In today’s Wall Street Journal Small Business section there is the ultimate “How To” on creating a website and getting yourself found in the search engines. While it is the dream of every small business to be able to something big and spectacular for no cost (or next to no cost) it is also much more fantasy than reality.
I think the article has its merits and there is some decent information in it but it is precisely this type of “anybody can do it” stuff that is out there that makes it even more difficult to help clients do what they ACTUALLY need to do to get the desired results from their web presence.
I am not going to dissect the article bit by bit because you can go there yourself and read it. All I will provide is a strong caution that all is not as it seems. The nuances of web site construction and search engine optimization are not even considered here in this article. Search marketing for SMB’s (small and medium business) alone is a task that is, when completely looked at and understood, daunting for most small business types.
The over simplification of this article (which is probably no fault of the experts quoted) is almost a little disturbing. According to this article it seems that if you have done nominal keyword research by asking around the office about how people search or your product or service or just doing it yourself. Here is one of the most fundamental errors that I see committed all the time by the SMB player who is trying to shortcut this process. I encourage business owners to ask outsiders, not insiders, how THEY would search for your service or product. Anyone who is too close to the situation will often not have a good grasp of how an actual prospect would search for your service. We all get myopic and to insular when it comes to our own businesses so the last place I would turn is to one of your own to do this research.
Lastly, the idea that on-page optimization is enough for SEO for the SMB owners of the world is completely misleading. I have heard very sharp SEO’s tell me over and over that if they went up against a site that was concentrating on on-page factors only (content, title tags, meta descriptions) they could basically clean its clock with a site that is weak in on-page optimization but strongest in the one way inbound linking category. As is usually the case, this article almost completely ignores the heart of strong search engine optimization (one way inbound links). Why? I really don’t have an answer other than it is time consuming and a grinding process when done correctly and ethically. This is the stuff that blind sides most “do-it-yourselfers” and creates disillusionment with the practice of search engine optimization.
Last point then I will stop the rant. Paid search isn’t even mentioned. It takes time (3 months in a perfect world and six months more realistically) to get ranked in the SERP’s (search engine result pages) for organic listings for your most competitive keywords, especially if your site is new. Oh and by the way, there is no guarantee that you will achieve that result at all due to changes in the way that engines rank sites etc.. And it is not a “set it and forget it” process. So what is your site going to do in the interim? You need to be doing some form of pay per click advertising or be working on viral campaigns to get the buzz going right out of the gate. Without giving any timeframes in this article it appears as if you should show up on the first page of Google just because you did the basics! No wonder this industry has image issues.
Comment Starter: Whether you do SEO for clients or yourself tell me if it’s as easy as it appears from this brief article. If you have worked with an agency in the past what has been your experience regarding what works or doesn’t work.
SMB Takeaway: Search engine optimization (SEO) for a new site takes considerable time and is not an easy process. It’s not rocket science either. The trouble is most SMB’s don’t have a realistic picture of the time and effort needed and an appropriate expectation of results.
Thanks and have a great day!