People are LOOKING for YOUR product or service, and in terms of sales leads this is gold.
With my guitar lessons business, most of my students found me through Google.
Search engine: Google, Bing
Search Engine Marketing: Using Google and Bing as a way to market your business or website.
Keywords: words people type into the search engine, example: “Guitar lessons Gresham, Oregon.”
Search Engine Marketers
Unfortunately those who specialize in search engine marketing have gotten a bad rep. So in this article I’m gonna try to clear this up.
Are you getting people calling you who claim to have an in with Google? Promising you’ll be on the first page if you pay up? Be aware, many of these guys are not worth the dear price you’ll pay up. Some use spammy tactics, which sometimes work and sometimes don’t, and once Google catches them they get penalized.
On the other hand some agencies are legit, and have guys working round the clock to bring real content that people want to link to. These agencies can be worth the money if they’re doing their job right and bring you great business.
So how do I tell the good search engine marketers from the bad?
Here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Is there confusion whether these guys are actually from Google? Google doesn’t go calling you to help your rankings. They do send promotional material for their ads, which I’ll explain later in the article.
- Do they boast about bringing you to the top of the rankings easily without specifics or how they do it? Getting to the top rankings of a great keyword is not easy. It can take months or years and a lot of work put into it, depending on how popular the keyword is. Think about it. If 50 laundrymats are in New York, they can’t all rank at the top of New York listings just by going with this service.
- Are they pushy and make you feel stupid? That’s a bad sign of anyone trying to sell you something.
These are the signs of spammy marketers. They call this “black hat SEO.” What you want are the good ones, the “white hat SEO” guys who use standard practices like cleaning up the webpage, getting titles, headings and keywords right, getting links and great content people want to read and link to and are fairly open about their practices.
I’ve always done my own websites and SEO so I can’t necessarily tell you the names of good agencies and bad ones, but those are things to look for. (If you want to learn it yourself, I learned from MarketMotive, and an SEO course at Portland Community College, and a book called The Art of SEO.)
Some of the established paid advertising search engines are fine including Yelp, Google Adwords and Bing. Adwords is a legitimate service and is offered by Google themselves.
Adwords: A paid advertising service offered by Google themselves.
Wait, I’m confused, you say Google doesn’t promote and ranks primarily on content, but why do I pay them for advertising?
Google is clear to separate what people are paying for (Adwords) and what comes naturally, which is called organic search engine ranking.
Wait, back up…you’re talking geek again, Josh!
Okay, I’ll try to tone down my nerdtalk. Just remember there are two ways to rank in Google. Naturally with content or pay to have advertised words.
Here’s an example:
See the difference between the paid Adwords and the regular listings? The one at the top says “Ad” and the rest don’t. Make sense?
Just remember these are two different types of marketing. You can pay Google (or an Adwords company if you don’t want to manage your own as it can get pretty technical.) for these ads or you can work on creating great content which lists for free if it ranks well in search engines. Just remember it’s a lot of work and takes a long time to rank.
Myself, I prefer the organic ranking. From what I’ve seen people usually don’t click on the ads, but some have had success with them.
So what can we do as a small business who hasn’t set up their webpage very long and there’s so much competition?
First of all allow people to FIND YOU specifically when they want to. They should be able to enter your business name on their phone and have it come right up. If your webpage is set up right and you’re entered in a few local search engines that should be easy.
To get found on a more general level say when people look for your type of industry, it helps to specialize. General listings like, “Automobile repair in New York” are very hard to rank for. But if you try for your own zipcode or particular suburb you might have better results.
My own business Guitar Lessons Made Simple ranks much better in Gresham than in Portland, because I’m specializing in a more particular location. Look up “guitar lessons Gresham” and you’ll find me right up there.
So here’s a few easy things you can yourself:
- Set up a LinkedIn page. I mean a real LinkedIn page with your photo up, the basic text filled in (spellcheck with word if you need to) and a link to your website. (I see some who don’t even bother putting a picture up of themselves. If it’s done only halfway, then why bother at all?) LinkedIn isn’t just a resume, it’s the social media of the professional world. You likely already have friends on there so try to connect with 10 or 20 people you know. (Be careful not to choose the option to email all your friends about LinkedIn.)
- Set all your social media profiles to link to your website, even if you just use Facebook, that helps.
- Make sure your title field has your industry keywords and your location. It should say for example: Joe’s Automobile Repair in Battleground, Washington” not “Home.” If you can’t figure out what I’m talking about that’s okay, just continue onto other lowhanging fruit. Just make sure your website designer is doing this.
- Set up a Google business page. (Okay, not always so easy, as Google can be confusing sometimes. But it never hurts to try.)
- Get reviews on Google and Yelp. Reviews seem to really make the difference as to whether people click on your site or not. Even one or two reviews can set you apart from others with no reviews.
- See if you can get your friends and other business sites to link to you. If you’re good at sales, this is a great option. Cold-calling or emailing people with relevant sites with resources pages and asking for links can help you. The more links, the better!
My own service? No, I’m not gonna promise instant first page rankings, but what I can do is help people find you in general by location, and set up your site to list better on Google. I can tell you specifics if that’s what you want. I’m generally pretty open about what I’m doing.
I start with the low-hanging fruit methods listed above. And then basically I just enter the business name in many of the local search engines. You can do this yourself, but it can be a pain filling out forms and I’ve gotten used to these sites. And then I go through the page and makes sure the content is “search-engine friendly” has a few keywords in the right places, and hopefully get some appropriate sites linking back to it. That’s where it helps to know a little bit about how a webpage is designed.
Try for very specific keywords such as “Lawnmower repair Troutdale, Oregon” or even more specific “Lawnmower repair zip code 97060” and cross your fingers that it ranks well. I know this doesn’t sound as fancy as these search engine gurus, but I tell it like it is and don’t want to make false promises. It will likely be worth it after a few months, maybe even a few weeks. Just ask your customers how they found you. If they say Google…you’re welcome. 🙂
Make sense? It’s not mysterious and it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and leg just to market your site. I’ll set-up the basics for $175.
Wait a minute. This is just another sales-pitch!
Maybe so, but it’s a secondary service I offer that can help local businesses. There’s no pressure, I’m just offering you information to make a better decision. Whether you do this yourself, hire a specialized SEO service or have me do a basic setup, I just don’t want you getting scammed by the blackhats.
Have I explained it well? Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about it.