Many of the best search marketers own or work for small businesses. They share great advice and articles about SEO, PPC, social media, local search, and more. But these folks also share a lot of great advice for small businesses indirectly — by the things they do in their own businesses. Here are eight pieces of small business advice (in no particular order) from some of my fellow search marketers.
1.) It’s easier to be found when you make yourself visible.
Stoney deGeyter of Pole Position Marketing is a great example of this. He’s one of the most prolific writers in our industry. You’ll find Stoney’s articles on ISEDB.com, Search Engine Guide, Web Pro News, and the Small is Beautiful lineup on Search Engine Land. He also writes regularly on his own E-Marketing Performance blog. It seems like not a day goes by that I don’t run into something Stoney wrote somewhere. That also makes it a lot easier for potential customers to find him.
2.) There’s no substitute for hard work.
Barry Schwartz took a red-eye flight to New York after SMX in Seattle. His flight landed at like 6:00 am in the Big Apple, and rather than go home to get some sleep, Barry was at his office by 7:30 am. He’s got to be
one of the hardest-working guy in our industry — tracking countless blogs, forums, and mailing lists. He manages the news on his own Search Engine Roundtable site, and for Search Engine Land, too. Visibility? Barry is the most prolific blogger around, and there’s not even a close #2. Did I mention that he owns a web development shop, and has a personal blog, too?
3.) Blogs can be active business tools.
There’s no better example of this than the crew at SEOmoz.org. It’s been remarkable to watch how Rand & Co. have used their blog to 1) grow a community, and 2) build a brand. And if that wasn’t enough, they’ve used premium content to 3) monetize it. Now, this small business has VC funding and is on the brink of much bigger things. Together, it’s proof that a company blog can do a lot more for the bottom line than you probably thought it could.
4.) Networking works.
When Jennifer Laycock was threatened with a lawsuit over her blog, The Lactivist, she immediately enlisted friends (myself included) to write about what was happening and draw attention to the situation. We blogged about it to the tune of nearly 300 mentions of Jennifer’s original post. The National Pork Board backed off gracefully, but to this day the situation is still visible in Google’s Top 10 listings for [national pork board].
5.) Don’t try to be everything to everyone.
There are a lot of great blogs that cover the SEO industry as a whole. Not everyone can pull that off; not everyone wants to. Successful small businesses often aim to serve a smaller demographic, as do successful blogs. Deb Mastaler writes about link building. Then there’s Bill Slawski, who focuses on search patent analysis. Search Engine Guide caters specifically to small business (as do I). Greg Sterling covers local search. Mike Blumenthal goes even deeper, focusing on Google Maps. The lesson? Specialize. Find your niche.
6.) Branding is powerful.
Once you’ve found your niche, you’ll need to know how to be a rock star in your niche, like Neil Patel has become. Neil’s an expert at personal branding, and writes about it on his blog, Quick Sprout. You’ll want to learn from his techniques to establish your identity in the marketplace and have positive thoughts associated with your business name.
7.) Your name and domain are important.
A memorable name can be a great way to get noticed. Just ask Patrick Schaber, who got attention and had to start fielding questions as soon he launched a blog called “The Lonely Marketer.” It’s a great name because it begs the question, Why are you lonely?, and curious people will go out of their way to get an answer. When they visit Pat’s blog, they get their answer and also get introduced to solid marketing content.
Another good example is Vanessa Fox, whose excellent blog is saddled with vanessafoxnude.com as its domain. Memorable? You bet! But it’s a problem because it doesn’t describe what you really get on her blog, and 43% of Vanessa’s traffic comes from people looking for nude pictures. Those folks probably don’t care about Vanessa’s thoughts on social media and search marketing, while a lot of people who do are probably hesitant to visit (esp. at work) because of the domain.
8.) The personal touch matters.
Great customer service stories usually boil down to this: a business treating a customer like a person, not an account number. If you’re a small business trying to distinguish yourself from bigger competitors, do what the big guys don’t: develop an actual relationship with your customers. Need a good example? Go back and read my Danny Sullivan story from 15 months ago. Danny has used the personal touch to become the leader of our industry. Ironically, I started that post by saying there’s nothing useful in it for small businesses, and here I am now saying otherwise. I think you’ll agree there is a lesson: If you want to make an impression with people, try the personal touch.
You’re welcome to leave your own examples of Things the Search Industry Can Teach Small Businesses in the comments…