I am planning to start a web design business, targeting small business owners, within the next year. I want to make sure that my clients receive the best advice from me that they can about how to attract visitors to their web sites.

I have searched the web high and low for an answer to my question regarding the effectiveness of SEO, and have not found a satisfactory answer.

Since my clients are going to be small business owners, and there are gazillions of web sites relating to all of the search terms they could possibly come up with, how can SEO help them? What are the odds, even with expertise such as yours, that they will achieve a ranking high enough to enter the consciousness of their potential customers?

Thanks for your help,

Linda S.

Jill's Reply

Hi Linda,

This is a great question!

Obviously, the effectiveness of any SEO work is going to depend on the knowledge and skills of the company performing the SEO, but if we assume that they know what they're doing, of course SEO can be effective for a small business! SEO consultants and companies would not still be around if they weren't actually increasing their clients' traffic and sales.

Yes, there may be gazillions of sites competing for the search phrases related to your client's site, but that's what keyword research is for. You're not going to get a small business site to rank highly for a general one-word keyword, but who cares? What you want to do is carefully research your client's niche, then find the hundreds of phrases that people are using to search for their products or services. Some of these phrases will be searched for hundreds of times a day, and others will be searched on just a few times. Regardless of the number of times, you want to optimize for those that are the most relevant to what your client offers.

The biggest mistake made by rookie SEOs (and even some established ones) is not doing a thorough job on keyword research. Good keyword research will take time -- lots of it; but I can't stress enough how "key" this is to the success or failure of your optimization campaign. Everything you do for SEO stems from this research. The site architecture, the navigation, the link text, the copy on the pages, the Title and Meta tags, as well as the directory descriptions, all are determined by your choice of keyword phrases. If you get them right (and know what to do with them!), you almost can't fail. Your client's sites will definitely see their targeted traffic rise over time, and if they've thought about conversions and usability, so will their sales.

I wrote an article awhile back which chronicled the success of a few of my small business clients, which you may be interested in. It's called "Search Engine Optimization and the Bottom Line."

I highly recommend using Wordtracker for your keyword research. However, if you dislike keyword research, or just don't understand how to do it correctly, you may want to consider outsourcing it. In fact, I don't mind passing along my own keyword researcher, Lorelle Smith (who also proofreads this newsletter). Lorelle's lifelong passion for words, combined with an ever-growing vocabulary, gives her an edge when it comes to conducting keyword research, and she does a great job with it! Feel free to email me and I'll put you in contact with her if you'd like more info.

Hope this helps!

January 13, 2005

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

Search Engine Guide > Jill Whalen > Even Small Businesses Can Gain Valuable Search Traffic