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November 11, 2011

SEO Lessons from Local Businesses

More than once in the six years that I have been providing SEO services for websites, I have had the opportunity to discuss with individual business owners their search engine optimization needs.

Now and again, I run across an individual business owner who is quick to say that SEO is absolutely worthless. When confronted with such an absolute statement, I like to press for details.

It has been my experience that people who speak in negative absolutes will have a horror story to share.

In this article, I am going to detail some of the stories I’ve heard, which frequently tells more about some of the people in our industry, than it does about the effectiveness of search engine marketing.

Problem Number 1 – “I rank number one in Google, and yet, I have never earned a dime from my website…”

When I first heard this story, I was very surprised. After all, if your SEO company did good keyword research, there is no reason why you should not be getting traffic and a few sales from a top ranking in Google.

I pressed for more details. I learned that the company who built the website also did the search engine optimization.

It only took a couple of minutes to learn that the website design company optimized this fellow’s website for the name of his company. There was no other optimization performed on that website.

Lesson 1 – It is rather pointless to optimize a website for the name of the company. The only consumers who will be searching for the name of your company are existing customers.

But, if your company is unknown to the general public, then the people who would like to buy your products or services will not be able to find you among your competitors.

If you sell widgets in Tulsa Oklahoma, your future customers will be typing “Tulsa Oklahoma widgets” into their favorite search engines, trying to find your business. And if your prospective customers cannot find your business, your business does not exist in their minds.

Problem #2 – “I had a company build a website for my business, but I have never received a single customer for my business, through my website…”

Are you sure?

Asking this question is not meant to offend you, but rather to get more details as to how you track incoming business.

If you are the average off-line business owner, who has built a website to promote an off-line business, chances are real good that you probably have never received a single customer from your website.

However, if your website does not request your prospective customers to let you know how they found out about your business, then chances are that people who did find you through your website would never tell you that.

If more than one person answers the phone at your business, chances are just as good that someone may have mentioned finding you on a website, but no one conveyed that information to you.

In your business, you should have systems in place to track and record where new customers have found your business. To do otherwise is like driving your car in the fast lane during rush-hour traffic with a blindfold over your eyes.

Lesson 2 – If you are not asking your customers how they found your business, you will never know what kind of advertising is producing profits for your business, and which advertising is sucking the wind out of your business.

Problem #3 – “I spend a great deal of money on PPC listings (pay-per-click) to get my business in front of search engine
users, because after spending tens of thousands of dollars on SEO, I could not rank in the search engines at all…”

What keywords were you trying to rank for in the search engines?

“Travel. I have a travel business based in Oklahoma City OK that caters to business professionals…”

Have you ever noticed the caliber of companies who rank on page 1 in Google for the keyword: travel?

Those are companies who spend millions of dollars per year to market their businesses online and off-line. Do you have a marketing budget that will allow you to effectively compete with Travelocity, Expedia or Priceline?

Besides that, where do the majority of your customers work and reside?

“Oklahoma City of course.”

If that is the case, why would you spend your limited marketing budget to target consumers who would never buy from you, because they are outside your local marketing area?

“I never really thought about it in that way…”

Most of your competitors are making the same mistakes that you are. That is to your advantage, because when you start to market your business in a more realistic and cost-effective manner, then you will be able to compete with your competitors, while spending far less money than your competitors are spending.

Lesson 3 – If you operate a local or regional business, do yourself a favor, and stop trying to compete in the national marketplace.

Final Thoughts…

Listed inside this article are three lessons that could potentially help your off-line business to find new customers and to generate new sales, as a result of your online advertising.

Depending on the average ticket price of purchases in your store or service business, how much could an extra 20, 50 or 100 new customers bring into your business each month? You do the math.

You could spend the next ten years learning what we have learned to maximize the effectiveness of your online advertising… Or you could employ us to work on your behalf to support your local business in your local marketplace.

More consumers are ignoring their phone books and searching for products and services online. If you don’t want to compete for those consumers, your competitors will thank you. We primarily provide Local SEO Services to businesses in Oklahoma and Texas. But we are happy to serve any brick-and-mortar business in the United States. Author: Trey McMartin.