10 Most Important Factors for Small Business SEO

The online space is changing constantly and every day there is a new product, platform or idea being created to attract and distract business owners. Whilst writing this article there could be a new product being launched that renders this article out of date and so rather than look at the shiny new things available online this article will focus on the fundamentals of online success for a small business owner.

  1. Clear Project Aims – What do you want to achieve online? Are you looking for brand awareness, direct sales, lead generation or is your web site simply a supporting act for your more traditional offline activity? Setting out clearly defined goals will lead to the second key area for online activity which is keyword selection.
  2. Keyword Selection – Once you have identified your project aims you can set about the task of creating a keyword map. The aim here is to identify keywords or phrases that people who are searching, browsing or even fumbling their way online would use to find you. An example of this might be “Cheap Car Insurance” might be a phrase suitable for generating direct sales whereas “Insurance Companies” might be more brand awareness. Google’s own keyword tool is a really useful free offering for identifying good phrases with regular search volumes.
  3. Traffic – Once you have created a keyword map you need to identify the best place to generate traffic. Search engines like Google are usually the best place to start but are you looking for a Pay per Click campaign through the likes of Google Adwords? This is quick and easy to achieve but very often far too expensive for most small to medium sized businesses. Are you looking for organic traffic from the natural listings? This typically needs a good Small business SEO specialist to help but tends to deliver more quality and sustainable traffic. Could social media be more suited to your product i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in or the host of social bookmarking sites like Delicious or Digg? What about the power of video which is becoming ever more important online and traffic can be gained from the video streaming platforms like You Tube, Daily Motion or Metacafe and also direct from the first page of Google.
  4. Traffic Quality – One key factor when deciding where to get your traffic is the quality and quantity you need. There is a fine line between quality and volume – too much attention to the quality and you may not generate enough visitors to convert, too much attention to volume and you may waste lots of money generating leads that do not convert or you cannot cope with. Concentrate on your highest profit margin phrases first and build from there.
  5. Traffic Behaviour – Once you get visitors to your web site they need to stay in the first instance, get to where they need to be quickly and efficiently and once there convert into a lead or sale. If you have a high bounce rate it could be that people are searching for one thing and arriving at a page that says something different. If someone is searching for “red shoes” make sure they arrive at the page within your site that sells red shoes not a page that sells “green track suits” or your home page that talks about your business in general. If someone is searching for ‘sports wear” by all means send them to your home page or a category page that says Sports Wear. Can the user navigate the site easily without needing a crash course in code writing!! Is your site clunky or slow to load if so change it customers will get board, it is a fact that searchers are spending less time on each page they visit and bounce rates as a whole are increasing indicating that today’s searcher is less prepared to dig for what they want and are looking for it to be served to them quickly.
  6. Traffic Conversion – Once visitors are on your site and have been able to navigate or have landed on the correct page you need mechanisms to help them convert. If you have a shopping cart this is straight forward you want them to buy something however if they don’t what next? How can you grab their details so that you can market to them again? It is essential to have multiple reasons for a searcher to leave their details and often less is more here. Rather than giving away every piece of information at your disposal reduce it slightly and get the searcher to ask for it. Give them a snippet of a newsletter or white paper and get them to ask fro the rest (this way you generate a lead), show them a video and ask them do they want more? (another way to generate a lead). Early stage researchers may only want to leave an email address in order to receive a newsletter perhaps whereas a searcher who is ready to buy might leave lots of information to receive full product specifications or a price list?
  7. Traffic Retention – Most small business owners have one chance to convert traffic into leads or sales and that is usually the first time a potential customer visits the site. Many blue chips and larger web site real estate work really hard to create a web site that is appealing enough for visitors to return therefore giving them multiple opportunities to convert traffic to sales. Small business owners however usually do not have the time, resource or subject matter to create a site that engages visitors over and over again with the possible exception of e-commerce sites. This doesn’t mean that small business owners shouldn’t try by introducing videos, industry news updates, company news updates, blog posts, twitter posts, weekly offers or even competitions in order to give visitors a reason to return.
  8. Traffic Profiling – Most businesses will now have some kind of traffic analysis software (often Google Analytics) however few small businesses are conversant with all there functions. With Google analytics for example it is possible to set up targets and goals to track the performance of traffic throughout the site. Traffic profiling takes this a stage further by separating traffic and leads into predetermined categories from early stage researchers to general enquirers and the holy grail of hot leads who are ready to buy now.
  9. Lead Management – Once a lead has been captured it is essential that business owners can store and manage these leads effectively. This ranges from creating categories for leads, compiling a history, prospect system to manage calls and recalls and some kind of filtering system to facilitate target marketing and re-marketing. Even if your site is an e-commerce site it is proven that less than 5% of people who visit your site for the first time will buy something and so it is essential to have a lead management programme to facilitate the other 95%
  10. Re-Marketing – It has long been proven in the world of offline marketing that it takes between 5-7 contacts on average to turn a prospect into a top quality lead or sale and this is no different online. On average small to medium sized business owners tend to contact their prospects only 2-3 times and many only make one contact. This is one major area where a small business owner can truly maximise their ROI when it comes to online marketing by having the capacity to simply and regularly contact their prospect base.

IRA Vs 401k – an Amazingly Simple Small Business Retirement Plan Decision

The question of IRA vs 401k leaps to mind when setting up a small business retirement plan. Do you know the differences between plans? What does the Internal Revenue Code allow and restrict? Why should you even care? Because if you sell fixed indexed annuities and want to capitalize on one of the hottest specialty markets going today (setting up retirement plans for small business owners with 1 to 9 employees), you’ll want to brush up on IRA vs 401k and other important considerations.

First, consider that a small business retirement plan, now more than ever, is the best way to defer large amounts of tax-deductible dollars. Thanks to the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA), self-employed taxpayers now have unprecedented incentives to save for retirement. A business owner’s decision is quite literally whether to keep company profits… or send them off to Uncle Sam.

OWNER GETS MORE

It’s no secret the allure of a small business retirement plan is directly related to benefits available to the owner. The greater the owner’s share of the overall plan, the greater the interest. Before the new tax legislation, restrictions on owner’s benefits in small plan design often resulted in even fewer benefits for the employees. But the tools are now in place to ratchet up the owner’s benefits and still create a workable plan for the employees. So, should the plan be an IRA or a 401k? Let’s examine IRA vs 401k separately.

SIMPLIFIED EMPLOYEE PENSION

The simplest small business retirement plan for self-employed taxpayers and the easiest to set up and maintain is the Simplified Employee Pension (SEP). You may establish a SEP if you earn self-employment income, regardless of whether you have employees. A SEP is an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and if maintained for more than one person becomes a group of IRAs.

All contributions to a SEP are tax deductible as a business expense. As an IRA the plan’s earnings are not taxed until they are withdrawn at retirement. As usual, withdrawals prior to age 59 ½ with this and other plans incur a 10% penalty. A SEP-IRA does not permit loans or salary deferral contributions. Also, the individual annual contribution limit for 2006 is the lesser of 25% of compensation or $44,000, and contributions may be reduced or skipped altogether in lean years.

INDIVIDUAL 401(k)

Another handy tool in the EGTRRA toolbox is the Individual or Solo 401(k). This small business retirement plan is ideally suited for businesses in which the owner or owners (and their spouses if working at the business) are the only employees. The biggest reason for opening a one-person 401(k) is the higher contribution limits allowed, plus the fact that contributions are based on revenue generated by the business.

The maximum tax-deductible employer contribution is 25% of gross eligible payroll. For 2006 the maximum effective salary deferral contribution for employer plus employee is $44,000 plus a catch-up contribution of $5,000 for individuals age 50 and over. Loans are permitted subject to limits and rules, and paperwork may be just a filing of the streamlined IRS Form 5500-EZ when plan assets exceed $100,000.

NEVER A BETTER TIME

The new tax law creates a multitude of opportunities with more than 60 new provisions to strongly encourage the startup and funding of your small business retirement plan. Variations in plan design allow opportunities to suit independent contractors, sole-practitioner professionals, small retail owners — virtually every type of small business imaginable. Answer the question of IRA vs 401k and you’re on your way.

For small business owners in search of large tax breaks, it doesn’t get any better than this. There has never been a better time than right now to convert current taxes into assets, defer tax payments, and generate large amounts of retirement income. And for you as the fixed indexed annuity specialist, this market is virtually untapped.

Should Small Business Owners Rely on Google?

Let me start by saying that Google are not out to hurt small businesses however they often do. For many small business owners the idea of being on the first page of Google for meaningful phrases within their industry is very attractive. If done properly Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can have a massive impact on the visitors and ultimately sales or leads a small business generates through their web site.

The problem is most small business owners want to target the most generic of phrases i.e. “New Car” which has a huge amount of searches each month and so is very competitive and therefore a small business would have to invest a lot of time and money to achieve this. Often entry level SEO Companies will promise the earth when it comes to delivering phrases like this and will often give unrealistic time frames and unrealistic costs. The problem here is that it takes a small business 3-4 months sometimes to find out that these promises are unrealistic and therefore 3-4 months have been wasted not only from a cost point of view but from a lead generation / sales point of view.

There are other issues when it comes to targeting generic phrases like this in that even if a small business found a partner that could deliver these phrases in a timely fashion because they are so generic and because the search volumes are massive then the leads generated can often be very high. Just what the Doctor ordered you might think however the leads tend to be wildly different in quality from very early stage researchers, to clients ready to buy now and so unless you have the infrastructure, team and processes to qualify, filter and nurture all of these leads then many will get wasted.

So how does Google fit into this process?

There are typically three types of SEO Company:

Entry level SEO Companies who concentrate on very long tail phrases (very specific like “New Car for sale in the South of England”) which generate little if any searches and therefore little if any traffic and ultimately little if any leads / sales. These companies will typically concentrate on a little on page optimisation and very little if any link building.

Agency style optimisation companies – the agency model works very well with bigger blue chip companies who want a bespoke service have the time and money to invest on generating good quality generic phrases and have the people in house to manage and quantify the leads and enquiries. This type of model involves employing real quality SEO specialists who take a bespoke view on each client when it comes to their optimisation both online and offline. This model works well when a specialist has 5-10 accounts to work with and the company charge a lot of money for each project. This means that when Google makes changes to their algorithms they have the time and resource to make the changes necessary for each client. The problem with this model is when it is employed for small business owners because the company cannot charge a lot of money, therefore the SEO Specialist has to work on 60-100 plus clients and so even if success is achieved in the first instance when Google makes changes the SEO Specialist and company are incapable of coping and keeping up. The big problem here is that often the small business owner has come to rely on the traffic and sales from Google and if they lose these the impact can be massive.

Specialist Small Business SEO Companies – There are surprisingly very few companies who are specialists in this field and the big difference between this model and the agency model is that the companies who do this have developed world class processes and often software so that their specialists can handle multiple accounts and therefore truly keep the cost of optimisation low. The major difference here is that if Google do make changes then because of these processes and software the specialists can implement the necessary alterations to client sites instantly, seamlessly and with minimal impact to results ongoing. This type of company tend to focus on quality long tail phrases which do generate good profitable traffic however they will also have software that helps the small business owner maximise this traffic by making improvements to the whole of the online sales funnel and turn it into leads and sales.

Google are always making changes to their algorithms to prevent spammers, unscrupulous affiliate programmes and companies involved with the likes of click fraud. The problem is a lot of these companies produce small poor quality web sites to do this and so Google are always moving towards better quality, content rich, constantly updated web sites to feature high on their rankings. Unfortunately small business owner web sites tend to be more like the spammer model than they do the blue chip model and therefore often get affected by Google’s changes albeit quite innocently.

It is essential therefore if you are a small business owner that you look beyond the initial three months and the glamour and allure of the “Big Phrase” and work with a partner who can deliver long term sustainable leads and sales via your web site and can cope with the whims and moods of Google.