Q. Are there SEO freelancers or boutique SEO firms for a small business?

The issue is money. SEO’s results can be measured in sales, revenue, and  profits. Large companies can track this so they invest heavily in it. This means SEO experts work with large corps because these pay very good money.

This is a problem for the little guys. Small companies can’t afford SEO experts, don’t have the skills to do this themselves, and don’t have the time to do this.

Any one who is good at SEO will quickly find out that it’s valuable. The top people quickly start their own agencies. This also means people at most SEO companies aren’t technically competent (if they were, they could double their income by leaving).

There is also SEO fraud. Some SEO companies have 100 sales people and two SEO people. The sales people are making wild promises, signing up customers, and nothing is actually done.

Two Kinds of Searches

There are two kinds of searches:

  • Informational Search:  The user wants to learn about something. Google looks at a page’s expertise, authority, and trust to find the pages with the best information. If you want your page to show up, it has to be better than the current ten pages that appear for the search term. That is very difficult for large companies and pretty much impossible for little companies. The only chance is a very small topic where there aren’t good search results.
  • Transactional Search: The user wants to buy, get, download, or install something. Google gives preference to the manufacturer (maker) of the thing.

Let’s say Nike makes the Nike Lebron High Jumper (a basketball shoe). If (that’s a big IF) Nike makes it clear they are the makers of the shoe, then their page becomes #1 for that item. My mom’s sneaker shop may get #1 for the shoe… but only until Google’s human reviewers figure out that the shoe is made by Nike. At that point, Nike gets the #1 position forever. My mom can’t do anything to rank higher than Nike, not even if she hires me. SEO works until Google figures out there is an official page for it.

It’s very easy to get #1 for a product, name, thing, etc.: just be obvious that you’re the official site for it.

Tip: The vast majority of sites (I’d guess at least 80%) have done no SEO or minimal SEO. There are 165 million websites, so 130 million or so haven’t done any SEO. However… around 163 million websites are trivial one-page sites with no traffic so they don’t count.

What Can You Do?

  • Get Visitors: If you get 200-500 visits per month, Google’s reviewers will notice you. Your ranking will improve. So get more visitors. Send a monthly email, use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. (whichever is relevant). The more traffic, the better your ranking.
  • Don’t Worry about Keywords: There aren’t magical keywords that will bring more traffic. Use plain, clear words that your customer use to describe your company, service, or product. (This article is for small business owners, so I’m not going to write about meta-tags, keyword tools, analytics, etc. They don’t have time or skills for that.)
  • Your Small Local Business: On your web site’s front page and contact page, include your full postal address (street, number, city, state, zip, and telephone number with area code). Include your name as the owner, manager, etc. Make sure you’re registered in Google Maps. Go to Google.com/Business  and sign up. Use your full postal address in a proper format (street, number, city, state, zip, and telephone number with area code) and so on. Note: Google will send someone to drive by to verify that it’s a real office.
  • Your Product: If you make something, then make sure your webpage shows that you’re the official maker of the item. Handmade by you in Vermont, etc.
  • Someone Else’s Product: If you’re selling something that’s made by someone else (you’re a vendor, distributor, reseller, etc.) and the maker isn’t number one for it, you could use SEO to get #1… for a while. When the maker improves their page, Google will make them number one. No amount of SEO work will change that.
  • Your Name: People should be able to find you. Get your own domain name (firstname-lastname.com) and include your name, city, and email address. Make sure you show up in LinkedIn. Your profile should be as complete as possible.
  • Your Book: SEO for Google is fine, but you really need to do SEO for Amazon. Make sure your book is findable in Amazon. Fill out the author profile fully. The same in the description for the book. Look at best-sellers in your category and read their descriptions and profiles. You should also have information about yourself and your book in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and whatever else is relevant.
  • Your Tweets, Video, Photos, etc: There’s also SEO for Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest, and so on. Every one of these tools has its algorithm to select what will show up. If these are important for you, look into them. But for most small companies, there’s not enough time.
  • Use Google Adwords: For any transactional search, Google will show ads at the top. Most users don’t realize or understand that the first three links are ads. Use Google Adwords to place ads in Google. You can use a small budget ($100-200 per month), low bids ($0.15), and use geographic targeting to limit that ads to your city. You can also use ads for your name.

Beware of SEO Scams

  • We Will Make You #1!: It’s easy to make a page #1. If a page is the official page for something, it will be #1. Just to prove this, I made my cat #1 in Google… for himself. Go ahead and search for Anaximander Katzenjammer. See? That’s the official page for my cat, so my cat is #1 in Google for himself. SEO scammers make you #1 for yourself, but Google will do that for you anyway if you make it clear that it’s the page for that.
  • Don’t Pay for Link Building: Ten years ago, Google counted incoming links. The more links you had, the higher you ranked. But that was easy to fake. Google now only looks at high-value, relevant links. If your site is a veterinarian for cats, then a link from CatFancier com magazine will count, but a link from The New York Times has no value. Do not pay for “link building services”. That is a scam.

If I haven’t covered your topic, let me know in the comments and I’ll add it.