Small Business SEO: How to Maximize Your Marketing Budget

If you're looking to advertise online, one of the popular methods you'll hear about is search engine optimization, commonly referred to as SEO. This article will explain what SEO is, outline potential costs, let you know the pros and cons of this type of advertising and help you determine if you need a professional service.

What is SEO?

SEO is an organic form of advertising, and the premise behind it is to signal to a search engine that your site is highly relevant to people searching for specific terms. For example, if you sold cat food, you'd want your website to send a message to search engines that people searching for the phrase "cat food" would want to see your site.

The more relevant that a search engine thinks your site is to someone's search, the higher your site will rank in search engine results. It is important to not just be listed in search engines, but to be at the top of search results. The overwhelming majority of people click on the first few links shown in search results, and 20 percent or fewer individuals click to the second page of search results.

There are a number of methods of convincing a search engine that your site is relevant to particular keywords and phrases. They include naming files and URLs on your site in a particular manner, making use of HTML tags and injecting keywords or terms into your written content. Getting websites that search engines regard as high quality to link to your site can also improve your site's ranking.

Is SEO Free?

Since SEO is a form of organic advertising, you don't pay a search engine directly. You may still end up spending money to have a professional optimize your site or create content for it, but with SEO, you do not pay search engines to display links to your website. Another type of organic advertising is when you create posts on social media sites but do not pay the platform to show your posts to individuals who do not follow you.

Organic advertising is technically free, but in practice, it's going to cost something. Even if you don't pay a professional SEO service to optimize your website for you, you're still going to need to put in time and effort to create your site, ensure that it follows search engine standards and generate content for it. There are opportunity costs associated with SEO even if you're not forking over money or a credit card.

The Benefits of SEO

While SEO isn't necessarily free, it can have the largest return on investment of just about any type of advertising on or off the Internet. Once your site is established as a top site in search results, it is fairly easy to maintain your rank. This may require you to make small adjustments over time as search engines change their methods for determining relevancy, but your initial investment can continue to provide results long after you've spent time or money on optimization.

This is important because most other forms of online advertising require that you pay continuously to be able to advertise your site. With pay-per-click advertising, you have to pay a certain amount of money every time someone visits your site after clicking on an ad. This can be very costly, especially if you're in a competitive field.

This is due to the fact that PPC advertising costs are determined based on keyword auctions. While the average cost for a PPC click through Google AdWords is around two dollars, there are some ads that cost a company more than $100 if they're clicked on. These tend to be ads for hotels in New York or lawyers in certain fields, but SEO can cost a fraction of what a year's worth of PPC ads will set you back even if you're not in a highly competitive market.

Another form of paid advertising is banner ads or impression ads. You pay a flat rate for a certain number of impressions, which is usually 1,000, and you're not normally charged extra if someone clicks on your ad. Banner ads are usually far less expensive than PPC ads, and they generally cost less than five dollars per one thousand views. However, you still need to continue to pay to display an ad, and banner ad marketing is far less targeted than SEO.

Potential Drawbacks of SEO

While SEO can be less expensive than other forms of advertising and continue to provide results after the initial investment, there are still some aspects of this form of advertising that are less than optimal. One of the largest issues that people have with SEO is how long it takes to see results. The second complaint that many individuals have is that SEO is a moving target because search engines are constantly tweaking the way that they rank websites.

SEO can take a while to have an effect on a business' website traffic. In most cases, it takes four to six months for someone to see a real uptick in the number of people visiting their website. Part of this is because search engines tend to rank websites that have been established for a while higher than their newer counterparts.

Additionally, changes in ranking may be happening, but they may not instantly start driving large numbers of new visitors to a website. If a website starts out with a ranking of 100, they may move up to a rank of 20 and still not see a major change in traffic because they are still on the second page of search results. In many cases, improvements start happening quickly, but the benefits may not show up for a while.

The changing landscape of SEO is another major concern. Google, in particular, is constantly tinkering with the way that they rank websites, and other search engines, like Bing and Yahoo, tend to follow suit. One fairly recent change is that Google has started to rank websites that are mobile-friendly higher than websites that aren't when people search from a mobile device.

The search engine is also making it known that they will start penalizing websites that use certain types of ads that cover an entire website by lowering their search engine rankings. These examples show that continuous adjustments will need to be made to ensure that a website retains a top slot in search results.

This doesn't mean that SEO isn't an effective and relatively low-cost form of advertising—far from it. However, knowing what you're getting into can help you plan ahead and keep your site and content in line with the expectations' of search engines. Additionally, other forms of paid advertising, like PPC ads or social media advertising, can be used to bridge the gap until your search engine ranking improves.

Why Use an SEO Service?

Optimizing a website for a search engine is something that just about anyone can do. The problem is that not everyone can do it well and in a timely manner. Although the basic premise of SEO is relatively simple—convince search engines your website is most relevant to particular keywords—the methods of achieving this can be complex.

Naming structures, creating content with enough keywords but not too many keywords, understanding which keywords to pursue and being able to get quality backlinks is time-consuming and requires a solid understanding of what search engines are looking for. Furthermore, knowing which keywords to focus on is a major part of ensuring that SEO provides an ROI. Rising to the top of search results for terms that typically people outside of your customer demographics search for is a waste of time at best.

What this means is that you could do it yourself, but maybe you shouldn't. Whether you are looking for a Denver SEO Consultant or a provider in your particular area, you can hire someone who knows exactly what they're doing to provide results that will turn into increased traffic and sales. These services can do the heavy lifting and ensure that your site is search engine friendly, and they can also maintain your site and help you keep your ranking.

One other reason that using a professional service may be a better idea than handling SEO on your own is that Google has a habit of penalizing websites for certain actions. Web sites may lose top rankings for egregiously gaming the system, such as was the case when people were filling websites with the same keywords over and over, but sometimes penalties come from having the wrong types of websites linking to yours.

Since it's the job of SEO professionals like Chris Walker to stay on top of trends and changes, they'll often be better able to keep your website in line with current requirements and deal with potential issues before your site is demoted for them. If you decide to handle your own website optimization, be ready to do a lot of research on the topic and expect to need to stay abreast of changes to the way that websites are ranked and what accepted methods may start to work against you.

The reason that SEO is one of the most commonly used types of Internet marketing is because it can work for anyone, and you have a lot of control over how much it costs. It is an effective form of marketing that is far more targeted than just about any offline advertising option, and it can also be done at a fraction of the cost. Furthermore, once you have an effective SEO plan in place, you can continue to reap the benefits of your initial investment in time and/or funds for months or even years to come.

About the author

Anica is a professional content and copywriter who graduated from the University of San Francisco. She loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she's used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here. If you are interested in an online safety degree, Anica suggests you check out the programs offered by Eastern Kentucky University.


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