There are so many ways to market yourself online these days, it can be confusing to work out what to spend your modest marketing budget on. Search Engine Optimisation works to help would be customers find your site by 'tagging' your site with the topics, search criteria and words they are likely to use to describe their need.
This can get you to be visible on the first page or so of listings on google and, as we all know, this is often as far as our attention span takes us after we have searched for a product or service. So how do we get the best out of 'SEO'?
I spoke to Blake Pollack, President of LA SEO Service, to get some great tips for start ups and entrepreneurs.
Blake, you yourself started a business from scratch. What advice would you give to newbies to the business world?
My advice to start up entrepreneurs from a personal standpoint would be to work really hard with as little money as possible until you start making money from your new venture. Spend as little as you can and do as much as you can yourself. Don't run up debts on an expensive website, or office or assistant, until you are actually generating money.
In the beginning, you need to be good enough at most things and see yourself as the CEO, CFO, Director of Sales, Director of Marketing and the rest! This is great learning as you develop a sense of what it takes to keep your business running and a good basic understanding of accounting techniques, technology that helps, the best way to attract customers etc.
What's the story behind your business?
We started LA SEO Service in 2009. Before that, I had built an online display ad network up to about 100 million impressions per day so I knew this was something I was good at and could see there was a market for. At the same time, my brother had started a martial arts studio and was investing in something called "SEO"...though SEO had been around for a while, I didn't know much about it but he couldn't believe how much business he was getting from being on page 1 of google for martial arts-related keywords in Los Angeles.
He said, "You have to figure out how to offer this to other businesses", as it was working better than anything else he was doing. Anyway, we hired an SEO "guru" to show us the basics and then developed our own strategy from there. Though there was a lot of testing and trial and error, It was a pretty easy transition as we were already involved in marketing websites through our display network.
Tell me about your first sale.
My first deal actually came from a family friend, who owned an accounting firm. They were working with another SEO company for about 6 months and not seeing any results so they decided to give us a chance. Six years later, we are still working with them and have saved them millions of dollars in marketing spend because they no longer have to pay for clicks.
How should a start up entrepreneur approach Search engine optimisation? It seems a bit of a dark art!
After getting involved in SEO, the biggest gap I noticed was that it was really tough to find a quality SEO company that didn't take your money and not show results. Our biggest hurdle was that people has tried SEO in the past and hadn't had success. Many of them had a bad taste in their mouth because they had gotten taken advantage of.
I like to think of myself as an honest person who is a business owner just like our clients, so the goal was to figure out how to offer an effective SEO service at an affordable price and with excellent customer service.
I would definitely advise people to take some advice and call in the professionals - it doesn't have to be expensive and it can make a huge difference to attracting customers to your site - and letting them know you are open for business!
SEO is so important to businesses both large and small for a number of reasons but most importantly, it's one of the only forms of marketing where the customer is looking for you. A customer is searching for what you offer and you are showing up right in front of them.
You're not trying to blanket an audience with a message and hopefully the right person sees it, the customer is actually finding you. Leads and Sales from SEO tend to be higher quality and more valuable than other form of marketing as well.
When done correctly, the ROI from SEO can be A LOT larger than any other marketing tactics used.
So there you have it - start on a modest budget, get input from a decent expert and be first in line to raise your hand in response to a customer request.