SEO still affordable for small businesses…just!

Finally…a few minutes spare…it’s about time I got back on the Froggblog!

Something caught my eye on Monday morning. A great article by Stoney deGeyter, CEO of Pole Position Marketing. He asked the question, ‘Can small businesses really afford SEO?’ He argued that ‘finding the most efficient balance between time, budget and what is absolutely necessary for success is the only way to keep your SEO campaign affordable’ concluding that SEO is therefore not out of the reach of small companies as long as these factors are considered.

Here at Leapfrogg we specifically target small to medium sized companies (roughly 1 – 150 employees) in the UK so I thought it would be useful to provide a view from this side of the pond, especially as we have the most active online population in Europe.*

When we started out, almost four years, ago our service offering was rather different to what it is now. ‘On the page’ SEO had a greater weighting compared to ‘off the page’. In my view, SEO was a more straightforward and therefore a less time consuming task because the main focus was on the page itself. As long as you had a decent technical understanding of SEO, with some marketing experience to accompany it, search rankings were rather easier to come by.

Well how things have changed. The obsession with rankings has subsided (or should have done!) and the focus shifted instead to traffic. SEO is no longer about leveraging traffic from search engines alone but also many other sources; links on other sites (OK, this one has been around for a while!), social media sites incorporating blogs, forums, notice-boards and review sites, online press release submissions and so on. It is clear the whole landscape of SEO has shifted from focusing purely on the search engine to focusing on the Internet as a whole; identifying and leveraging all of these potential sources of traffic has fallen to the search marketer.

This inevitably means more man hours dedicated to SEO. The most successful campaigns are those that take an integrated approach leveraging every possible potential source of traffic with the right level of resource and approach. So what does this mean for smaller companies? Well, either they dedicate more time internally to learning about these new mediums and implementing campaigns themselves OR they pay an agency to do so on their behalf. Either way, more resource is required whether this come from the watch or the wallet!

As the SEO landscape continues to change and new disciplines enter the search marketing ‘mix’, the demand on time and/or money will only continue to increase. This does not even take into account growing competition online. I therefore fear that search marketing will be out of the reach of most very small companies within the next couple of years; I’m talking about businesses perhaps employing just a few heads where the time and resource to compete online will simply not be available and the potential returns negligible, if not, non-existent.

That is why we believe there is a window of opportunity for very small companies in the UK. Certain industries are already a closed door I’m afraid; I only had a local mortgage company call me today saying that they want to target Google’s top ten for terms such as ‘mortgages’ and ‘loans’. Top search rankings in the UK for those types of terms are dominated by the big aggregator sites with monster budgets. But beyond trying to target such competitive terms, what can you do? Well I suggest finding a niche; how do your products or services differ from those of your competitors? How is this niche reflected in search activity i.e. are there less competitive ‘long tail’ terms that you can target? Or perhaps you offer services on a local or regional level. Therefore, consider targeting those searching by location.

SEO still offers a massive opportunity for those smaller companies willing to make the jump but the window of opportunity is closing and pretty fast. Find your niche and grab it before somebody else does!

*comScore

2 Responses to SEO still affordable for small businesses…just!

  1. Thanks for your comment. We hope that Google will do something to avoid such monopolies and perhaps with their new universal search smaller companies can be more proactive and utilise other ways of gaining visibility other than top rankings for generic terms.

    There should be no reason why we can’t continue to help the smaller companies as long as they realise that there are other ways to increase visibility and traffic to their site other than trying to compete against huge brands for generic terms. When the smaller companies in competitive industries with smaller budgets can’t be persuaded that there are other methods of gaining visibility other than trying to get rankings for generic terms by attacking niches, long tail, local, social media etc then that is when we may no longer in the future be able to help them.

  2. This is a good comment to make, however how can the likes of the google machine allow such monopoly of the intenet? It simply cannot allow the big companies to totally dominate as people will get bored only finding the same results, in which case there will be a down turn and less enthusiasm in search. Google will change things around and keep small companies in the loop or it will ultimately lose revenue. why would a company work towards ranking or paid search if you already knew it would be a pointless and expensive exercise as the big companies already dominate – you would’nt. for the likes of leapfrogg this must be a good thing as you can contiually provide search services.
    of course i might have it totally wrong in which case 5 years down the road you ‘meaning leapfrogg’ will not have any small clients left!! i hope you can either deliver the results and take your current clients with you to the ‘big company’ scenario, or you will be out of work?
    sorry to be so blunt i was just expressing a theory.

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