Good question, and one I’m often asked from time to time.
As a small business myself, I like to look after the pennies. Any money I spend on marketing my services is carefully considered and measured to make sure it brings a significant return. And if it doesn’t, it’s ditched.
But where should you start? I know it’s tempting to try deals or offers that get put your way by friendly, persuasive sales people but you can easily eat up your marketing budget that way. And it’s probably not a huge budget to start with is it?
I was inspired to write this blog by a recent article from Search Engine Watch questioning the importance of SEO to small businesses.
My advice to any small business with under £1,000 to spend has always been SEO, SEO, SEO. (Search Engine Optimisation if you didn’t know). I have even developed a small business SEO marketing package.
But recently I have started to think that SEO isn’t always the answer. The first job of SEO is to understand what keywords you should be optimising your website for. Now if you know your business and you have had google analytics set up on your website for a while, there might be enough available data to make some decisions on this. But if you are launching a new business, especially in a new sector, it’s a lot harder to figure out. Especially considering 90% of the data on keywords bringing traffic to your site from SEO are no longer visible in your Google Analytics reporting.
So it might be wise to try Adwords (also known as PPC) instead. The downside is you have to pay for for every click that comes to your website but for small businesses the cost per click is often less than 50p and with Adwords advertising you can control what terms your ad appears for and how closely you want to match your advertising to search terms, only the exact term for example or to all variations and similar terms. Good SEO should result in Google ranking you for the search terms you want to appear for but you will never have the same control as Adwords.
I wouldn’t go as far as the Search Engine Watch article and say that Adwords is always a better option than SEO but it’s definitely worth thinking carefully about the better option for you. SEO should produce a better long term ROI, and if you are pretty web savvy and technically minded you might be even able to do some or all of the work yourself. Adwords will get you out of the blocks quicker and provide you with key search term insight to hone your SEO work, but you have to keep paying for those clicks.
The article goes on to also recommend email marketing and social media. I concur but in my view, the former is only successful once you have built up a significant profile of existing customers and the latter requires a considerable amount of time and energy before you even see something like a decent return. In my view SEO and Adwords are still by far the first two channels you should be looking at.
If you are a small business and would be interested in discussing your marketing further, feel free to get in touch for a chat.