Search Engine Optimization Costs can be greatly influenced by answering some basic questions about your business and SEO plans, objectives, and other consideration. Following a few tips to make SEO costs easily affordable for your small business is simply smart. Here are some questions or issues every small business should resolve before engaging an SEO consultant, or trying to implement SEO themselves. 1..What is the number one priority, objective, or goal that you want to achieve through your online marketing efforts? – Are trying to establish your business as an “authority site”? – Are you trying to build a community using social media? – Are you trying to generate more leads to fill your sales funnel? – Are you are trying to attract more customers to a retail or physical location? – What is your desired outcome for visitors to your website? – What is your “business model” for your online marketing? The responses to these questions will affect the online marketing strategy, approach, or techniques that are most suitable. 2. The BIG SECRET of Internet Millionaires and virtually ALL Successful Online Businesses… Actually, this “secret” is painfully obvious – it is one of the fundamentals of achieving success online. But, just as major league athletes focus on the fundamentals of their competitive sports, it is worth highlighting here: TRAFFIC MATTERS MOST – IT IS A FUNDAMENTAL REQUIREMENT. To be more specific – targeted traffic is what matters most. Attracting targeted traffic essentially means that the visitors to your site are already pre-qualified to the extent that you are presenting them with information that is aligned with what they are searching for. This assumes, of course, that the methods used to attract them are consistent with search engine optimization and search engine marketing best practices. Practicing “Attraction Marketing” or “Magnetic Marketing” or Customer Centric Marketing leads to “friction free marketing” and long-term relationship-building. 3. How do prospects and customers find you now – and how could you attract more? – Which keywords do prospects use when they are searching online for what you offer? – Where is your business currently ranked for those terms in the search engines? – How competitive are the keywords that you are currently using to promote your business? – How viable is it that you will be able to rank for those keywords in the near future? 4. What does “Google Page 1 Rankings” actually mean – and why does it matter? A Google Page 1 Ranking means either that a particular web-page appears on the first page of the natural “organic” Search Engine Results Position (often referred to by the acronym: “SERP”) in response to a search for a particular keyword or keyword search term, OR that an advertiser has outbid all other advertisers to appear in the Sponsored Results. Google Page 1 Rankings matter greatly because: – 81% of people search online before making a purchase. – 72% of people use Google when performing online search. – 98% of people choose a business on “Page 1″ when making a “buying decision”. Conclusion: If your business isn’t ranked on the first page of Google’s “natural” or “organic” search results, you will be missing out on close to 75% of potential prospects, leads, and sales. Important Note: Recent metrics evidence that people performing online searches increasingly look beyond the Sponsored Results and directly to the “organic results” for the information they seek. 5. Generating Traffic through Paid Advertising (AdWords, Facebook Ads, CPA, CPC, etc): Paid Traffic remains the fastest way to generate traffic for new websites, to test keywords, and to “pump” life into websites that are stuck on page 2, 3, 4, 5….157…or otherwise not prominently displayed in the search results….BUT…the value of the bought traffic may be worthless…especially if it doesn’t convert to sales. When business owners or webmasters get frustrated with their online efforts, there is frequently a temptation to try to make up for lost time by purchasing traffic from advertising brokers (i.e. the “content network”). As tempting as it is to generate “traffic” fast using this method, it should be understood that there are very real risks associated with it. Anyone with a valid credit card charging capacity can generate traffic fast. Beware, however, that the traffic generated from many of these sources is a total waste of money. Ask almost anyone who has tried it. Obviously, Google and Yahoo have made literally billions of dollars by selling this kind of traffic (i.e. paid clicks). In the early days of Adwords and Adsense lot of savvy internet marketers created online advertising empires by functioning as advertising “arbitrage” agents. For the past several years, however, many of those very same marketers complain of losing vast sums on advertising campaigns. Caution: If you choose to use paid advertising to buy traffic, proceed carefully – and limit your spending until you verify that the cost/benefit ratio of your advertising program is within your accepted tolerances, and expectations. 6. Keyword Research – and How to “re-position” your company online (if necessary). One of the smartest things you can do, and definitely one of the first things you really should do, is to perform some basic keyword research. Only by conducting detailed keyword research can you know how to proceed with your online marketing efforts. Only after performing keyword research can you determine whether you will be wasting time and money (and lost-opportunity costs) by trying to promote your business based on words or terms or “keywords” that are either too competitive, not sufficiently searched, or otherwise non-performing. You can begin to get a sense about all of this for free by using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. Start by entering a broad term that relates to your business or niche. Then scan the results for the keywords you are currently using. Then review the competition, both in terms of Adwords and also in the search engine itself. If the first page of natural SERP results is dominated by major corporations, major “authority sites”, or other stiff competition, then that keyword may be difficult to rank for. This is especially true if the SERP results are for main indexed pages. On the other hand, if the first page of Google returns a lot of “inner pages” (i.e. pages that are on the third hierarchy of the site structure, or lower), and if they are not from “authority sites”, but rather from blogs or smaller sites, then ranking for those particular keywords may be achievable, and perhaps even relatively easy). 7. Knowing Who Your Visitors Are – Capturing Visitor Contact Details for Lead Generation The single most important missing element from most business websites may be a “lead capture form”. It’s hard to believe that with literally billions of websites published, so many websites lack such a valuable but inexpensive and easy-to-implement tool. Lead capture forms have been available for at least 10 years. And we have all grown accustomed to using them – as consumers, or as “subscribers”. You may be reading this information as a result of having entered your email address into a basic lead capture form (sometimes referred to as a “squeeze form” or “squeeze page”, depending on how it is implemented). Lead capture forms are typically integrated with Auto responders such as Aweber, Get Response, iContact, Infusionsoft, 1ShoppingCart, or others. If you are trying to develop any kind of business intelligence about your website visitors, and trying to establish a follow-up rapport with them, it is essential to incorporate lead capture forms into your website. At the most basic level, setting up a lead capture form can be accomplished in minutes. 8. Understanding Web 2.0 and How Social Media Can be Leveraged to Facilitate SEO and to Grow Your Business: Web 2.0 and Social Media are extremely complex and dynamic developments. The easiest way to understand the potential of Web 2.0 and Social Media, in terms of how they can help you grow your business is this: Make It Easy For People to Learn About You and What You Offer – and expand your circle of influence or like-minded “friends”. Unlike “web 1.0″ sites, Blogs are “Web 2.0 ready” – what this means is that they are preconfigured (in most cases) to allow for RSS feeds, Social Network Sharing, Commenting, etc. It’s no secret that the way Google (and other leading search engines) rank their search results is largely based on what other people think. It follows that the more people who link to your site, the more Google will consider your site to be an “authority site”, or at least a meaningful site, within a particular niche, or for certain keyword terms. The easiest, cheapest, and one of the most effective things that you can do to improve your search engine optimization is to incorporate a blog into your website (or make it your website), and to create meaningful and relevent content on a regular basis (e.g. 4 times a week or more). Make it easy for other people and blogs and organizations to get your content and to derive value from you. RSS feeds and Social Bookmarking tools are ideal for this task.