New York Times Article Shows the Reality of Small Businesses & SEO

Filed in SEO by Matt McGee on April 1, 2013 9 Comments

seo-200The New York Times has been running a series about female entrepreneurs/small business owners called She Owns It, and the latest installment includes some of the most honest quotes I’ve ever seen about how SMB owners think and feel about SEO.

Today’s article talks about a few business owners that recently redesigned their websites.

Beth Shaw, owner of YogaFit, has just hired a company to do SEO, the article says.

The first phase of the project will involve cleaning up the code on each of YogaFit’s Web pages for a charge of about $2,500. After that, ongoing S.E.O. will cost $1,500 a month. Ms. Shaw found this price reasonable after talking to another firm that wanted to charge between $2,500 and $5,000 a month. When she asked the firm how long it would take to see results, she said she was told she might not see any.

“It’s not a guaranteed science,” she acknowledged. Still, the answer made her leery. She said the firm she hired sounded “a little bit more optimistic,” and told her that, within three months, she should see more traffic and click-throughs on her site.

The article also talks about Deirdre Lord, owner of The Megawatt Hour.

…she’s skeptical of S.E.O. firms and admitted she’s done “zilch” so far to optimize her site. “I feel like you should be able to see major impacts in the first couple of months,” she said, “but these firms, I don’t even know what these firms do.”

Also appearing in the article is Alexandra Mayzler, owner of Thinking Caps Group, who’s not planning to do any SEO on her new site.

“I don’t think so,” she replied. She explained that the site really serves as a resource for existing clients. “People don’t generally search for us all that much,” she added.

(Note: Given the chance, I would encourage Alexandra to reconsider that decision. Her company offers coaching and tutoring and those are both services that are fairly highly-searched-for in my experience. I’d also have encouraged her not to change the company name from Thinking Caps Tutoring to Thinking Caps Group because having the “tutoring” keyword in the business name would be a benefit in Google Maps/Plus optimization.)

No matter my advice there … I think this is an interesting article that reflects a lot of the reality when small businesses are faced with tackling SEO.

Give it a read and let me know your reaction in the comments below. Thanks!

(Stock image via Used under license.)

Comments (9)

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  1. Yikes. A- I should charge more. B- People are unhappy with paying for SEO.
    When I worked for a big computer compay, they spent 500 mil per year on marketing. There was no moaning or groaning( well, maybe just a little). Everybody understood that marketing got a big chunk of cash. Many smb clients simply don’t understand marketing and the value of investing in it. SEO just gets the downstream negativity. Smart shop owners invest in prime locations becuase they understand location is very important. Page 1 Google is the best location in cybertown. Same idea.
    A lot of the negativity is from the fact that there is a lot of risk and uncertain results. People want the results and not the risk. SEO companies should hand out free meditation and relaxation tapes 😉

  2. Joel says:

    Marketing is everything. You can have the best product, but if you don’t market it, no one will know it exists. With the rapid rise of the internet, business have to hook into all the latest technologies if they want to be competitive in their market.

  3. Dave Eddy says:

    No doubt about it, I’ve come across some fantastic local SEO companies here in Australia. I’ve also seen some SEO companies that really do give the profession a bad name. I can totally understand the scepticism of small business owners when they’re looking to put their trust into an SEO firm and I absolutely agree that no agency can guarantee specific results to a client. HOWEVER, with the proper market research, industry experience, up-to-date strategies & the right marketing tools/software – SEO results for small businesses CAN be predicted to an extent. Is SEO essential for all small businesses? Not in my opinion. It really depends on the individual business, their target market, their location & other factors. I run local PPC advertising campaigns for small businesses here in Newcastle Australia and I have to be very selective (perhaps even more careful than an SEO firm) about what type of clients I bring on board. When you’re accepting a small business’ money to pay for traffic, you need to be very confident of being able to generate a strong ROI for the prospective client – especially when you’re operating in a relatively small city, because word does get around. Do they have a profitable product to sell? Is there enough search in their region to warrant an ad spend? Do they have an effective conversion/sales process to back up the enquiries? These are some of the questions I think business owners could ask themselves when they’re considering any form of search marketing campaign. In my opinion, any search marketing professional worth their salt should be able to confidently assure their prospective client that their investment will pay off for them. They should also have a proven track record of success with other small businesses in similar industries & competitive markets. If they’re not, then the small business owner has every right to be sceptical. Hope this helps 🙂

  4. Jim Rudnick says:

    As usual, Matt…great post on why most SMB owners have NO IDEA about the simple fact that a talented SEO firm can drive them new traffic….and conversions too!

    Not surprised at the comment either from the woman who didn’t think that people “search for her site” much….

    Guess she’s counting on her city’s HUGE YellowPages books to get her some attention and leads…



  5. Grose says:

    An insightful article indeed, ignorance is a real problem, but seo’s can’t afford to ‘train’ new clients to understand what they need in a changing marketplace!

    • Matt McGee says:

      Thx for your comment, Grose. Why do you say that SEOs can’t afford to train clients? I think that’s a primary responsibility of the SEO — esp. ones that work with small biz owners that don’t know much about SEO.

  6. Brittany J says:

    I agree that marketing is a huge part of a company getting business. I think a lot of people just don’t understand the basics, or where to even get started with SEO. I don’t think that they need to pay that much to an SEO company when they could do most of the basic things on their own. If they were to just look into it a little, and take some time to learn those basic things they would realize that it’s a lot easier to handle than they think.

    • Matt McGee says:

      I agree, Brittany. If the SMB owner has enough time*, they can at least learn the basics and start to see the value of SEO.

      * many don’t have enough time 🙂

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