What Is SEO? What Small Business Owners Need to Know

Hi. Coastal Web Marketing owner Mike Parr here. Simply put, SEO, or search engine optimization, is a process where we make changes to your website to optimize it in order to increase its visibility when prospective customers search for your products or services.

I like to educate my small business clients when they are about to go on an SEO Marketing program. That way you know what I can help you with and we set reasonable expectations right from the start. Nobody except Google owns their search engines so we cannot guarantee any specific results. And that statement is true with any marketing that you do or any marketing company you work with. There are no guarantees.

With that said, I am an expert in SEO Marketing and have worked with hundreds of small businesses. I know what works and what doesn’t work and I take advanced SEO training classes regularly.

Understanding Search Engines

To begin to understand SEO, you need to understand search engines. Search engines are websites on the internet that help people find what they need. It’s like a very big directory website in the digital world (the Internet). If you didn’t have search engines then it would be nearly impossible to find anything on the internet.

What Is SEO?

Search engines help you by creating and using what are called algorithms on their website computers to categorize data to provide search results that most closely match your search query (the words you type into the search box). This allows search engines to be in a more user-friendly environment. And Google’s algorithm seems to be the most efficient, which is why they dominate the search engine market. In other words, the Google search engine makes it easier to find stuff on the Internet and displays that information better than their competitors!
Understanding Search Engine Results Pages
When you use a search engine to find out about a topic, you type in a search phrase and hit Enter. Almost instantly, you will get a page that shows up with the results. This is known as a search engine results page or SERP for short. There are billions of web pages on the internet so a search engine now shows millions of search results for the search phrase you type in. For example, if I type in the search phrase PLUMBER in Google, right now, it shows the following results:

• 852,000,000 pages – plumber (Very General Search)
• 586,000,000 pages – plumber near me (Focusing more on local search)
• 1,230,000 pages – plumber Baltimore MD (Focusing on a specific city)
• 627,000 pages – plumber Towson MD (Focusing on a specific town)

So, if you look at the 4 search engine phrases that I typed in above, and their results pages, notice the different number of web pages that show up. There are so many results listed that it would be impossible to look at them all in one day. As a result, the search engine usually groups the search results on what they call pages. Not sure why they call the 1st 10 listings a page as that can be confusing terminology. Just remember there is a web page (like what you’re on right now), and a search engine results page.

Trying to get your business to be the #1 on a search engine is about as difficult as winning the lottery as you are then 1 in 852,000,000 odds of being #1 for the search phrase PLUMBER, to use our example. Notice the results are based on the words (geographic area) following the main search term so that means your results will vary based on the skill level of the web surfer.
If they don’t get the Internet at all then they will probably just type in the service, such as plumber in this case. If they want to work with a plumber in their own town then they should type in Plumber then their home town name. If they have allowed Google to track their location on their device, Google does this work for them. This is why Google’s LOCAL SEARCH is so important. You want it to be easy to find your services in your service area because Google will show local results first.

Search Engines and How Many People Use Them

There are 3 search engines that people mostly use to find the products or services they are interested in buying – you can see that the vast majority of people use Google as their search engine. (Numbers below are according to SEMRush as of October 2021):

• Google – 75.71%
• Yahoo – 7.24
• Bing – 3.32
• Others – 16%

Understanding the above %, and how much each search engine brings in, it makes financial sense to focus efforts on Google search marketing. The others just keep dropping regarding value for digital marketing. And what we do in marketing for Google also helps Yahoo and Bing search engines, so you will benefit from some leads from the other search engines as well!
People will go on search engines, like Google Yahoo, and Bing, for a specific purpose. Here are some examples:

• Research a product or service for a future purchase
• Research a product or service for a now purchase
• Research a product or service for curiosity
• Research News, weather, definitions, names, pictures, music, entertainment, translator, maps, games, calculators, sports, stocks, etc.

Breaking Down a Search Engine Results Page

When someone goes onto Google, they type in a search term or search phase (for instance: roofing contractors), and then Google shows the results on a web page which is called search result (Search Engine Results Page or SERP). On that search results page there are 3 areas people can select, click on:

• 6% – Pay Per Click (PPC) – 2 or 3 ads per page (Google recommends spending a minimum of $ 1,000.00 or more on ads each month)
• 46% – Local Search – 3 businesses (then a Click More button that most people don’t go to)
• 49 % – Organic SEO – There are usually 10 listings on page 1 then it is set up to go next page. Google changes these views depending on the search phrase.
PPC – PPC is not something we provide as a service to manage. It can work for some businesses, so we have a digital partner we recommend for those services, such as Facebook Ads, PPC, LinkedIn, Tik Tok, etc.

Local Search – for your business this would be a money maker but only if you are in the top 3 of the listings for the search term you are promoting.

Organic Search – If you are not on page 1 (Listings 1-10) of the search results, you will likely not be clicked on. The top 4 listings get the most clicks; however, if big online directory pages or review sites are in the top 3 or 4 listings, then you could still get good leads being placed in the Top 7 listings on the page. When you are listed in the top 3 for a search phrase, on local search and organic search, you have a high probability of getting clicked on. That’s why we call that 3-pack the money positions.

So, when you understand the above concepts, it is then easier to understand what we do for you in our SEO Marketing Program! And you should understand that if you are not showing up in the top placement, such as the top 3-10 spots on a search engine results page, then you will not get business from the Internet, as you won’t be found on the Internet. That’s because a whopping 92% of searchers do not go beyond the first page of results.

RELATED READING: SEO Statistics Every Business Owner Should Know

What We Focus on for Our SEO Clients

We focus on 3 main areas of SEO:
• Local Search – 46% of the market
• Organic SEO Search – 49% of the market
• Reviews – very important to have a 4+ star rating average.

By focusing on the above, we can help you dominate your specific services in your geographic market. To do that we work on web marketing and we use several staff members at different times in each month.

• SEO Content Writers for writing new text on your pages that are focused on you, your business, and SEO factors
• BLOG writers to help push additional keyword phrases to bring you new business
• Keyword Researchers to find keywords that perform well for you
• Website builders to fix your website flaws on your website, as even the best-designed websites can have SEO issues
• SEO personnel to promote your backlinking
• SEO personnel to promote local search
• SEO Expert to manage the work to be done, analyze local search and organic search, reviews, website performance, website updates, send out monthly reports showing progress, and more.

Every one of the above involves a different person or different tasks at different times in each month. SEO is like rolling a snowball in that we generally start with a small snowball and roll it down the hill. The longer the snowball rolls down a hill the bigger it gets. Same with SEO!

How Long Before I See Some Results?

The longer we perform all the monthly tasks the higher you will rank on Local Search results and Organic SEO search results. Typical results take approximately:

• Local Search results: 3-6 Months to see results
• Organic SEO Results: 12-18 months

You could start getting leads in about a month but the plans really start coming together from 3 months on. Depending on your business, we may also recommend a social media marketing budget of $500.00+ per month, based on your goals, your business type and your budget.

What SEO Packages Do You Recommend?

Every business is different so there is not a one-size-fits-all mentality. What SEO package we recommend will depend on the answers to several questions, including:

• How old is your client base and how internet-savvy are they?
• How competitive are the keyword phrases used to find the services you provide in the geographic area you provide them in?
• Are there big directories dominating the search engine results pages in organic SEO listings?
• How wide is your geographic net (10-mile radius, 30-mile, 50-mile, 100-mile, etc.)?
• Have you done SEO in the past and how effective was that program or are you starting from scratch?

We use these and many other questions to determine the correct amount of time to put into your web marketing program.

General FAQs

Q: What do you charge for SEO services?
A: We charge $50.00 per hour for SEO Marketing totaling $400.00 per day.

Q: Do you require a long-term contract?
A: Nope! We only offer month-to-month SEO services but you must supply 30 day’s-notice before canceling.

Q: Does that include a BLOG?
A: Yes if you are on the 2 days or more SEO Program, we include 1 BLOG per month.

Q: Do you offer any specials?
A: Yes, right now buy 3 full days of SEO Marketing and get the 4th day of Marketing for free.

Q: How many days do you recommend each month in SEO Marketing for a business?
A: 2-4 days of marketing per month for the 1st year then re-evaluate based on the leads you get.

After several years, our clients eventually go to an SEO program at $400.00/month to help maintain their positions. When companies are fully booked, and do not need any new business, they generally go to our $ 200.00 per month maintenance program. That way if they need more business quickly, we can easily jump back up to a higher package for a couple months until they refill their client base. If companies want to expand into other areas, then the maintenance pricing would not go into effect until you have reached the top spots for your specific keywords for a period of time.

Schedule a FREE SEO Analysis
If you have an existing small business website and you’re interested in harnessing the power of SEO to bring in new business, set up a FREE SEO analysis. And if you need a business website because you’ve depended on word of mouth all these years or you’re a startup company, we can implement SEO from the beginning if you hire us to do your website design.

We work primarily with small businesses in Harford, Baltimore, and Cecil counties in Maryland.