~~~Search Engine Optimization~~~
From: Yvonne DiVita
Hi Heather and Jill,
My question is pretty simple: How do you respond to companies that
say, 'Oh, we're just local. We don't care about traffic. We just
wanted a web-presence.' I have several great answers--one is to ask
them if they have a brochure and if they do, is it kept in their
supply cabinet where no one can see it? But, often I don't even get
that far. I wish I could think of a witty reply that wouldn't insult
but would show the local companies that traffic is just as important
to their site as to the sites wanting global attention. To make
matters worse, I recently read an article on SEO (not here, of
course!) that said service industries don't need SEO because they
aren't selling a product!! How absurd is that!
If a company goes to the trouble to develop a website, I think they
should also take the necessary steps to make that website work for
them. Web marketing involves SEO and isn't a matter of keeping up with
the Jones. I'm just wondering what you ladies have to say about this.
I'm ready to tell the next local company I speak to that tells me they
don't care about SEO that what they're saying, in effect, is that they
don't care about their business. But, I'm hoping you have a nicer way
to put it.
By the way, I work for a local web development company and we are
quite successful with our SEO (thanks to your great advice time and
time again). I'm just determined to reach the folks who insist SEO
isn't necessary because they only care about local customers. Thanks
for your help!
Hey Yvonne -
Glad to hear our advice has helped you become successful with your
search engine optimization efforts!
Your question is a great one, and very timely for me. Just last night
I spoke at a local business association meeting, and the small
business owners there were wondering the very same thing! Regarding
your thoughts on the issue, I agree that for many local business Web
sites, being found in the search engines is crucial. However, I must
also say that for some local sites, at this time it may not be
critical to be optimized for high rankings in the search engines.
I would personally love it if all local businesses had Web sites and
they were easily found in the search engines. I'd love to be able to
go to Google when looking for a new dentist and be able to type in
"Ashland dentist" or something to that effect, and be confident that
all the dentists in my general area would be neatly listed.
Unfortunately, chances are I won't find all of the local dentists that
are near me. The truth of the matter is that it's a heck of a lot
easier for me to simply pick up my local phone book and let my fingers
do the walking. However, it would be great if after finding some
promising dentists in the yellow pages, I could then visit their Web
sites to learn more about them. It's a good idea for every business
to have a Web site as a cost-effective means of providing information
about their company. Plus, it's critical for local companies to put
their URL in all their phone book and newspaper ads.
Thus said, those dentists and other local businesses that do have a
Web presence and can also be easily found in the search engines,
definitely have the jump on their competition. There are people out
there who would much prefer to use the Web to find local stuff. They
will be searching for the dentists and the like online, and if there's
only one site consistently coming up, it may be the one to gain the
new patient. One day in the future, all local businesses *will*
finally be online (although it's certainly slow going at this point!).
When this does happen, those who had the foresight to optimize will be
firmly entrenched in the top of the engines, and it will be much
harder for others to catch up.
The other benefit to local sites being optimized, at least if they're
doing it the "Rank Write way" (i.e., creating great keyphrase-rich
content for both the search engines and their prospects), is that they
will be much more likely to turn their visitors into paying customers.
So even if people aren't finding their Web site from the search
engines, but from their walking fingers, the writing on the page
should be such that their site will persuade the surfer to take
action. This could very well be the biggest benefit to optimizing
some local sites, at this point in time.
There are certain categories of local businesses that can benefit from
optimization more than others. The Internet has been critical to the
overall success of a Georgetown, KY gastric bypass surgeon's site that
Heather and I worked on a few years ago. Real estate agencies also
see great value from SEO campaigns. People who are moving to a new
area often do research online before they move, so it's vital for
these agency sites to be search-engine friendly. Touristy kinds of
sites also need to be optimized.
But what about the local book store? Or the local barbershop? I think
it's great for those types of businesses to have Web sites so townies
can easily check their hours, or check if particular books are in
stock, and that sort of thing. But do I need to be able to find them
in the search engines? That's debatable, and I lean towards saying
no, at this time. It would be much more helpful for those sites to be
listed in their local town Web site directory. (Hopefully the local
town Web site is easily found in the engines!) Certainly a local
listing in Yahoo might be beneficial, but it's hard to say if it's
worth $299 to a small, hometown business.
Every business has to weigh the costs and the benefits, and do what's
best for them. If they're selling expensive services and just a few
visitors from Yahoo could make back their $299, then of course they
should go for it. But it's doubtful that every local business could
easily make back that $299 from Yahoo, let alone the costs of hiring
an SEO consultant to ensure them high rankings.
These are the kinds of things that have to be decided on a
case-by-case basis. I'm not prepared to make a blanket statement that
all local sites need to be optimized for high rankings because, at
this point in time, I don't feel that's true. Ask me again in a few
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