3 Cold, Hard Truths About Small Business SEO

It probably doesn’t take a genius to realise that I’m a big advocate of SEO as a good marketing channel for small businesses. I do, however, face some unrealistic expectations from business owners and it is these that I want to address in today’s blog post.

There is nothing wrong with being enthusiastic about your foray into search engine marketing, but there are some truths that it would be wise to remember so that you achieve the very best results.

1. SEO Isn’t An Instant Process

Of course you want to outrank your competition and get customers and clients discovering your business via search engines, but you can’t expect this to happen overnight.

If you want instant results then you’d be much better off looking into pay-per-click advertising because SEO is a process that takes time and effort on your part (or that of your SEO company).

The first reason for this is that getting your website properly optimised requires some work and building backlinks takes even more; it’s not always as simple as one might expect. There might be content that needs to be produced (both written and multimedia) and outreach that needs to take place in order to find homes for this content.

What’s more, Google doesn’t reflect changes to your website or your backlink profile straight away (at least not for small, local businesses). You may get your on-site SEO in order and expect to see a rise up the rankings, but it might take Google days (or even weeks) to crawl your site again and see the changes you’ve made. Even then, the changes that you make don’t necessarily mean an instant improvement in rankings.

And until Google crawls and discovers a backlink to your website, it will mean little in the way of SEO. The lag between a backlink being discovered and counting towards your rankings is also not set in stone with many other factors that come into play.

2. There Are No Guarantees

As much confidence as I have in my own abilities, I would rule out giving any client a guarantee that they will rank #1 after hiring me. It is true that local search terms are generally that bit easier to rise to the top for, but the Google algorithm will always be a bit of an unknown quantity.

It continues to surprise me every so often, and it is constantly changing. It wasn’t too long ago that keyword stuffing and spammy backlinks could see you reach the summit of the results, but as Google seeks to improve the user experience, they now reward different things.

It saddens me to see how unscrupulous types have preyed on business owners who know very little about SEO and yet want to improve their search engine visibility. Claims of guaranteed top 10 rankings (or even the #1 spot) tend to be accompanied by a lack of actual results and a very disappointed customer who is left feeling ripped off.

So ensure that you set your expectations at a realistic level and don’t believe anyone who says they will guarantee you a high ranking.

3. There Are Different Ways To Achieve The Same Result

I held back from saying that there is a right and wrong way to do SEO because, in all honesty, it depends on your needs and goals.

SEO is often described as being various shades of grey (there is no such thing as purely white hat SEO in my opinion) and what this means is people pay different amounts of attention to what Google say in their guidelines.

On the one hand, you have black hatters who will hack websites and either take them over for their gain or will plant backlinks on them to boost their own websites’ rankings. On the other, you have people who try to follow Google’s recommendations as closely as possible.

Both approaches, and everything in between, can be successful but they have pros and cons. Clearly, the worst of the black hat techniques would be considered illegal, but aside from that, you will probably find that any rankings you do achieve will not last.

On the other hand, those who believe that creating a fantastic website with a great user experience is enough by itself to achieve good rankings may find that it takes a very long time to see results. But, on the plus side, if rankings are achieved in this way, they are likely to remain strong almost indefinitely (all things being equal).

When you do SEO yourself, or hire a freelancer or agency to do it for you, it is always worth being clear in your mind what work is being done and why. You can then be confident that any action aligns with your own desires.

Be aware of the risks involved in any SEO that does take place and weigh this up against the potential rewards for you and your business.

As always, you can contact me for a free review of your website by clicking the link in the navigation at the top of the page.

Steve Waller