Small Business SEO

Small businesses can reap benefits from organic search optimisation just like larger organisations.

Unlike larger organisations most smaller businesses may not have an established and well recognised brand to fall back on, making the specific product exposure that can be earned through search engines very valuable.

SEO can be incredibly important for small businesses looking to grow online exposure and generate consistent leads and sales through their website.

Smaller organisations, lacking in resources and budget for their digital properties may still have a desire to compete in SERPs (search engine results pages) but without the certain expertise generating results can be difficult.

Here’s the benefit that effective SEO can bring to your business, the services that you should invest in to bring the quickest benefits and the largest ROIs and how much you can expect to pay and where to find reliable information that can help understand the SEO elements that you can do yourself.

What are the benefits of SEO for Your Small Business?

SEO can be hugely valuable for small businesses and is an investment very much worth the cost.

Here is why and how you can get started as soon as possible on improving the organic search performance of your website, whatever the size and current performance level of your business.

Getting an SEO to look at your business website will be especially worthwhile if you are;

  • building a website that will launch alongside a new business
  • an established business that already generates significant traffic and value from your website
  • your business lacks brand traffic or most of your customers reference finding you on Google as their discovery channel
  • the organic performance of your website has dropped in recent weeks or months and you aren’t sure why
  • you are planning on migrating your website to a new domain, CMS (content management system) or new server

So, how does SEO work for small business? What are the things that you should consider before you sign up with an SEO as part of an ongoing agreement?

As an SEO working in the Freelance space, these are the things we’d consider as most important for small business owners to consider before they seek out an SEO to help them.

Think about Your Goals Before you Speak to an SEO

You as the business owner or marketing executive should have some idea of what you want to achieve from your SEO activity.

As an SEO, it can make things much simpler if there are a defined set of goals to look to achieve or even if there’s just an overarching vision that you have in mind that you can share.

  1. A good understanding of where your business is now
  2. A clear set of goals that can easily be shared with an SEO when you first meet them. Goals might include;
    1. I would like to rank for X (Specific Keywords or specific keyword sets).
    2. I want to generate X% more leads through my website
    3. Our traffic has dropped by X% and I’d like to understand why and have your help recovering it
    4. We have a website migration coming up in X months and we’d like your advice.
  3. Clarity on the resource that you are able and willing to provide to help move the website towards your defined goals.
    1. Development resource?
    2. Press teams and PR or freelance resource
    3. Content writers or in house marketers
    4. Designers and UX managers
    5. Any other issues, hold ups or potential problems an SEO might need to understand before they start.

As useful and multi-skilled as SEO’s are, they cannot be used to solve every problem or issue that might arise within your business and on your website.

It can also help speed things up significantly if your SEO freelancer or agency has clear, direct lines of communication with teams within your business.

Good communication with relevant teams will help solve problems more quickly and ensure that problems are solved and improvements are quickly identified and executed to quickly improve the performance of your website.

Identify What is Working in SEO for Your Business Right Now

You might not know every keyword that generates value and traffic to important pages on your website and this is ok. However, some idea of what creates value for your business right now will immediately make it easier for any SEO you start working with where your business is already performing.

This understanding can help them;

  • identify how to improve that performance further
  • how to replicate that performance in other sectors or categories where performance is yet to flourish
  • give your SEO a benchmark of “what good performance looks like” so they can understand what they’re aiming for in the work they carry out

At the very least, sharing an insight into areas that are working or suggesting that area X is important to your business may give you additional free insights into how these areas can be scaled or what could be implemented to replicate this success in any preliminary checks or pitch documents your SEO shares with you.

Small Business SEO Services

The services that an SEO will be able to offer your business will vary depending upon;

  • your website and the sector it’s in
  • the experience level of the SEO you’ve chosen
  • their area of expertise, are they an SEO specialist? A generalist? A content marketer or an outreach or link building expert?
  • the size of the organisation they work for
  • your specific needs
  • your budget

Larger budgets can mean that you’ll be getting a larger time investment from your chosen SEO.

This additional time can be invaluable for the SEO who should be able to generate real profit provided their activity is beneficial to the site.

A small budget for your SEO activity may lead to SEO’s focusing on a single sphere of the marketing discipline and only, for example, rewriting title tags or rewriting SEO content that will offer limited value over time if your site is affected by technical issues or requires long term strategic insight.

How much does SEO cost for a small business?

Numerous factors can affect the price that you will pay for SEO.

Everything from;

  • the size of your website – not just indexable pages, but large numbers of site pages, in general, can mean more complexity and more complexity means more cost).
  • the sector you operate in – complex sectors like; financial services or highly competitive sectors like e-commerce can mean that you’ll need to assign larger budgets to your SEO campaigns to see a return.
  • the size of the audience you’re trying to reach (local, national, global) – while locally focused sites can expect to pay less, large national or international brands or sites can expect to pay considerably more for SEO because of the increased audience sizes, complexity and competitive nature of the search landscapes.
  • how busy your SEO is – in busy times, you’ll expect to pay for SEO services. Currently, demand for SEOs has never been higher.

Pricing Examples

Here are some examples of prices that you could expect to pay for a freelance SEO retainer.

Business Type Business Size Current Web Traffic Current Website Pages Location Pricing from:
Dan’s Local Locksmiths Small Business 300 – 500 visits per month 40 website pages Burnley £400 per month retainer
Supplements Online Small / Medium Business 3,000 – 50,000 visits per month 1,200 – 5,000 website pages United Kingdom £1,500 – £5,000 per month retainer
Global Plastic Bricks Corp. Large Business 30,000 – 50,000,000 visits per month 12,000 – 5,000,000 website pages Global £10,000 – £25,000 per month retainer

Who should I choose to manage SEO for my business?

Here’s how to decide whether you need an agency to carry out your SEO for you, or whether you’d be better off with an individual freelance SEO specialist.

Agency

Agencies tend to be the go-to search marketers for larger, more well established organisations because they can;

Agencies can generally work alongside your in-house teams and assist in SEO best practice for campaigns and projects you want to deliver.

The cons of choosing an agency to handle your SEO

  • Agencies are expensive – they tend to employ a lot of people, therefore monthly retainers will be costly.
  • You may not get all the time you want with experts – because agencies work with multiple clients, you won’t get much facetime with SEO experts or specialists. Many agencies are made up of a high number of junior account managers who may be assigned to manage your website, rather than the SEO specialist.
  • You may get told the wrong or outdated advice – because agencies are often well established, they may not be the best at keeping up with SEO advice or best practice. This can lead them to implement old or antiquated ideas.
  • Consistency may be lacking – agencies may be very communicative when you first sign their contracts, but they may get quieter or less communicative as they become busier with new clients or chasing new leads. Agencies rely on a steady flow of new business to keep afloat.
  • A large percentage of agencies downstream their SEO execution to freelancers anyway, just at an inflated price.

Agencies can offer benefits too; like multiple experts from a wide range of disciplines to call on in in the event of issues, multiple additional teams that can assist in project delivery (at a cost) and can commit extra time to projects if needed and there will be no downtime due to staff holidays.

Many sites get good organic results using agencies, however, you will need to be confident in your in-house team’s ability to manage your chosen agencies time effectively to get the results you want.

Freelancers

Freelancers taking care of your SEO can offer a marvellous solution to your digital activity and can often mean you’ll see results faster and can ensure that your site is mitigated from risks of algorithmic updates by search engines.

The pros of choosing a freelancer

The pros of choosing a freelancer for SEO include;

  • You’ll always get to speak with the subject matter expert
  • You’ll pay less than working with an agency
  • You’ll get work delivered more quickly – at least sometimes, freelancers can work outside of bureaucratic organisations and free themselves of petty timesheet filling for billable hours, this can mean actionable work is delivered more quickly. Although, you may have to wait longer for larger projects.
  • Freelancers can be more personable and often are less likely to care only about the bottom line, they may be more willing to offer additional help, recommendations and insights that you would not get from an agency.
  • Freelancers may be more accessible than agencies, if something goes wrong, you’re more likely to be able to get hold of a freelancer and they’re more likely to be willing to help anytime than an agency.

Freelancers aren’t perfect, their limitations can include; they’re only one person; if you need multi-faceted strategies or holistic digital marketing a freelancer is unlikely to be able to offer this. A freelancer will work well with expertise that exists within your business, like content writers and developers, to ensure they can deliver organic performance gains.

Can You Do SEO Yourself?

People frequently say, well I can do this myself. You absolutely can, that is 100% correct, but it doesn’t always mean that you should.

I wholly believe that DIY SEO is hugely overlooked by many business owners who simply write this type of digital marketing off as “too complex”, “too difficult” or “too time consuming” to try yourself.

This is a mistake. Most SEOs will appreciate you coming to them saying; “I’ve tried X in the past but couldn’t make it work” or “I had good results with this before” rather than, “I’ve never tried it I have no interest in it and I just want to pay someone to take it off my hands.”

Even if your activity has been limited to a single blog post or occasional wording change to a product.

Why? Because most SEOs will appreciate the fact that you have tried to make improvements to your website and should be able to help learn from your experiences what the site needs. If you’ve tried certain types of organic performance activity historically then you shouldn’t afraid to tell the SEO you’re onboarding about them in detail.

They should be able to identify;

  • where things went right (or wrong if you didn’t get good outcomes)
  • where to improve on ideas and strategies
  • how they can pick up your ideas and iterate on them to make the next time even more successful.
  • In addition to the above, your SEO will also get an idea of what you want your brand to be, in which direction it is headed and where you like it to end up as a result of working with the SEO.

A considerable amount of failure in SEO is down to poor or improper execution. There’s not always one way to achieve something, but as search engine algorithms move further from keyword parsing and link counting to imitating human user behaviour and detailed quality assessments it can often be the quality of execution is the reason that your results may not have been what you expected.

Execution and of course, the consistency that is critical to overall organic performance.

Caution is advised

With the above in mind, there is also a need to stress caution, especially if you’re a medium – large sized business, you’ve gotten consistent traffic historically from search engines or your business relies exclusively on revenue earned through online activity.

It is entirely possible with just a few single small errors in the wrong place to significantly impact the volume and quality of inbound traffic to your website and jeopardise your business in the process.

Any SEO you speak to after hearing about something like this may be concerned that issues like this may happen again or may mean much greater complexity for them to solve.

With all of the above in mind, here are some tips on some websites and resources that can help introduce you to the basics of SEO so you can get started.

Where to Get Free SEO Advice and Resources?

Udemy offer courses and introductory lessons about SEO. These vary from SEO basics to backlink acquisition techniques and content advice.

Moz – the Beginner’s guide to SEO is widely regarded as one of the best and most comprehensive resources available for those new or those looking for a refresher.

Google Webmaster Resources; their blog and the Google Search Central Youtube channel and supplementary resources can guide you through concepts and strategies to get your website noticed on the most popular search engine on the planet.

Search Engine Journal; provide up to date related content to help you research, identify opportunities and specific actionable tips to help you reach your goals.

Search Engine Land; are an SEO and performance marketing news outlet that cover search engine algorithm updates and articles to help you respond to the latest changes in search performance.

Popular tools like SEMrush and ahrefs can help you get your head around the basics of technical SEO and their blogs help to break down more complex topics too.

by Ben Ullmer

Ben Ullmer seo specialist

About Ben

SEO Director

Ben is the founder and SEO director of Search/Natural. He spent 8 years working in SEO at some of the biggest comparison sites in the UK before setting up his own business to work with clients around the world.

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