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What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? Do I need it? Why is it so expensive? If you’re a small business owner, you may be asking yourself these very questions. However, the answers can be  complicated. Do a Google search—you will find out just how complicated. I’m going to offer the simplest definition you will find on the Web:

SEO is the process of increasing visibility in search engine results (Google, Yahoo, Bing).

From a metaphorical perspective, SEO is used to draw visitors to websites through Search Engine Results Pages (SERP), while usability is the glue that keeps visitors engaged with your website. Obviously there is more to SEO than that,  involving a number of variables, which I’ll concentrate on for the rest of this post.

Fundamentally, most small businesses believe Website aesthetics and functionality are the main factors involved in Website usability. Although each of these factors is highly important for the user experience, *most* Websites need a high SEO ranking to drive traffic to the site. I’ll get to the *most* later in the post.

Before a user determines whether they are going to remain on a site because of ease of use or an elegant design, they must first be aware that the site exists. Many web searchers are not even aware that certain websites live on the Web because they are not visible to search engine spiders, or they do not receive high ranking based on organic ranking algorithms. In their research concentrating on Fusing website usability and search engine optimization, Visser and Wideman suggest that each of these important elements of web searching depend on a number of pre-programmed rules that correspond with the conceptual models of the internet. To achieve a high ranking, SEO is used to optimize a Website so it appears high up in search SERPs. Largely, the SEO process improves website visibility to search engine algorithms. Upon searching the Web, users obtain results for their specific search based on SERPs, which are categorized into two sections:

  1. Organic – Occupies the primary real estate of the SERP
  2. Pay per click (PPC) – occupies the right-hand sides and sometimes the tops of the SERPs

Image Source: WikiSeo

An important note concerning SERP vs. PPC results is that the majority of user clicks come from SERP results rather than PPC ads. WordStream customer data suggests that side and bottom ads account for just 14.6 percent of total clicks.

Image Source: SearchEngineLand

Generally speaking, research shows that Web searchers view no more than three SERPs for any particular search query.  In fact, the closer any particular web page ranks to the first position on the first SERP, the higher the chances are for searchers to view that particular web page. Ultimately, searchers don’t typically scroll down to the bottom of the SERP, and very rarely go beyond the first page. Unfortunately, most small business owners are completely unaware of SEO. Correspondingly, the few that do understand SEO have no idea how to effectively integrate the services into their organizational strategy.

Back to the one of the most important questions for small business owners, do I need SEO? Unfortunately, there is no blanket answer to this question. It all depends on your organizational goals, the type of business you’re involved in, and perhaps most importantly….BUDGET.  SEO is expensive! I have spent the last couple years researching SEO—writing papers, and speaking to different agencies about the need and cost. Most of these companies stress that EVERY BUSINESS NEEDS SEO—this is what you and I are led to believe. As a small business owner that doesn’t focus on technology, why would you think otherwise?

In his post How to Grow Your First Website with No Money, No Brand, and No Connections, one of my most trusted SEO authorities, Neil Patel suggests that new websites for new companies should not worry about SEO…for now. Patel explains A search engine’s goal is to surface the best, most relevant results for your search query. The way they do that (after considering relevancy) is largely through evaluating authority and popularity signals.

Generally speaking, that means older websites that have been around and publishing on the same topic day in and day out for years tend to get the benefit of the doubt (over a brand new upstart).

I completely agree with Neil! It took me a long time to find an SEO authority willing to admit this! Consider the goal of SEO companies: generate as much revenue as possible! Unfortunately, this doesn’t take YOU…the small business owner, or your wallet into consideration. However, this argument does not mean that you should avoid SEO completely. Perhaps it simply means that you should avoid paying a company high rates for SEO services that don’t align with your organizational goals.

For example, VujaDay is currently working with some smaller clients including real estate agents, hair salons, vitamin stores, bars, and restaurants, each of whom focus their client efforts locally rather than through nationwide Google searches. In the article How Much to Budget for SEO, Preston Kendig writes depending on what you can afford, the size of your website, and the amount of content you’re generating, you might expect to devote anywhere between 5 and 50 hours per month to your SEO efforts. Based on the going rates of most digital marketing agencies, this could cost anywhere between $500 and $10,000 per month. Search Engine Watch offers various models for SEO pricing, including a monthly retainer, contract services at fixed prices, project-based pricing, and hourly consulting. Ultimately, there is no rule of thumb for SEO costs. However, VujaDay will listen to your needs and develop a plan based on your needs and budget.

In the recent Forbes article 6 Local SEO Strategies For Small Businesses Scott Langdon, managing partner of the nationally recognized SEO Company HigherVisibility suggests, small businesses do not have to over complicate the adoption of SEO you just need to have a well-rounded local strategy.

Image Source: Google Images

Langdon outlines several critical steps that should be included in a local strategy:

  • Create local places pages
  • Optimize and properly categorize your page
  • Integrate accurate business citations
  • Build online reviews
  • Include authentic quality photos
  • Optimize your website

When someone searches online for a local business, search engines and many mobile apps rely on location data from the data sources above to provide search results. According to Moz Local, if a listing data is incorrect or inconsistent between all these data sources, your listing might not show up in the search results. For the sake of transparency, if you have the time and technical abilities, this is something you can certainly do on your own. Moz Local will cost you roughly $200 per year, and you will have the ability to manage all of your listings. However, you will have to spend the time to learn how to use the tool, better understand SEO, how to manage it, track it, and make decisions based on the analytics. Alternatively, therein lies an opportunity to work with VujaDay, an agency willing to listen to your goals, while not selling you on services your company doesn’t need. Furthermore, an agency who understands your target demographics, and can work with you to make sure you have claimed your business on Google, and that your business citations are accurate and consistent. We have the in-house talent to break down the analytics for you in a language that is easy to understand, which will help you make better decisions for your company.

Depending upon your organizational goals, investing in SEO may be more important than ever. While SEO may not be a smart investment for new companies, with a brand new Website, local SEO is becoming a critical element of web presence differentiation for small businesses. Nevertheless, most small businesses are not using SEO because of constraints, including limited technical knowledge, time, resources, and budget. As a consequence, small businesses that do have websites are not appearing in SERPs, which leads to unreached potential with regards to sustainability, differentiation, and growth. Albeit, the importance of SEO is widely recognized in the world of technology, small businesses have yet to understand its value along with digital marketing to grow their business. Forbes magazine offers a variety of reasons to invest in SEO:

  • Search engines grab more market share
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Rise of mobile bandwidth and local search optimization
  • Lack of a digital profile is damaging
  • Competitors are doing it (Olenski, 2014).

Ultimately, SEO is an ambiguous and confusing concept for small business owners.  Aside from developing in-house talent, companies have the option of figuring out SEO for themselves, or hiring an external consulting firm to handle this crucial element of an organization’s branding efforts and online presence. In today’s dynamic, often volatile business environment, organizations need to consider developing strategies that encourage an ongoing evaluation of processes involved with business and digital strategies. VujaDay places a high emphasis on organizational learning for all small business owners seeking to transition from a reactive market approach to a more prepared, innovative, and creative model of technology involving Web Presence and SEO. Contact us today for a free digital audit. Our founder, Dr. Vincent Day, will have a one-on-one conversation with you to develop a cost effective strategy that works for YOU.