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SEO vs. Paid Media: Why SEO for Small Businesses Makes Sense

In the age of digital marketing, online visibility is a top priority for just about every small business. How will your company be found in the vastness of the Internet? This article lays out why SEO for small businesses makes sense.

The two most prevalent tactics for driving web traffic are SEO and paid digital media. Many small business owners make the mistake of overinvesting in paid media while ignoring its sustainable and cost-effective counterpart. Before you throw money at paid media, consider SEO as a viable alternative.

What is SEO?

SEO, short for search engine optimization, is a way to attract customers online, organically. They are searching for your products or services, and you are tailoring your website content to respond to their search. The end game in SEO is to try to rank as highly as possible on Google and other search engines for keywords or phrases related to your business. By ranking higher, you are drawing in higher quality leads and building trust in your brand.

What is Paid Media?

Paid media is a cluster of digital marketing tactics including:

• PPC (pay per click) advertising
• Retargeting (essentially following people around the Internet once they have viewed your website)
• Social media ads
• Programmatic ads on other websites
• Pre-rolls (short ads before videos)

What all of these things have in common is that you pay for them, just like you would for a traditional billboard, print ad or TV spot. In SEO, you do not pay for a spot on Google. Instead, you earn it. Paid media is like picking a fish from the seafood counter at the grocery store, whereas SEO is more like going fishing with a line and bait.

Small Business Pain Points in Paid Media

Paid media can be effective when used correctly. However, it can also be very expensive. Pair a large paid media campaign with poor strategy, and you can waste a lot of money, really fast. Few businesses are able to excel with paid media alone, largely because:

• There are often unrealistic expectations for immediate return.
• Deep strategy is needed but often neglected.
• There are throwaway costs, such as accidental or non-converting clicks.
• The competition in PPC for top keywords can be intense and unaffordable.
• Results are independent, not incremental.
• Strategy testing happens on marketing dollars.
• The investment is ongoing – if the money stops, the leads stop.

SEO as a Digital Marketing Cornerstone

seo-vs-paid-media-why-seo-for-small-businesses-makes-senseBoth SEO and paid media require relatively high levels of expertise, which makes SEO instantly more affordable because you are only paying for the strategy and implementation rather than the strategy, implementation and ad space. And while paid media comes with a strong possibility of failure, SEO is an opportunity to carve your own success.

SEO does have notable up-front costs in terms of optimizing your website and setting the foundation, but from there, a fixed budget of even $1,000 per month can go much farther than that same budget will in paid media. SEO’s affordability is a big reason why it’s so ideal for small businesses. It also counters the “switch on, switch off” nature of paid media by allowing you to build on your results. The $1,000 you put toward SEO in July 2017 will still work for you in July 2019. It’s like having a living, breathing online advertising campaign that gets better each year.

There’s a common misconception that SEO is labor-intensive. It can be at the start, but that’s what we’re here for as a digital marketing agency. And once the basics are in place, the complexities of SEO itself begin to break and the strategy becomes relatively straightforward.

SEO for Brick and Mortar Businesses

SEO is particularly helpful for any brick and mortar business selling to consumers. We’re talking about independently owned restaurants, bars, coffee shops, dance studios, museums and the like. For these types of businesses, winning 10 or 20 new customers brings an increase not only in revenue, but also in market share, as you are simultaneously taking those 10 or 20 customers from your competitors.

In the instant search-and-find age, one of the easiest ways to get people through your door is to show up at or near the top of a Google search. The locality and affordability of SEO is a perfect match for brick and mortar, and when you factor in the brand loyalty, repeat business and word of mouth marketing that follow when you deliver a great customer experience, you’re getting tremendous bang for your buck with SEO.

SEO and Millennials

As millennials become the dominant consumers, brands are adapting by developing a strong SEO strategy. After all, they are the ones who grew up with the Internet at their fingertips. In a way, millennials built digital marketing without knowing it.

What makes millennial consumers different from previous generations is that they want to be spoken to, not sold to. This is why the arm’s race for SEO is in full effect; brands are seeking to position themselves so that millennials can easily find them. And since SEO builds over time, the brands that get ahead will be the main players for years or even decades to come.

SEO for Small Businesses

We mentioned the “throwaway costs”–clicks that don’t really matter–in paid media. When you align your SEO strategy with a winning content strategy of keyword-focused blog articles, you can dramatically enhance the quality of your leads. The people who come to your website through organic SEO are more likely to convert, because you appeared in front of their eyes at the time they were searching for your products or services.

As you create keyword-focused blog articles, your visibility grows even larger, as does the impact you have once people come to your site. If you have done either SEO or blog content in the past, there’s a good chance you didn’t see the results you wanted. The key is to do them both alongside each other. SEO informs blog strategy, and blogs add fuel to SEO strategy.

Measuring Results

The most important thing to realize with SEO is that it takes time – and that’s a good thing. Paid media can deliver fantastic results overnight, or it can swing the other way and zap your marketing budget overnight with nothing to show. We measure our SEO strategies over the course of 6-12 months. At the 6-month mark, we usually start to see momentum build, and after 12 months, the results are really accelerating. In cases where the SEO strategy was severely lacking or missing altogether, we have even seen noticeable results after just a few months.

Is your small business stuck in the SEO vs. paid media debate, or are you unhappy with your results in paid media? Let Kameleon Advertising simplify SEO for you, so you can start driving ready and willing customers to your website the organic way. We will take the time to understand your business and objectives before giving our recommendations, and can manage your SEO on your behalf while delivering monthly reports that make it easy to track our progress. Contact us today for a free SEO quote and to learn more about why SEO for small businesses makes sense!