Lets have a look why businesses have a website:
< The peacock – look at my lovely feathers; an online, accessible, marketing brochure for new business contacts, the company will supply them with the URL
< The Octopus - A business and client wide area intranet for business critical processes
< The Elephant - A presence to impress and educate existing clients in the complete business offering
< The Sheep – everyone has a web-presence today
< The Venus-Fly-Trap - A marketing tool to develop additional business through online marketing
Only in the final case (The Venus-Fly-Trap) will it be necessary for potential clients to ‘find’ a site on the Internet, as the alternatives will locate the site through other means, which brings us to the second question; how effective is SEO for Small and Medium Enterprises (SME)?
In my opinion, “Most companies do not need exposure to a global or even a national audience”, and as such do not necessarily need to be well located in the major search engines. I will go into the discrepancies of this statement below.
Meanwhile lets have a look at the logic behind the statement that in essence states that spending marketing cash on the large search engines is a not an efficient usage of resources and does not give a reasonable return on investment (ROI).
The reality of business is that most companies in the world are Small or Medium Enterprises (SMEs). In fact across every business sector most businesses fit within the SME sector. In addition, in the USA only 10% of businesses even trade outside of their immediate resident state.
SMEs need to be divided for marketing purposes in to Business to Consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B), as there are very clear differences in the way they need to market. In the discussions below I am not entering in to the Internet advertising sphere, as this is a separate argument.
Firstly, a clear majority of small businesses are focused on B2B markets and are not looking to attract large numbers of Internet users but small, specialized groups of potential clients to their ‘Venus-Fly Trap”. The Internet allows them to gain an additional channel to new clients in targeted additional markets, only in this case of attracting additional clients from new markets, is the Internet relevant as a low-cost marketing tool. A great placement, if it was possible, in a major search engine may aid, or even, hinder this process.
The most cost-efficient and effective means for these companies to market on the Internet is to ensure that they rank well in the sector-relevant trade directories. These can be commercial, associations, journals or even trade exhibitions, each sector offers numerous sources and most allow improvement of a ranking for a price. A secondary advantage of this methodology is that the more links, and the importance of the links, the better placement a site will obtain in Google. To find and ensure listing in these sites is a hard-slog but rewarding, I should know it is my area of specialty.
B2C companies include the retail sector and many service companies, law firms, plumbers etc. These SMEs in the B2C sector are looking to the wider public for business but then, by the very nature that they are small or medium, almost invariably within a restricted geographic area. If they want to try to market product to larger markets then eBay and similar ‘Online Shopping Malls’ will suite them just as well, at lower costs but only if they build a fulfillment channel.
Service orientated offerings are even more restricted geographically, I cannot see anything better, as regards ROI, than to ensure listings in localized service directories or respected trade associations, with links to well-positioned websites that ensure the client fully understands the professionalism and scope of a service.
Believing in SEO
A fundamental problem all businesses now have is a belief barrier in SEO. Every web-marketing company seems to claim to be able to, ‘Get you to the top of a search-engine’ and to be, ‘the best SEO practitioners on the planet”. There must be 500 who claim the title just in the UK. This is patently untrue as the numbers just do not stack-up and in my opinion many businesses can understand the fragility of the pitch and will increasingly shy away from the whole Internet marketing sector as a result.
It is my belief that in many cases the selling of SEO services to many businesses is dishonest, and worse, leaves the whole web-building and marketing industry, the good and the bad, open to distrust and ultimately real damage. It is totally necessary to complete some Internet marketing for every business website, but rather than take the easy and lazy option, every marketing campaign must suite the real target market of a client and be individualized to their targets. As someone who has been deeply involved in technology for many years, I know there is no technological solution but ONLY experience and hard work.
As an industry we have to get our act together and behave in an honest and honorable manner. Selling SEO services to a small manufacturer of ball bearings in Birmingham is close to fraudulent and trading on his ignorance and gullibility. Selling a service that will expose a client’s website to his real potential market is much more difficult, particularly as it is extremely difficult to show the real results quickly.
An Internet site is somewhere between PR and brochure marketing and should be explained to clients as such. Neither will necessarily bring direct sales but is designed to aid in the branding and positioning of a company to its potential customer base. Lets get real, get honest and treat our customers with the respect they deserve and stop the SEO.
Edited by Haystack, 06 October 2004 - 02:04 AM.