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.