SEO FAQ For Small Business 7 of 10 – How Long For SEO Results? (SEO Results Time Frame)

As we’ve discussed in previous articles, search engine optimization takes time and effort. In this article we’ll discuss the basic time frame in which you could expect results.

The hours and effort needed to increase the visibility of your small business website depend greatly on your marketing plan and which keyword you’re going after. Let’s take the term mortgage calculator. If you were to advertise your mortgage calculator with Google, the Google Traffic Estimator shows an estimated 600 to 752 clicks per day with a projected AdWords cost of $2,070 – $3,680 PER DAY for this keyword. There are 24,900,000 Google results for this term, and 510 associated keywords. Google Keyword Tools also reveals approx 890,000 searches for this term in a month.

This is some serious competition and your chances of getting on the first page of Google in less than a year is possible, but not probable. The top Google site for this term is Alexa ranked at about 7700 in the US with over 60% of the traffic coming from search engines. There are still ways to compete with this particular website on this particular keyword, but it would take a while. This top site gets a majority of the traffic for the term.

As a minimum time investment, you should be committed to performing (or contracting for) at least two hours a day, three days a week, for at least three to six months, with a review of progress and re-evaluation at the three and six month mark. You may very well experience a noticeable traffic increase in only four or six weeks, but to get onto the front page of a search engine will require two or three crawls of the site by the search engines after optimization, and you have no control over when, and if, that happens. A year-long optimization campaign is not unheard of for a large site. If your site is less than three or four months old, or the domain is expiring in less than a year, you may have issues with high rank despite your best efforts as these are ‘red flags’ to the search engines.

Don’t forget your off-page efforts as well. This will be the subject of the next article. Take into consideration your other sources of product or service promotion and notification. I’m speaking of your existent customer base, your business related social network (or lack thereof) and your business blog. These are invaluable resources for the formation of ‘inbound links’, article or video reviews, and “join the conversation”. Remember that “joining the conversation” is customer service and a means to an end. Talking about your site or services is a fine thing, and handling issues is a must, but if you’re not converting your conversation or generating calls to action and practicing the ‘principle of reciprocity’, then you are not using your off-site network to its fullest potential. Conversations are mostly listening, but more importantly hearing.

No matter your business battle plan, it will take time to formulate and execute. Tell the principals involved (CEO, CFO and CIO) that they need to budget at least six months for the project, with reviews occurring every ninety days to check on progress toward the pre-defined goal. And please don’t end the project when you’ve exceeded your goals. You’ve gotten more than you expected and should continue to reap the benefits. If it works for you, continue to work it until your growth curve begins to flatten, and then do it again with another ‘angle of attack’. You can have “too much exposure” in the same respect you can have “too many customers”.

Next time: Social Media and SEO.

Small Business Marketing For Sales Growth

Most small business owners would agree on the need to have a plan for sales growth. Yet far too many small businesses rely on “sales effort” and far too few establish appropriate marketing strategies for sales growth.

Most marketing experts suggest three marketing strategies that are open to all businesses, large and small:

o The least-cost strategy. Using this strategy, a company competes by selling uniform, standard products. Market demand for these products is usually highly elastic. An increase in price triggers a sharp drop in sales volume because (1) demand is low, supply is high, or (2) there are plenty of competitors who can supply substitutes. Buyers expect price concessions, which naturally lead least-cost firms to emphasize production at the lowest possible per-unit costs.

o The differentiation strategy. A company using this strategy attempts to offer unique products that are set off from the competition by superior quality or service. Market demand tends to be inelastic (that is, sales volume doesn’t vary in proportion to price). Goods are priced well above production costs. The company that pursues a strategy of differentiation must invest heavily in product development and innovative packaging and promotion. And it must stay closely in tune with customers’ changing needs and desires.

o The niche strategy. Using this option, a company sells a premium priced product or service to a few buyers. Unit costs are high because output is low and costs such as labor or research and development may be great. Brand identification and customer loyalty are the keys to success.

In adopting a marketing strategy, most small businesses should opt for the differentiation or niche strategy, or a combination of the two. The least-cost strategy is the least successful for small companies. There’s a simple reason why: production costs.

A company’s production costs tend to decline as it accumulates experience in producing the product. How much production experience a company has the opportunity to acquire depends on its share of the market. The larger its market share, the lower its costs.

Therefore, the dominant competitor in a market is in the best position to pursue a least-cost strategy. It can and will shave profit margins to drive out competitors who can’t compete on price. The market leader is assured that the more it can produce and sell regardless of price, the lower its cost will go. So, the least-cost strategy is usually used by very large companies that have the resources to dominate a particular market, local, regional, national or international.

A clear message here is to stay out of areas where there already is a dominant market leader unless you’re prepared for a costly business battle. That means building on your business’s own experience, pushing its competitive edge to the limit in an effort to become the dominant competitor. You can do this by:

o Developing a new product;
o Differentiating your product to appeal to a segment of the market where you have the most experience; or
o Finding a niche in a highly fragmented market where there is no clearly dominant competitor.

When developing new products, stick to your strength. There may be a virtue in staying small, at least in one sense. For one thing, contracting for a service may be cheaper than doing it yourself. Aside from that, each distinctive business function has its own little tricks, short-cuts and hidden pitfalls. In starting a function from scratch, you are committing time, money and capital to an area where competitors, because of their greater experience, may have a clear cost edge.

It’s a common story these days that new, high technology products are no sooner brought out of the designer’s “garage” than they are an instant hit in the marketplace. A production facility is quickly put together and business blossoms-until a larger competitor swoops down with a copycat product and takes the business away.

The cause isn’t just the predatory nature of big business. Often, the designer’s experience in research and development doesn’t carryover to functions that are vital to success in a competitive market: sales and marketing, distribution and financing. The new business can’t come close to matching the larger firm’s experience and proficiency in these areas. And this gives the larger firm an insurmountable edge in the marketplace.

You should consider an alternative strategy: If your business is good at R & D, consider joining with a business that is good at production, sales and marketing. If you have the edge in one geographical region, join with a business that has strong national marketing and distribution channels. Above all, concentrate your resources where your experience is greatest.

Another avenue to sales growth is differentiation. Break away from the pack and make your product stand out from the competition on the basis of superior quality and innovation. Your objective is to maintain the unique appeal a product has to quality-minded consumers. At the same time, look for ways to make carrying your product more attractive to wholesalers and retailers as well.

Profitable niches are often found in markets where there’s no clear industry leader. For example, Enterprise Rent-A-Car built the world’s largest rental car agency by specializing in “wreck replacement” rentals. At the time, the market was under served and there was no clear leader for the service. But finding the appropriate niche can take patience. And once you find it, it’s vital to cultivate customer loyalty and confidence.

Small Business Game, Big Business Win

My neighbors are entrepreneurs at heart. They are part of the 860,000 new small business enterprises that opened doors this year. At the rate they are going they could also be part of the churned small enterprises that will close their doors over the next year if they don’t proactively take preventive measures.

My neighbors represent the vast majority of small business owners entering the market daily. In the beginning they are brimming with bright optimism and bright ideas. By the end they wonder how they could have made it all work as they close doors on yet another opportunity.

What are my neighbors, and small business owners (SBOs) like them doing wrong?

Do small businesses need excess cash flow to make it in this market?

Do marketing mix, core competencies and/or niche marketing spell small business accomplishment?

Well…yes and no.

I don’t think ample cash reserves tell the entire story for how to be a small business success. Cash helps, but it’s one piece to the overall puzzle. I also don’t think complex stats and formal business jargon determine small business success either. It helps to talk-the-talk. It helps even more to walk-the-walk, but again complexity doesn’t help unravel the tangled web of linear progression.

Bottom line, a devotion to realizing and then seizing business opportunities can course an SBO onto the path of growth.

A business with cash that does not do this will falter. Just as a business with a small budget can do this and succeed.

Small companies can play in this business game to garner big business wins.

o Size Matters

Small businesses have the advantage in just that: their size!

Unlike larger corporations, small businesses are postured to agilely and quickly remedy non cost-effective processes, products, and/or services. Also, small businesses can advantageously leverage their span of control as it is more cross functional and less hierarchical than larger competitors. Hence, revisions can be implemented and evident to the consumer before problems become systemically ingrained.

Utilize your business size and its mobility to deliver effective results for your consumers and your employees.

o Dedicate your Wits

While cash flow is a routine focus for business sustenance and growth, do not neglect the need for creative brainpower. As tiring as constant innovation and inventiveness can be when intermingled with ever changing products, services and finances, understand thriving enterprises analyze the market for the best opportunities to meet consumer demand.

Your business is static until you make it dynamic.

o Know Yourself to Know Your Business

Competition is rampant and it can affect sales. Yet, there are enough resources to support the SBO. If you look around at the varying small organizations in a city district, you should be encouraged! For the most part, these businesses offer similar products and/or services as larger companies, yet they still thrive.

Know what you offer and tout your uniqueness. A small business is an external expression of its owner. So just doing what you do is differentiation! Recognize it, and champion it as a unique resource available only through your gateway.

o Listen to the Beat

You don’t have to have expensive customer feedback mechanisms to know what your customers are saying. Feedback comes your way all the time in hushed compliments and verbose criticisms.

Be a pulse chaser! In other words, seek what’s hot. Pulse chasing companies experience business progression and growth beyond the box in which they initially started. Don’t just ask customers if they satisfied. Strive to exceed their expectations. There certainly exist tangent markets of available market share if you’re willing to listen to what that market says.

o Do It Already!

Knowing what to do and not doing it is insanity. The point of business ownership lies in the freedom to mold your ideas into a value-added good or service. Yet, execution is the lacking factor capable of diversifying your product into a money-making entity versus a money-sucking unit.

Implementing other processes and streamlining existing ones are not necessarily easy steps, but such analyses are relevant and can result in longstanding progressive actions. Lean and agile corporations anticipate customer demand, but the battle is won in how they back up their hunch with consistently salable products or services.

o Burn the Midnight Oil

Business is rhythmic.

Hang in there long enough to learn your business’ battle rhythm. Decisions can then be made proactively versus reactively, which gives the SBO an offensive positioning.

The only way you’ll know any of this data, however, is through defining new processes, assessing their relevance and reassessing the overall process for positive repositioning.

And that takes time…so hang in there!