The Trouble with Search Engine Optimization for Atlanta Small Businesses

search engine optimization atlanta

Remember the story of the Fabled King Arthur? After Morgan Le Fey poisoned him, he and his kingdom fell into despair. So, he sent his knights of the round table out on a quest for the holy grail to save the king and the kingdom. If I recall the story correctly, most knights died except for one who found, and returned the Holy Grail and saved the King.

The story of King Arthur is a fitting metaphor for Search Engine Optimization for Small Businesses in Atlanta… and, well, anywhere.

It’s the quest for the Holy Grail. It’s long. People will die… OK, maybe not die, but definitely burn out… and it will require all of your resources (time and money).

I can hear the murmurings, “but Mike, Search Engine Optimization is supposed to be free.”

Lies! Bollocks! Hogwash!

Search Engine Optimization is the most expensive marketing technique you could ever employ. Ask any business owner who has tried it this question: “How’s it working for you?”

Odds are, they are paying for someone to do it for them, but they aren’t seeing any results. Those that say, “good.” Ask them what they are doing. See if you can see the sweat beading up on their forehead as they struggle to answer the question.

Gone Are the Days of Splendor in the Search Engine Optimization Grass

I can’t believe I just used that reference in that heading…

Anyway, here’s what must happen now in order to make it to the top of Google’s search results page. Well, wait. Let me back up and explain that last sentence. Google is the predominant search engine. When focusing on SEO, we want to focus on exploiting, or manipulating Google. Exploit and manipulate are useful definitions because that is what you are trying to do. Also, the goal with SEO is to get traffic. Since web visitors to Google only click on links in the first page of search results, you need to be on the first page of Google to be seen.

In order to get on the first page of Google, you have to know which keyword you are going after, judge the competition already ranking on that keyword, develop a plan to one-up that competition, and implement your plan. Depending upon the number of people and personalities involved, it could take 3 months to get ready to start. (Which is why many business owners hire the work out)

What Specifically is Required to be Number One in Google on an Atlanta Based Keyword?

Now, let’s look at what SEO entails and answer the question, “what do you have to do in order to get on the top of Google?”

Today, right now, the emphasis is on creating high-quality, remarkable, content on a site that has good site structure. You then want to reach out socially and network with market influencers, prospects and the general public and try to engage them. The old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has become the path to success on the web. Actually, when talking about SEO (search engine optimization), it’s becoming the only way to succeed. To top it all off, you must work the new authorship angle and figure out how Google+ works because whether Google says it or not, Google is ranking Google+ users favorably.

Does it sound like a lot of work? You betcha!

The real question becomes…

What’s Actually Required for Search Engine Optimization to Work?

Work… and lot’s of it!

So answer this question. With all you have to do as a small business owner in Atlanta, do you really have time to do all of this?

First, you have to write a lot of content, remarkable content, for your site and other people’s sites. Reach out to bloggers and journalists, and offer your articles to them. Follow 30,000 or so people on Twitter, create a following on Google+, Facebook, be a regular user of LinkedIn and build your network. Identify if Pinterest, Reddit, Tumbler, Flicker, Vine, Youtube, or others will fit into your strategy and give you a boost. If so, use them too. Recreate the same content in many different formats and post it to many different accounts on many different sites. Then maintain it all. Every day.

It’s like the guy at the circus who spins plates. There is a breaking point.

If you are curious, what I’m speaking of is grouped together into the labels, “Content Marketing,” or “Inbound Marketing.” That’s how you “do” SEO today. It’s a fusion of techniques and channels all leading back to your website.

For those in the know, link building is still important, and that’s what we are actually trying to accomplish with all of this work, however we have to build high-quality links now, which means that we have to find, meet, and become friends with high-quality people with high-quality sites who we can exchange links with… somehow.

What’s the Cost of Search Engine Optimization?

You mean other than your sanity?

High! It’s very expensive to “do” SEO. I spoke with the Vice President of Marketing for Heidelberg. If you don’t know, Heidelberg manufactures all of the huge printing presses that print newspapers. Their products span the globe. They are the “A” player in the Printing (Graphic Arts) industry. He said that he has 5 interns and they are all dedicated to Social Media and SEO. I asked how it was working out and he essentially declined to comment by saying: “Meh…”

I’ve been banging my head against the SEO wall for 15 years. I know what it takes. It starts at about $10,000 worth of work a month at least. AT LEAST!

Don’t you wonder why Heidelberg has interns doing it? Here are the likely notes from the marketing meeting regarding SEO and Social Media:

“Potentially expensive… potentially profitable… different after Panda and Penguin (Google things)… not proven – Identify and use inexpensive or FREE resources – try to prove results.”

The only question is: when did they have that meeting? If it was 14 months ago, the Social Media thing isn’t looking too good. If it was 8 years ago, it doesn’t work, but they have interns doing it for free and there’s nothing else for them to do.

“Mike, You are Talking About Social Media, not Search Engine Optimization… I call Shenanigans!”

Currently, SEO (search engine optimization) as a distinct and separate category doesn’t exist. You have to do everything you can to get Google’s attention after Google’s penguin and panda updates.

Like what? Here’s a list of “free” SEO techniques that Google will recognize and use as votes for your business. But remember, each of these requires a totally unique and separate process to achieve success and if you overdo some of them, you will be blacklisted from Google.

  • Website page content
  • Blog – regular updates (weekly at least)
  • Guest posting
  • Build authorship
  • Blogger outreach and networking
  • Directory submission
  • Article submission
  • Video posts / submissions
  • Podcasting
  • Content syndication (self and paid)
  • Document sharing
  • Infographics
  • Social Media syndication, updates and content curation on:
    • Google+
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Linked In
    • Any other Social media sites
  • Public Relations
    • Press Releases
    • Reporter Networking
    • Events
  • Organization/Group/Club/Chamber membership
  • Speaking engagements

I bet I could come up with at least 10 more if I thought about it. You may think I’m off my rocker putting speaking engagements in a list of SEO techniques but this is what I’ve been saying all along. If you want to get to the top of Google, you are going to have to produce a lot of content, build networks, and get links back to your site from influential, authority sites.

How do you prove yourself as an expert from a particular city with a business that does “X” so Google can see it and rank you for it?

Lots of ways. Speaking is one of those ways. Well, as long as your speech is announced on the website of an organization that has authority in your town with a link back to your site using a keyword such as “The best marketing consultants in Atlanta” or whatever is pertinent to you and your business.

See how you have to think to do Search Engine Optimization now? It literally is a full time job.

So What Are My Options?

Before I tell you my thoughts about what you should do, let me first ask if you can see why I think the people who tell you they can get you on the top of Google for $39 are liars? Can you also see why the Yellow Pages guy who claims that he can get you on the top of Google is also lying to you? How do they do that exactly?

Even the digital agencies that claim to do SEO are telling you what you want to hear. Sure they can do some of the above work, but the stuff that really matters, like PR and networking online and off, and content creation (which is what costs $10,000 a month), is difficult and expensive.

For small business owners, the best option is:

Pay for traffic! Traffic is the goal of all that work after all. Just pay for it!

You can work out the return on your advertising offline. It’s the same on the web. Look for profitable sources of traffic. Easy!

It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s painless. Plus, you will end up acquiring links and your SEO rank will improve over time. If you want to do social media, start a blog, etc. – fine, great, wonderful! Schedule 30 min to 1 hr each day to do it, keep it under control, and don’t expect any results. That way, you will be happy if there are some results, and OK with no results – you expected no results.

Does that Mean You Shouldn’t Do Search Engine Optimization, or Social Media?

I do. But I own a marketing company and my target market uses it. I’m testing and trying to make it work. Honestly, I haven’t made it work yet. I know what has contributed to the results of those who have been successful in SEO and social media… but there is a missing ingredient. I haven’t nailed it down yet, but I think it has to do with the industries of the businesses and the situations of the people who made it work.

Two real quick examples and I’ll let you go. Gary Vaynerchuck and FroKnowsPhoto.com. Both Gary and Fro had jobs with a lot of free time available. Gary’s Dad owns the wine store Gary reviewed wine in everyday. Fro was a wedding photographer and had all week to himself. What else is there to do other than create videos every day?

So sure, they are celebrated Social Media stars. But they had nothing else to do but create content, post it everywhere, and engage people to syndicate their content and expand their reach. It worked! But they had a lot of time available to invest in it.

That’s how you get to the top of Google today, and how you get known on Social Media. If you don’t have the time, or the money to pay someone else to do it ALL for you, you won’t get results.

Even then, it’s a crap shoot and the odds may be heavily against you. If the odds truly are against you, the difficulty level of the path to success will only increase over time.

That’s my take on it anyway.

Agree? Disagree?

Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to get your take on SEO today and learn more about your experiences.

Oh, and as far as my King Arthur analogy, if Search Engine Optimization and Social Media success are the Holy Grail, and his life depends upon finding the secret that leads to the grail… the King is a goner.

photo credit: marciookabe via photopin cc

About Michael Miller

Michael Miller is the owner of Mindwhirl.com, a sales and marketing coaching and training company in Atlanta, Georgia.

Michael’s mission is helping small business owners understand, and organize their marketing so they can make money and grow.

Mindwhirl helps business owners plan and implement effective, profitable marketing campaigns and sales programs.

If you need more sales, we know how to get leads and grow businesses. Call us today at (404) 858-3105, or email me at mmiller@mindwhirl.com.

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