Why Is My Website Not on Google? Advice for Small Businesses
When I tell someone that I work in Internet marketing, I have learned that there are really only three responses. Most people will just say "cool." Marketers will ask what kind of online marketing I do. Then there's small business owners. Generally speaking, small business owners are experts in their respective fields - not search engine marketing. Owners want to know what they can do to make their website more visibile. They realize that the Internet has huge potential for their business, but they don't even know where to start.
I've lost track of all of the business owners struggling to compete online, but I have logged all of the things that are being done well along with the things they could improve upon. What follows is the advice I usually end up giving to the hard-working business owners I speak to.
Define Your Goals
If you want your website to rank on Google, you're probably talking about SEO. Do you want to make money online? Do you know how? Are you going to sell things through your website, or are you trying to get more people down to your store? Define your online goals clearly, and make sure that it aligns with the strategic direction of the company. If you're a local company, your campaign will probably focus on local markets and local keywords. For example, most small, local businesses lack both the resources and the infastructure to compete nationally. A strategically appropriate online campaign would focus on local optimization and location-based keywords.
Don't expect anyone to help you show up on Google for free. If it were as easy as a few words of advice or a few hours, I wouldn't have a job. You can learn to do it yourself, or you can pay an SEO company to do it for you: either way, you need to allocate resources accordingly. I generally recommend that small business owners outsource or hire experts in the field of marketing. One of our recent marketing clients (a well-respected jaw specialist in Utah) recognized that his core competency was orofacial pain, and that our core competency was marketing. The doctor is intelligent, and certainly capable of carrying out his own online marketing, but he recognized that his time is worth more than the return he could expect to see if he were to attempt to do all of the marketing on his own. This is true for most business owners.
Begin by considering how much an average conversion (a sale, contract, lead, etc.) is worth to you, and how many conversions you need to break even. If your site is already online, you (or someone you hire) may be able to determine the conversion rate, and thus the value per visitor given your current traffic sources and website.
Starting Gets Harder Every Day
When I began working in online marketing, there were relatively few barriers to starting a business online. I have seen these barriers rising slowly as Google gives more weight to established, trusted brands. In addition, the competition has been refiining and improving their marketing campaigns and their websites. In a classic (yet still relevant) essay Filthy Linking Rich, Mike Grehan explains the system that makes starting such a problem for small businesses:
"The Mathew effect, when applied to networks, basically equates to well connected nodes being more likely to attract new links, while poorly connected nodes are disproportionately likely to remain poor."
Consider that if your site is at the top of Google, it's more likely to get clicked on, and thus more likely to receive links. Because links are essentially like "votes" to search engines, it is much easier to retain a position than to earn one. The longer you wait to start your SEO campaign, the longer it will take to see results. I'm not going to say it's now or never, but I'll put it like this: do it currently, or pay more currency.
Regardless of what kind of campaign you launch, you will want to measure the results. PPC campaigns will show immediate numbers, with results improving as the campaign is optimized. The timeframe for an SEO campaign to show returns varies based on the present authority of your site (a new site has none), the competitiveness of the industry and choosen keywords, and the amount of time dedicated to it. I usually see clients making a return on their investment in 6-12 months. Once establsihed, however, an SEO campaign can bring you a steady, organic, and unpaid revenue stream.