I’ve been looking at what’s going on with internet commerce these days and how folks are dealing with the explosion of websites, blogs and users. I’ve come to realize that for many practical reasons the cost of SEO (search engine optimization) has put it out of reach for many small businesses. It’s an overstatement to say that SEO is dead, but it is definitely dead as far as most small businesses are concerned. The good news is, we don’t need to do more than the basics SEO work to thrive because internet marketing has changed.
Here’s what I think has happened and it turns out that Scott Fox (e-Riches 2.0) seems to agree. First, the internet has gotten very crowded with web sites and blogs. Second, we have an exponential increase in users who are searching. Third, the “big boys” have staked out their claim to the first page of organic results and will spend lots of money to stay there. Together, this means it is getting incredibly difficult to optimize sites and pages for common search words and/or phrases. Therefore, it is more expensive and more time consuming to try to optimize for organic search position. If you want marketing on the web to be free or cheap, you will be disappointed. It will at the very least, take significant time (which is money, of course) and done well, will likely have a direct financial cost as well. If you want real SEO, you will need to step up to the cost. You will also need to consider pay per view and pay per click options if you have a robust e-commerce site.
To make matter worse on the SEO front, today’s internet user is very impatient and will not likely look beyond page two of the search results. So to pay for SEO and not make at least the second page of the organic returns will be a waste of money. Luckily for us, we no longer have such an overriding need to have customers find us through search. Instead, we can build relationships with the customers through social media. That’s not to say we don’t need to pay attention to the basics of SEO and make sure our sites are configured properly for landing pages, key words and strong links back to the site. It’s just that for many small businesses, time and budget may well be better spent on establishing a brand presence on the social media sites, gathering e-mail addresses for e-mail newsletters and focusing on e-marketing campaigns. In other words, we will go to the customers instead of trying to drive the customers to our sites.
According to Mr. Fox, “the future of marketing is more about e-mail than it is about SEO.” He goes on to say that “In fact, now is the time to be focusing on developing your publishing skills because SEO may be out of your reach.” When I did a quick study of what it takes for initial and ongoing optimization, the cost is already well beyond my own marketing budget. So I have determined to keep the basics of SEO up (meta tags, fresh content – read that blogs, strong links back to the site, careful key word selection for landing pages, etc.) while focusing most of my time on building a robust social media marketing brand. So far, it seems to be working.
This is good news for those who have started new businesses or perhaps had to cut back on the existing marketing budget. We can get in on the very effective growth of niche customer marketing through social media and let the “big guys” blow wads of money on SEO. This is not going to be free though. It will require someone to spend a significant amount of time on blogging, keeping Facebook current, commenting on other blogs that are “on topic” for you and watching the internet for how others are speaking about you and/or your company.
Here are the questions: are you finding that SEO is “out of reach” budget wise? How are you incorporating social media into your branding effort? Are you employing e-mail marketing for your products or services? How good is your website at gathering e-mail addresses from those who find your site and visit you?