Mike Moran’s post today, entitled Should Small Business Ditch the Web? discusses, well… I was going to say an “interesting point,” but I think instead I will say “ridiculously obvious point.” Mr. Moran essentially uses some of this post as a rebuttal to a comment to a prior post, by someone with the screen name of “Ikey.” It is Ikey’s view that big businesses have taken all the good keywords, and dominate the online marketplace to a point, that we as small business owners really have nothing left to live for online, and we might as well pack it in and move our marketing efforts offline, to more traditional forms of advertising.
AAAAAAAANNNNKKK! Wrong answer, terrible advice, and even sillier logic. Mr. Moran aptly points out that offline forms of advertising are much more expensive, which is true, and depending on the product, I would add they may not be as effective, or as beneficial to a small business in the long-term. I unfortunately took (wasted) the time to go and visit this Ikey’s site, and frankly it was, well… icky. It is my opinion Ikey isn’t going to sell anything from the site as now constituted, no matter how many folks happen to find him online. And this is probably where our online business discussion needs to go. Ikey’s site looks like many other cheap ebook, promise the world, deliver very little, type sites, and it is delivered in the almost cliche, early 90s look and feel, animating GIFs, etc. Now I realize that “retro” is cool with clothing and perhaps some models of cars right now, but retro isn’t cool with web site design. To really be successful online, I believe you must start with your site and company image. Online, the site essentially becomes the salesperson, and if the site looks cheap and sleezy, it reflects badly on the company, no matter the quality of the content. It is perhaps sad to admit the online world is as superficial as the offline world, but that has been our experience.
Being online is also important for small businesses because we never know who is going to find us. Michael and I have been surprised, no frankly shocked, at the number of clients that have found our companies, even some Fortune 500 clients, despite our poor performance in some search engine rankings. And we have been even more amazed at the keywords these clients used to find us.
Which kinds of leads us to another interesting post. Marketing Pilgrim posted an article entitled Business Doesn’t Need SEO by Jeremy Luebke last Thursday. Now it was quite an eye catching title, and thankfully the message was very appropriate. Do we as business owners need SEO to be a successful business? The answer is simply no, I know a number of business that have done very well without much help from an online presence, and they have done very little, if anything, in the form of SEO strategy implementation. I am sure you know companies like this as well. But is that the question we should be asking ourselves? Do we need SEO as small business owners? From my standpoint, no we don’t need it, but I believe we should all be doing it, at least a little bit. SEO is the difference between doing well, and doing extremely well for a long period of time. SEO strategies position a site to do well not only now, but even more so in the future. As a site improves in the rankings through implementing focused SEO strategies, and is indexed for a longer period of time, the search engine cred of the site will increase. As content is added, and links increase with time, the better the site’s ranking will become, and the better the chance potential clients will be able to find the site, even if it isn’t on the first SERP page. SEO efforts build on themselves, and where that takes a business in the future is anyone’s guess, but without a doubt it will drastically increase the potential that new clients will find us.
And what about these potential searchers/clients, who are they, and how do they eventually find us. This is an interesting phenomena as well. We are seeing the way people use search change, they are getting better at search, as they have learned how to better use long-tail search queries to more quickly and precisely find what they are looking for. Additionally, potential clients, both old and young are now not afraid to look online until they find a company that fits what they perceive they are looking for. Even my mother and father have become Googleites, and can find what they need very well. We have heard from some clients that they were just “searching” around and essentially stumbled on to us, if we had not been online, or at least trying to be visible online, this would not have happened. People are willing to look for what they want, and spend time doing it, because they have learned it does make a difference in their experience. I would also suggest that many searchers understand that the best company for their needs might not be on the first page of the search engine results page. Experience with the search engines results has taught us all this reality.
So if we add it all up, an online presence, meaning a welcoming site, with a good product/service, and good customer service equals a good chance for a successful small business. However, if we then throw in a good dose of SEO strategies, coupled with an ever-improving and discerning search population, and you have the recipe for steady to exceptional growth over time. So just stay online, going offline is just, you know…