The mere mention of search-engine optimization leaves many managers whimpering, fearful that their organization’s Web site is going to end up on the 14th page of a Google search and equally fearful that some charlatan is going to soak them big-time for SEO consulting.
So do you really need professional help ensuring that your Web site is positioned well for search?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Laura Partridge, president of Creative Concepts + Marketing, says the world of search and search marketing has become so complex that business owners can’t expect to keep up.
“There are all sorts of tricks of the trade that you can’t learn as a layman running one business,” says Partridge. “Most people simply don’t understand it.”
Reno-based Creative Concepts was among the first media-buying agencies in Nevada to complete the 80 hours of training necessary to become a Google Adwords Certified Partner, and the agency’s staff has been working to become certified by Google in display and analytics as well.
With that certification, Creative Concepts is working directly with Google on the latest advertising and marketing tools and can provide businesses with a tailored search package to get started in the use of AdWords.
But not every business will need that level of help.
Bob Whitefield, director of search and analytics at KPS3 in Reno, says business owners don’t necessarily have to hire a consultant to begin improving the likelihood that potential customers will find them on line.
“There are a lot of things that small business owners can do to get themselves into a good position,” he says.
The fastest and easiest step: Use “Google My Business” to ensure that the correct business information is available on Google search, its maps and Google+. (See Google.com/business to get started.)
Make certain, too, that you use a consistent name for your business and its offerings across the locations that a user might see it.
If you’re able and willing to edit your own Web site, Google provides useful information under the “Quality Guidelines” section of its Webmaster Tools Help Center (support.google.com/webmasters).
The overarching theme of Google’s tips: Don’t get cute or deceptive, don’t create a Web site just for the SEO and focus instead on the needs of your audience.
“Google wants to serve the best content to their users,” Whitefield says.
While some of the Google search tips can be implemented by a business owner with a modest amount of Web experience, others require more technical know-how and more time than a manager wants to devote to the job.
That, Whitefield says, is the moment to call in a professional in search-engine optimization or search-engine marketing.
While experts worldwide pitch northern Nevada companies on those services, Partridge says that experts headquartered in northern Nevada can deliver a combination of local-market knowledge with skills in using the World Wide Web.
If you’re ready to bring in some outside help for SEO or SEM work, Partridge says it’s helpful to think through some basic questions before the first meeting:
Who’s your target market?
Who are your competitors?
What’s the object of your Web presence?
What will be the criteria by which you will judge the success of SEO or SEM consulting?
The benefits of SEO and SEM marketing probably will take three or four months to become fully apparent. Among other things, professionals need to time to experiment with what works.
Costs of an SEO or SEM consultant range widely, from a few hundred dollars a month for a small company to tens of thousands of dollars monthly for larger companies with larger needs.