The Cutting Edge of Small Business SEO: Going Social

Small business SEO hasn’t changed a whole lot in the past few years. You get your small business website, you find some decent keywords with good traffic, and you localize them by adding a word or two describing the location the business is in. People search for the keywords with the town name attached, they find the small business website, and they know where to go to get what they need. Simple as pie.

But as social media like Facebook, Twitter, and the like have began to hold massive sway over the Internet, small businesses started realizing that people were making serious money by gathering followers and pointing them toward their stores. As some were wildly successful with this, SEO companies started to take notice. Today, the cutting edge of small business SEO has less to do with keywords and backlinks (though both are still critically important), and more to do with going social.

So how does an SEO company drive social networking through a website? There are a few ways. The most obvious is setting up social accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, MySpace, and a half-dozen other major social networks. Then, you simply start telling people about those accounts. If they like what you do, they’ll Like, +1, Retweet, and otherwise start spreading the word about you.

But that’s just the beginning. There are hundreds of social resources on the Internet, from the obvious social networks to secondary areas like social bookmarking, Web 2.0 properties with their built-in social nature, and video marketing on sites with social elements. The more places your company and product show up, the more you’ll have the opportunity to be judged by the masses.

Assuming your business model revolves around producing a quality product and having excellent customer service (it should) and you find someone to market for you that has a bit of pizzazz, you should be able to do well in the social market — and for a small business, that kind of social proof is today’s equivalent of the all-star-athlete endorsement of yesteryear.

Which Is More Affordable, SEO or LBM?

LBM, or Local Business Marketing, is a concept as old as businesses themselves — it’s an umbrella term for any activity that encourages people to be aware of your business. Putting an ad up on the backstop of your local T-ball diamond, buying a radio spot on a local county channel, and paying someone to stand on the street corner and wave a sign at traffic are all classic examples of LBM.

SEO, on the other hand, is online marketing — meaning, among other things, you have to have a website. SEO doesn’t drive people directly through your door; it drives traffic to your website instead. Then your website has to either drive them through your front door or convince them to part with their money online.

So which is more affordable: SEO or LBM? It’s a difficult question to answer, because neither one is a direct correlation of dollars spent to dollars made. The very meticulous can track their daily numbers and do a day-by-day comparison of a month before they put up that ad on the backstop and a month afterward and see if business spiked on or the day after a T-ball game, but it’s not a certain thing. Neither is SEO; just because you did a hundreds hours of backlinking work doesn’t mean that the traffic increase to your page is entirely because of the money you spent on SEO.

There is one factor, however, that definitively tilts the balance in favor of SEO: rankings are persistent. If you spend a year with your ad playing three times every day on the country channel and then you stop, your net ‘residual’ benefit is zero for all reasonable purposes. If you spend a year building backlinks to your website, those backlinks (if they’re made correctly) will last essentially forever, which means your search traffic will stay high even if you stop spending money on SEO.

That’s why, as you might expect from an SEO company, we firmly believe it’s wiser to invest your advertising budget into SEO rather than LBM. The long run will thank you in the end.

Better PR: Custom Blog Creation or Article Writing and Distribution?

There are lots of reasons you might want to focus on creating an ample amount of high-quality content for your business. The biggest is the social factor: the more you say (intelligently and well, that is), the more people on sites like Facebook and Twitter will talk about what you said. The more they do that, the more traffic you get, the more (free) backlinks get built on your behalf, and so on.

So, knowing this, some people have come to use with a pretty simple question: if you’re going to focus on creating killer content and putting it out there, where should you put it? Google’s recent focus on “fresh” content seems pretty solidly in the camp of “don’t duplicate it”, so that’s out. And really, when you get right down to it, there are two basic options — you can put it all up on a blog, or you can post it to various article directories.

So which is better PR?

If you go for custom blog creation:

  • Readers are much more encouraged to move from one post to another, learning more about your company as they go.
  • You can add your own widgets and tools to make your blog more SEO-friendly, more reader-friendly, and more ‘you’.
  • The various tags, titles, categories, and other natural blog elements all add to your ability to focus each page, SEO-wise, on a specific keyword or two.
  • As you add more pages to your blog, it will grow in relative authority and each post will benefit from that.

If you go for article writing and distribution:

  • Readers reach the call-to-action and they’re much more likely to follow it to your site’s landing page than they are to click off to another article.
  • Article directories tend start with higher authority (and thus significantly more readership) than a blog will, no matter how well-SEO’d.
  • Article directory pages benefit (or suffer) from the overall quality of the directory as a whole, so a very good directory will pass even more juice onto your content.

On the whole, it’s somewhat of a conundrum, because if you have an established blog with a pile of content on it, you’re better off posting to the blog in most cases — but if you don’t, you’re better off posting to an article directory. But if you keep posting to the article directory, you’ll never get that blog off of the ground. In the end, as was probably entirely predictable, the best answer is to do both.