Home – New Forums Tech talk Why most small-medium business shouldn’t outsource SEO

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  • #1175210
    Aidan
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    I’d echo the comments about tools – I use many of them including the moz ones but they all have limitations so can only be a helpful guide given the experience to interpret them.

    I do use moz for a quick impression of competition for instance but the page grader on the other hand is very limited in how it works for keyword topics, in fact it’s next to useless for topics (as opposed to specific search terms).

    I think the days of approaching SEO on a keyword by keyword basis are over (if they were ever really with us). I see it more as a topical and search intent based game where we should be trying to cover several related queries in one page. Those individual pages need to be structured in a way that makes sense to support the bigger head terms of the home page.

    That probably didn’t come out as eloquently as I’d like but the SEO guys will understand what I mean.

    #1175211
    JohnW
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    Aidan, post: 208284 wrote:
    I’d echo the comments about tools – I use many of them including the moz ones but they all have limitations so can only be a helpful guide given the experience to interpret them.

    I do use moz for a quick impression of competition for instance but the page grader on the other hand is very limited in how it works for keyword topics, in fact it’s next to useless for topics (as opposed to specific search terms).

    I think the days of approaching SEO on a keyword by keyword basis are over (if they were ever really with us). I see it more as a topical and search intent based game where we should be trying to cover several related queries in one page. Those individual pages need to be structured in a way that makes sense to support the bigger head terms of the home page.

    That probably didn’t come out as eloquently as I’d like but the SEO guys will understand what I mean.
    Hi Aidan,
    Agree with all you say about SEO tools.

    Bearing mind we are talking to small business website owners, I’d like to first state what I believe the objectives of SEO should be. (There is no universal definition.) Then I’d like to throw in the method that I find most useful for assessing the competition to most small business sites.

    The objectives of an SEO in my book should be:

    Step 1: Qualify for all relevant search phrases possible
    Step 2: Rank as high as possible for them
    Step 3: Encourage maximum conversions

    Golden Rule: Stay within the client’s budget

    Here is an alternative approach to the use of SEO tools for small business search market assessment.

    Step 1: Ask the Client

    • What is their industry category?
    • What products/services do they want to develop?
    • What problems/solutions/applications are satisfied by them?
    • What types of clients do they want to attract?

    Step 2: Define Search Words

    As an example, let’s use a 3 partner accounting practice in a suburb of Sydney with a $1,000 SEO budget.

    Some target search words might include:

    accountant
    Chatswood
    chartered
    business
    practice
    service
    tax
    planning
    profit
    Sydney

    The full list may include 20 or more different words.

    Our SEO aim is to increase the ranking points for each so that all relevant combinations of them will generate a top ranking in Google.

    Relevant search phrases based on these 20+ words should number in the thousands. The list is actually much longer than 20+ words because Google will include singular and plural versions, synonyms and related terms. So Google will automatically be expanding the above to include words like:

    accountants, accountancy, accounting
    practices, firm, firms, partnership, partnerships, company, companies
    taxation
    planner, planners, etc.

    Hypothetically, our compiled list of unique search phrases has likely jumped into the tens of thousands because of the way G recognises and interprets search words.

    Step 3: Assess the online competition

    An experienced SEO would expect to find this to be a low level competition search market before they do any evaluation and he/she should expect to find that the most competitive, relevant search term would be “accountant Chatswood”. (Not “accountant Sydney”, that is unlikely to be a relevant term for most people who use it. It’s also unlikely to be an effective customer targeting term for the client accounting practice.)

    So my first competition assessment would be to search on Google for “accountant Chatswood”.

    What that would show us is that the top 10 results include:

    • 3 directory websites
    • 1 job site
    • At least one chain of accountants

    Without any more assessment, that tells us there are 5 top 10 web pages that should be dead easy to supplant in the results for this phrase and that competition levels for more specific search terms should decrease from this point.

    Then I would run a few more Google searches to check for any unexpected problems. Eg:

    • accounting services Chatswood
    • chartered accountant Chatswood
    • business tax planning accountant Chatswood
    • not-for-profit accountant Chatswood
    • not-for-profit accountant Sydney

    This time I would also be looking for any competitor who shows up with multiple pages in a search result as well as in multiple search phrases. I’m also scanning their page titles and URLs.

    As you move into the very specific search phrases that involve types of services and types of customers, the level of competition inevitably drops even further. Eg. If, by the time you get to “not-for-profit accountant Chatswood”, you see multiple pages being ranked for the same site, you can probably also expect to rank top 10 for, “not-for-profit accountant Sydney”.

    I’ll not bore folk with the implementation details…

    I’m using a real example of an accounting firm client from 2010 here. The most important result for an SEO is the client’s new business generated by the website. This accounting firm attracted three new not-for-profit clients within 6 months. That was achieved without spending $1 on building external links.

    To date, I’ve not found any SEO tool that surpasses the simplicity, speed, accuracy, range of data gathering and value of Google to tell me how competitive a small business search market is.

    Just my humble opinion…
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1175212
    Aidan
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    Agreed JohnW but there are a lot of small business owners competing in many competitive industries, including in fields such as photography, design, major trades etc and doing so in populous centres.

    In situations like that I find the moz tools very helpful in forming a quick impression of just how much backlink juice is shaping the SERPs and whether I’ll need to evaluate the client’s ability to attact the right backlinks to help things along.

    In my case at least I don’t know off the top of the head what the population and competitive pictures are for all the suburbs and towns across Australia, I have no idea what the equivalent of Chatswood would be in Perth for instance!

    I don’t use them blindly but with enough experience I find we can use them effectively.

    #1175213
    JohnW
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    Aidan, post: 208329 wrote:
    Agreed JohnW but there are a lot of small business owners competing in many competitive industries, including in fields such as photography, design, major trades etc and doing so in populous centres.

    In situations like that I find the moz tools very helpful in forming a quick impression of just how much backlink juice is shaping the SERPs and whether I’ll need to evaluate the client’s ability to attact the right backlinks to help things along.

    In my case at least I don’t know off the top of the head what the population and competitive pictures are for all the suburbs and towns across Australia, I have no idea what the equivalent of Chatswood would be in Perth for instance!

    I don’t use them blindly but with enough experience I find we can use them effectively.
    Hi Aidan,
    I would have suggested those small biz who are trying attract SE refs to an e-com site of popular shopping products as examples of some who can end up in very, very competitive search markets.

    I find they can be the toughest SEO challenges and where you may want to pull an SEO tool out of the kit bag.

    They may also be examples of where Adwords offer a better ROI over SEO $s.
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1175214
    John Romaine
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    JohnW, post: 208305 wrote:
    Then I would run a few more Google searches to check for any unexpected problems. Eg:

    • accounting services Chatswood
    • chartered accountant Chatswood
    • business tax planning accountant Chatswood
    • not-for-profit accountant Chatswood
    • not-for-profit accountant Sydney

    This time I would also be looking for any competitor who shows up with multiple pages in a search result as well as in multiple search phrases. I’m also scanning their page titles and URLs.

    John you just can’t operate at this level with paying clients.

    Clients are not interested in ranking for dozens of terms that bring in 10 searches a month. Even if they are targeted. Infact, your site should rank for these naturally if you implement the right practices.

    Your phrases above, show a total of 10 searches a month. Total. For ALL of them combined. (I know they’re just examples, but I have to make my point)

    It’s not a good investment of the clients money, or the agencies time, to be mucking around chasing low search volume terms. It’s pointless. Unless of course you want to target hundreds or thousands of them.

    It makes much more sense to go after the bigger terms, which is exactly WHY people such as myself and Aiden etc have to put some trust into the tools available (such as MOZ SERP overlay) That, of course tied in with some common sense.

    Long tail or low competition search terms have their place, but If I’m sitting with a high paying client, there’s no way in hell I’m going to be making any sort of recommendation to be chasing search terms that bring 10 or less searches a month.

    JohnW, post: 208305 wrote:
    As you move into the very specific search phrases that involve types of services and types of customers, the level of competition inevitably drops even further.

    So does the search volume, which is why I made my point above.

    #1175215
    Aidan
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    There are also cases of small businesses who work nationally of course including those ecomm examples JohnW, but I pull the tools out for many enquiries now to get a quick snapshot when somebody calls chasing something like ‘wedding photographer Gold Coast’ or ‘electrician eastern suburbs’.

    I know we can get them ranking quickly for ‘jewish electrician Bondi’ but in truth they don’t really care about that, they want to know how to compete with what they see their competitors doing and if that is ‘electrician eastern suburbs’ or ‘plumber Gold Coast’ then that is the quest in their eyes.

    Of course we try to educate them against getting overly wrapped up in one keyword when there is a plethora of high converting terms they can have more easily than, and in addition to, their hero term. We’re often successful in that too and client learns to be happy with the easier wins that add up.

    It can get tough though when after ppc testing you find that the most productive term is indeed the hero term – d’oh. (note productive in the sense of high converting regardless of cost).

    #1175216
    JohnW
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    Aidan, post: 208343 wrote:
    I know we can get them ranking quickly for ‘jewish electrician Bondi’ but in truth they don’t really care about that, they want to know how to compete with what they see their competitors doing and if that is ‘electrician eastern suburbs’ or ‘plumber Gold Coast’ then that is the quest in their eyes.

    Of course we try to educate them against getting overly wrapped up in one keyword when there is a plethora of high converting terms they can have more easily than, and in addition to, their hero term. We’re often successful in that too and client learns to be happy with the easier wins that add up.
    Hi Aidan,
    Yep, that’s the first response for so many of my clients also…

    Fortunately, if you are dealing with an accounting practice as per my example, they do tend to go for the money and ROI type measurements.

    They know that the first new not-for-profit client that was referred by their website paid for their very small SEO cost in its first year’s accounting fees. There were then two more new not-for-profit clients in 6 months and all of these (plus any other new customers) have generated a very significant boost in the practice’s cummulative profits over the last 5 years.

    And that’s just the few new clients I know about!

    I’m finding market segmentation to be a very useful way of converting clients from the old fixation of the search ranking of their competitors. I try to get them focused on 3 client types for starters. For the old accountant client, in addition to not-for-profit clients it was multilevel marketers and schools. I note they are still up there all these years later for some of these search variants. (Not a bad return for less than $1k of SEO.)

    Many clients don’t understand initially how important marketing knowledge and experience is in the SEO process. I’ve found that since Google killed its keywords report that it is easier to focus on important marketing issues. (And I was a major sceptic at the time.)

    I’m out of the loop now but I’m intrigued at how well that 5 year old Chatswood accountant project has held up in the ranking results for so many client-important ranking terms and that is without any further input from me. Just goes to show the importance of correct client SEO education and strategy planning for small businesses.

    There is nothing new in the concept of market segementation to marketers. Seems it is new to some SEOs around here who think results are best attained by blindly targeting frequently used search phrases. I got cured of that stupidity years ago when a client told me he had to initiate a training process for his receptionist to cull out all the irrelevant phone enquiries from his website.

    Hopefully these sorts of SEOs with their limited knowledge won’t waste too much business owner’s money before they wake up to the fallacy.

    It seems Google finally got round to limiting multiple page rankings from the same site. I can see 4 top 10 pages for the odd search phrase for the accountant’s site. Another industrial client’s site has finally dropped dramatically from the first 16 results to the top 4 for so many phrases. It will be interesting to see if the client observes a drop in enquiries as a result.

    Oh well! Long overdue, not unexpected and still a lot of exposure possible if the SEO knows what he/she’s doing.
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1175217
    Aidan
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    Yeah I do find myself steering clients away from time waster terms when I know for sure they are time wasters.

    Hopefully at this stage most of us here are treating those hero terms as topics rather than single keyword targets and getting lots of multi-word search terms in the same effort. That way we can educate the client to start measuring results on the non branded organic traffic curve and of course sales or leads rather than having them stress on ranking for particular terms. :)

    #1175218
    JohnW
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    Aidan, post: 208366 wrote:
    Yeah I do find myself steering clients away from time waster terms when I know for sure they are time wasters.

    Hopefully at this stage most of us here are treating those hero terms as topics rather than single keyword targets and getting lots of multi-word search terms in the same effort. That way we can educate the client to start measuring results on the non branded organic traffic curve and of course sales or leads rather than having them stress on ranking for particular terms. :)
    What the hell are you doing here at 3:30 am?

    My excuse is a returning client that lost 66% of his site’s traffic because someone overhauled his website. Seems the overhauler thought they knew all about SEO. :)
    Regs,
    Johnw

    #1175219
    Aidan
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    Haha – no excuse just couldn’t sleep so thought I’d get some work done on a couple of new clients, 4.30 now must be nearly time to start thinking about bed again!

    Update, 8:30 now, definitely time to call it a night and get some sleep before volunteer duties at local rugby club today. Don’t want to poison the players and members with inattention to their sausages!

    #1175220
    JohnW
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    John Romaine, post: 208338 wrote:
    John you just can’t operate at this level with paying clients.

    Clients are not interested in ranking for dozens of terms that bring in 10 searches a month. Even if they are targeted. Infact, your site should rank for these naturally if you implement the right practices.

    Your phrases above, show a total of 10 searches a month. Total. For ALL of them combined. (I know they’re just examples, but I have to make my point)

    It’s not a good investment of the clients money, or the agencies time, to be mucking around chasing low search volume terms. It’s pointless. Unless of course you want to target hundreds or thousands of them.

    It makes much more sense to go after the bigger terms, which is exactly WHY people such as myself and Aiden etc have to put some trust into the tools available (such as MOZ SERP overlay) That, of course tied in with some common sense.

    Long tail or low competition search terms have their place, but If I’m sitting with a high paying client, there’s no way in hell I’m going to be making any sort of recommendation to be chasing search terms that bring 10 or less searches a month.

    So does the search volume, which is why I made my point above.
    Hi JohnR,
    I’m always very keen to learn so I can provide better value for my paying clients.

    I have some questions of clarification about your post.

    1. I don’t understand what you mean when you say:

    “you just can’t operate at this level with paying clients.”

    2. “Your phrases above, show a total of 10 searches a month”

    What search phrases do you think a suburban accountant should be targeting?
    How many search phrases should they be targeting?

    3. “go after the bigger terms”

    What sort of “bigger terms” do you think a suburban accountant should be targeting?
    Regs,
    JohnW

    #1175221
    JohnW
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    chaase, post: 208412 wrote:
    What is your business website John, I dont see it listed in your signature.
    Hi Chaase,
    I took my website down a year or so back. It’s content was out of date and I did not need it to generate more business as I’m mostly providing 3rd party support via designers and developers.

    If you want my LinkedIn profile.

    Regs
    JohnW

    #1175222
    bb1
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    John Romaine, post: 208338 wrote:
    John
    Clients are not interested in ranking for dozens of terms that bring in 10 searches a month. .
    .

    Why why why, one of those single 10 a month searches could be the next big client for you customer. If adding these 10 a month searches isnt a huge add on for cost, do it. If you dont do it someone else (with the forethought to add it) will win that next $20k per year client who couldnt find you because you thought on ten people would search it in a month.

    #1175223
    SocialStep
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    If you want SEO done wrong, then DIY it. It’s like home electrical work :)

    But yes, the monthly fees can be hard for a small business to fit into their marketing budget. I would suggest individual freelancers rather than a large company. Plus, there are bits of SEO you might do yourself – such as some of the content.

    Plus, most SEO comes down to age and relevancy. Invest the money in good content, if you DIY SEO I bet most small businesses eventually try the “buy links” search on Google… don’t do it…

    #1175224
    MatthewKeath
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    bb1, post: 208421 wrote:
    Why why why, one of those single 10 a month searches could be the next big client for you customer. If adding these 10 a month searches isnt a huge add on for cost, do it. If you dont do it someone else (with the forethought to add it) will win that next $20k per year client who couldnt find you because you thought on ten people would search it in a month.I think the point was that you will rank for those anyway, while trying to rank for phrases the have more traffic.
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