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August 22, 2007

SEO for Mom and Pop Shops

When I was little, my parents and I lived next to a mom and pop shop called Wascana Grocery. Run by Kenny and May Mah, this small corner grocery store had nearly everything you might need with a little something extra: that personal service that made all the difference. With butcher skills that he took pride in showing, Kenny knew exactly how my mom wanted her cuts of beef. And Mrs. Mah, smiling Mrs. Mah, she always found a way to slip the children a caramel or bubblegum before we left the store. Those little differences kept us coming back.

This was in the beginning of the 1960’s and supermarkets were just starting to steamroll their way into town. When they finally arrived, it became tough for Kenny and his family to compete and they had to change. They could no longer afford being a butchery and stopped that aspect of the business, trading it for fizzy drinks and potato chips, what the convenience market demanded.

These days, mom and pop shops are alive and kicking once again — thanks to the Internet. They are doing this by with special products for special people, or niche marketing. It isn’t just the product range that makes the difference, it is the personalized service that the supermarket juggernauts of the digital world don’t have the time to respond to. The little things like sending out a sample upon request or answering a simple question.

Quite often, people who love their hobby end up doing it for a business. Look around you: I’m sure you know people like this too. Music freaks who became DJs, football players who started their own sporting goods stores — and those are just examples of people in my neighbourhood! And since there’s such a great demand for online stores and e-commerce content management systems, it’s easier than ever for aficionados to sell online.

So the mom and pop shop does as all mom and pop shops do: they make the deals and bring in the stock, take the pictures, get the hosting arranged, set up the website – the list goes on. But sometimes, putting the icing on the cake is the hardest part. And that icing, in this Web 2.0 world, is SEO.

Many of of our clients have these kinds of online shops. One even has a surprisingly well-developed e-commerce website; they have a unique line. Their products are of high quality. Their website works well and it has valid HTML code. They even take care to comply with the WAI accessibility standards. The only problem they have is in getting found. Their pages are SEO friendly, but not SEO ready. They target the wrong keywords.

SEO needs to become personalized too. It needs to answer to the special needs of small web business owners, to understand their markets and to know how to help them make their mark on the Web. Mom and pop shops need SEO as badly as the sovereigns of the Web. All small sites need to find their niche and get a place in the search engines or they’ll need to invest more than they can afford in paid online marketing tools: AdWords and other pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, banner ads, text link ads, paid reviews and so on.

While SEO is not the only factor in determining a website’s place in this Web 2.0 world, it is still of major importance. And many times small business owners blow their chances of ranking in the search engines by employing SEO techniques that no longer comply with the current SEO standards.

For example, many small website owners, with not enough SEO knowledge, still use search engine submission software to submit their new websites to the search engines. What they don’t know is that this is no longer needed and, if done too often, in could even hurt their presence into the SERPs.

The Web 2.0 is dynamic and semantic and so is the Web 2.0 SEO. So, because SEO is changing at a fast pace, small businesses need the help of a skilled SEO company, one that has the time and the willingness to listen, research and advise. xxx

Author:  Colleen is Account Manager at Red Dog Communications s.a and blogs at The Dog Yard – the place where web design meets SEO and networking.