4 DIY SEO Tips for the Small Business Owner

September 25th, 2012 by Amy Arnold

martinis for DIY SEO

My husband and I have some friends who are in town every year at the end of August, without fail, so we know we have a dinner date with this couple at the peak of hurricane season every year.

Hurricane Isaac 2012This year, we met our friends on the Saturday night after Hurricane Isaac passed through. Our friends had another couple in New Orleans who had been without power going on five days, so they were desperate to get out of their hot, humid house and enjoy good food in the air conditioning and possibly have a drink or three. The more the merrier, so the four of us were meeting the two of them at the bar.

This restaurant is usually very popular, but was especially hopping that night because they had power. Most of the items on the menu were sold out, but we enjoyed the few things the kitchen still had. So in conversation she asked did I work?… what did I do? … the way these conversations usually go. When I told her, her eyes lit up, and I was her best friend that evening. She had a 2 year old yoga studio that was doing decently, and she wanted the yoga business to be strong and really successful. She recognized that the web was an untapped potential for her, and she was overwhelmed with her known options and with the options she knew probably existed but didn’t know about.

Search Influence has a mission that simply states “We are here to help small business succeed online.” It is our company goal to help this small business owner who was sitting across from me, and I would love to be able to help her dominate the yoganistas in her city.

I have had this experience more than a few times, where a very small, very local business has absolutely no marketing budget, but they know they need to do “stuff” online to grow or even just to survive. I’m not talking about businesses local to their city; I’m talking about businesses that serve their neighborhood primarily. Super local.

A few suggestions for a very small business who has done almost nothing online yet.

If I met the owner of a very small, very locally-focused business who had done virtually nothing online and had very little time to devote to online marketing, what priorities would I tell that SMB owner for DIY SEO?

I polled our Account Managers to see how much they agreed/disagreed with me, so these priorities are the collective answer of most of our accounts team. The difficulty is there is so much an SMB owner could be doing, but my intent was to focus on those things that are not technical — i.e. no website edits. A lot of business owners that I meet that offer services to a very specific community don’t know how to edit their websites because they have never had to, and they are busy working on growing the business, taking care of personnel, managing operations, et cetera.

With that in mind, here is by no means a comprehensive list of all things a business owner can do on his/her own — just a few things that came up in my conversation and then bounced around our accounts team.

Totally unscientific DIY SEO survey

Countdown of DIY SEO Tips based on number of responses of my totally unscientific internal survey …

#4 — with only 1 survey responder considering it as the priority for an SMB’s very limited time and money … monthly newsletters. Monthly newsletters are a great tool for many businesses. However, the business has to build up an email list of recipients first. You can buy a list, but it’s so much better to build the contacts yourself with your customers optioning in to receive your message in their inbox. You also have the challenge of deciding what message makes an impact on your business but also is interesting to your email group.

You need to grow your email list first, and realize that you are messaging people who are likely already customers. In all I agree that this is a valuable tool, but not for a super small business at such an early phase of operations.

Facebook fan building#3 – 1 response suggesting an offer made through Facebook. This also is a valuable tool, but again, the business generally has to have some Fans on Facebook before they start offering coupons and contests and all of that jazz. My yoga-diva dinner companion did not have a Facebook Page worth mentioning, so this would not be an option for her yet.

#2 – 4 responses voted for regular Facebook updating. Our accounts team sees every day how a well-maintained Facebook Page can work for a small business. It’s exciting to see strong fan building, active commenting, and referral traffic driving to the client’s website. All of this can be very effective (and fun!). It absolutely be a valuable tool when developed at the right time in a business’s growth.

fantastic Facebook fan buildingOne of our accounts team responded to my internal survey, “Facebook Updates and Newsletters are great, but they are worthless unless they have a following. To me, Facebook could be easier for one person to manage, but significant effort would have to be made to promote the Facebook Page.”

Just like monthly newsletters and making an offer on Facebook, you have to build to a level where you have an audience to whom you can broadcast your message. Lots of work has to be done for the Facebook Page before it’s going to work for you.

#1 – Tied for #1 … 5 responses for “Create/edit listings in 10 online directories other than Google+.” If a small business owner had only 1 hour to devote to their online identity, 5 of our accounts team suggested that s/he should review the businesses’ listing in 10 directories other than Google+. My totally unscientific survey didn’t indicate which 10 directories, but it can be assumed that the list would include directories such as Yelp, Yahoo, Bing, YellowPages, and Superpages. There are countless other examples, but you want to devote your time only to those directories that you have seen often enough like Kudzu or Merchant Circle.

#1 – Tied for #1 … 5 of the accounts team responded that claiming Google+ Local Page is the thing you should spend a few minutes claiming and filling up with your business information, maybe some pictures.

This was my priority suggestion at dinner that night. She wasn’t sure what a Google+ Local listing was, a lot of business owners don’t, and they should.

(TIP! If you claim your G+ Local listing, claim it in an email box that you won’t mind sharing with an SEO agency — that is, don’t claim G+ with your personal email account. One day you might hire a website promotion company like Search Influence to help your rank better in Google results, and when you do, you will want your account manager to have the login to your G+ — but if it’s the same account as your personal email, you might not want to share it.)

There are countless small business DIY SEO tips for the savvy owner out there. What are some of your favorites?