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Optimize Small Business Marketing with Search Engine Optimization

By: Kayla Dostal, Former Intern
North Dakota District Office

Running a business is hard. Really hard. You may know lots about how to perfectly frost a cupcake if you own a bakery or the engineering behind a drone if you’re in the rising drone industry, but the other aspects of business - accounting, financing, marketing, management - forget it. That might as well be a foreign language to you.

That’s where the Small Business Administration comes in. Though we don’t know much about frosting cupcakes or building drones, we do know what it takes to start and run a small business. And we’re here to guide you towards entrepreneurial success.

One aspect that small businesses often struggle with is marketing. According to the 2016 Small Business Marketing Trends Report by Leadpages and Infusionsoft, nearly half of small businesses handle marketing efforts on their own.  If your business makes up the 47 percent that does marketing without the help of a marketing professional, chances are you’ve felt the struggle of trying to discover what marketing strategies are most effective in drawing in customers.

Take a second to think about your marketing strategies. Did you think of direct mailing, newspaper ads, TV commercials, billboards, or the yellow pages? With TiVo, the internet, and our smartphones, we skip through TV commercials, we read the news online, and we have Yelp to find business’s phone numbers and addresses. The fact of the matter is, these marketing strategies are expensive and, in some cases, ineffective. It’s time to explore the recent trends in the marketing world today.

Lucky for small business owners, there are cheaper and more effective ways to market than ever before. Gone are the days of paying thousands for TV ads or billboard spots. We can thank the internet for that. What’s difficult is finding a way to make your business stand out from the endless online choices. You can do this by creating good SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. This means that when potential clients type in keywords related to your business on search engines - like Google, Bing and Yahoo - to name just a few, your business will come up towards the top of the list. Seems simple enough. Except for the fact that every other business is trying to create good SEO as well.

There are a few ways to climb to the top spots on search engines. One way is through social media (if your small business doesn’t have social media, change that now). Google indexes public tweets on Twitter, so yes, your social media content will pop up on Google’s search pages. While this means that having a social media account is important, this also means that having positive business reviews on social media is crucial. With so many options for potential clients to choose from, you don’t want to be a 2-star rated business when a 5-star rated business is located nearby. A client who has done his or her research will choose the 5-star every single time.

Another way to increase your SEO is by creating a blog that complements your business. Your blog should be relevant to the industry of your business. If you own a bakery, maybe write a blog post about new cupcake flavors that your bakery is trying out. If you make drones, consider writing a blog post about how drones are helping real estate agents to get quality photos of their properties. Creating a blog that compliments your business not only creates interest with potential clients, but it boosts SEO by combining keywords from your business and its related blog. Your blog should be named the same as your business so that the two are associated in the search engines.

If you want more information about how to boost SEO, you can research different search engines optimization guides. Google, for example, has a downloadable Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide PDF.

Taking SEO into consideration when creating content for your website, social media, and blog does work. In 2016, with online becoming the go-to way for customers to obtain information, having good SEO means more effective and cheaper marketing. So before you start baking your cupcakes or flying your drones, take a good hard look at your website. Chances are you have plenty of SEO-increasing opportunities to consider. Just because you’re a business owner with no marketing experience doesn’t mean marketing has to be a bad experience.


Kayla Dostal accepted a summer intern position at the SBA's North Dakota District Office during the summer of 2016, whle pursuing a Business Marketing and Spanish major and Communications minor at Concordia College. The SBA North Dakota District Office can be reached at north.dakota@sba.gov.