SEO Basics For Small Business [Avoid Being Ripped Off]

Table of Contents

SEO Basics For Small BusinessAt first, you’re probably going to think I’m against SEO.

That’s definitely not the case…

I just don’t like that there are swarms of so called SEO experts taking advantage of small business owners that they know are confused by this sort of stuff.

Let me be clear though…

I’m not trying to say all SEO companies are bad.

It’s just that you’ll have a hard time knowing the difference if you don’t educate yourself on SEO basics before engaging in SEO services.

(And you might even find it’s possible to do your own SEO)

DISCLAIMER: In order to keep this simple for people who know nothing about SEO I’m going to use quite a few over simplifications and generalisations.  so if you’re an SEO expert, this article probably isn’t for you as I’ll only be covering basics and concepts as opposed to in-depth how-to’s.

Monthly Fee SEO Services

Let’s start here because this is where I see business owners having the most problems!

Personally I believe a large percentage (not all) of the companies that provide SEO services for a monthly fee focus on strategies that are easily outdone by the next company with an SEO budget when you decide you’ve spent enough.

Years ago my SEO strategy included a paid SEO service with a monthly fee. Today, I do things very differently. My approach requires an investment of time and although it takes quite a bit of effort, I know that once I get a good result it’s going to take the next person even more effort to take my place.

So… You don’t really understand SEO or how it works but you’ve been told it’s important and you should be doing it.

The story begins by you either contacting someone about it or given in to one of the countless SEO emails you’ve received and decided to give it a go.

You’re given a quote for a monthly fee, it sounds reasonable so away you go…

The whole idea is sold around the fact that you need to be on page one of Google. Even if you don’t know anything about internet marketing, if you have a business you’ve almost certainly heard this phrase before.

And so that’s true (sort of).

If it’s part of your online marketing strategy to get people to find you on search engines, then yes, you have to be on page one.

But there’s so much misinformation about SEO, what it actually is, how it’s done, whether or not you need it and if you do need it… how to figure out if you will get a return on investment.

My opinion of SEO is that it’s something you either need to be prepared to put in the effort to do it very well or don’t even bother at all. It’s not the sort of thing that you can dabble at and expect to get a very good result.

You Can't Play A Pro Game As An Amateur And Expect To Win

Forget about the technical side of things for a minute like backlinks and click through rates…

Let’s just talk about this in simple terms that requires no SEO knowledge at all…

Think this through logically for a second, even if you’re not an expert, think about your business…

Think about the area that you service…

You might have a local business, you might have a national business, you might even have an international business.

Whatever the area is that you service, think about how many businesses there are providing a similar service to your target market in your area?

Is there more than 10?

In most cases, the answer will be yes.

Okay… So even without any knowledge of SEO you know there are more businesses providing a similar service within your target area than there are spots available on page one of Google.

The more businesses there are, the more difficult it’s going to be to be on page one.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to be following along with me so far!

If I’ve lost you, hang on a second and I’ll get you some crayons to draw with while I continue on with the big kids 😂

Then factor in companies that don’t even provide the service fighting for those top ten spots. For example, business directories where all they do is list businesses like yours.

You’re competing against them as well.

Depending on what sort of industry you’re in, directories are often prepared to spend lots of money on SEO. A good example is insurance. Due to the high commissions the broker websites can afford to spend lots on SEO.

So the idea of getting on page one certainly isn’t going to happen by accident or with a tiny bit of effort.

What I mean by a tiny bit of effort is thinking you’ll get a result by choosing to learn nothing about it and paying someone a few hundred dollars a month to do it for you.

If you consider that SEO has the potential to have a drastic impact on the number of people who find your business, there’s likely to be at least a handful of people among your competition who have either taken the time to personally learn how to get good results from SEO or they’re prepared to pay top dollar each month to someone who actually knows what to do.

Either way, you’re not going to outperform these people by sticking your head in the sand and farming it out to the lowest bidder.

You’re pretty much putting your money down the toilet so you’d be better off taking it to the casino. At least there you have a small percentage chance of getting a result.

The Problem With SEO Fees

One of the challenges with SEO services is the way the monthly fees are priced. You’d think that a logical way to calculate a fair price would be with a formula something like…

people searching

per month

percentage of

people who click

the first search result

total website visitors

Once you know the total number of website visitors each month…

total website visitors

percentage of

people who buy

profit margin

total profit

Once you figure out an estimated total profit, you could expect the monthly fee to be something less than the return right?


The reality is, the cost of SEO services with a monthly fee almost always has nothing to do with how much return on investment you’re likely to get. Unfortunately, it’s nothing more than a case of supply vs demand.

Here is the sad reality…

There are only 10 spots available on page one of Google and the top 3 are the most valuable (By far!!!)

So you have 3 valuable spots available and in most cases tens, if not hundreds of businesses that would like to be there.

Out of the many businesses who would like to be there, only a very small percentage educate themselves on the right way to do SEO.

The rest…

Well they just pay whatever the going rate is without any understanding of whether or not it will provide a positive return on investment.

The overwhelming number of uneducated buyers pushes the monthly fees up beyond what is a realistic return on investment for most businesses.

(Even if they do get to the top of page one)

So what does all that mean?

The price of SEO is based on what businesses are prepared to pay for it and has almost nothing to do with the likelihood of making a profit.

Do you know how to figure out if you'll get a return on investment?

Do you even know what factors you need to consider to figure out if it will be a worthwhile investment for you?

If not, here’s what you need to think about…

If you’re on page one of Google at the top, you’ll get the highest number of people clicking on your website link by far.

Studies usually report between 25-33% of clicks go to the top search result so let’s go with 25% to stay on the low side. Clicks drop significantly with every place you move down the page.

With that in mind, go search now for whatever search term you would expect someone to use if they were to hopefully find your business.

Have a look at the list of businesses already on page one.

If you’re up against a behemoth in your industry the odds of knocking them off the top spot on a small budget are slim to none.

So you need to look at that page and ask yourself where you can realistically see yourself fitting in the list.

Then take a look at the article Over 25% of People Click the First Google Search Result by Search Engine Journal to get a rough idea of the percentage of people likely to click on your search result.

Then you can use the free Google Trends tool to see how many people search each month for your preferred search term.

First of all, understand that these are estimated search volumes but if you multiply the search volume by the percentage of people who are likely to click on your search result, you’ll get a rough idea of how many website visitors you can expect to get each month.

Did you find the answer depressing?

Stick with me… it gets worse!

Here’s the part that most people never stop to consider…

Of the people who turn up at your website, what percentage actually turn into customers?

For most business owners, the answer to this is…

I wouldn’t have a clue!

If you don’t have an answer to this question and you adopt an SEO strategy with a monthly fee there’s no way you can possibly figure out if you will get a return on investment.

Oh yea… And that is assuming they can actually get you to page one.

Which leads me to my next point…

So... how long will it take to get to page one?

If you engage in one of these services you’re likely to be told somewhere between 3-6 months depending on the level of competition.

Unfortunately, like many industries it’s hard to find an SEO company who can actually deliver (but not impossible, I’ve had good results from these services in the past).

If by chance you have chosen a dud, you’ve just lost out on six months worth of fees to find out they’re no good. They move onto the next client and you’re no better off than you were six months ago.

The best I’ve ever personally seen from one of these types of services is about three months. When I used this type of service years ago they were able to keep me in the number one spot for about two years but I stopped because they cost about 100% of the profit I took from being there.

Quite a few years ago now I tried a different strategy that I could do myself and got to page one for a competitive keyword in three weeks. Since then I’ve never considered using a paid SEO service again. But I’ll get to that a little later.

How to figure out how many website visitors will convert into customers

(assuming you’re still interested in a paid SEO service)
Although the numbers won’t exactly transfer across from paid advertising to SEO traffic, you can use paid advertising to get a rough idea.
My personal experience is that traffic from organic search results convert higher than traffic from paid ads but you’ll find arguments in favour of both all over the internet so it depends.
How do you do it?
The idea is that you choose a method of paid advertising such as Google ads or Facebook ads. Pay for enough ads to send a decent number of visitors to your website and see how many sales you get.
If you send 1,000 visitors to your website and get 50 sales you know you have a 5% conversion rate.
You can use this conversion rate as a way to estimate a return on investment for SEO using the formulas I mentioned earlier.

An alternative to paid SEO

By now you probably think I’m against SEO but I’m definitely not!

SEO is actually a very strong component my overall business strategy, I just don’t like to use the paid services.

Again, this will be an oversimplification of my approach but this is intentional to help explain SEO basics without any prior knowledge required.

The very first thing you need to know…

Rather than thinking about what you want (I want to get to page one of Google because I want more clients), think about what Google wants and then plan on delivering exactly that…

When someone goes to google and searches for something, what is Google hoping to deliver?


The best possible answer to the question.

That’s it, plain and simple. So if you make it your goal to provide the best possible answer, you’re giving yourself a chance at making it on to page one. Obviously there are lots of factors to consider but this should be the foundation of your approach.

I also find it frustrating when SEO companies promise that they can get the number one spot because search results will change based on various factors. A simple way to explain this is that the best answer to the question “best pizza near me?” is going to be very different in Perth, Australia from San Francisco, USA.

So you need to think about “how do I provide the best possible answer to the audience I’m trying to reach.

Here's an overview of the SEO strategy I use...

Firstly… I don’t pay a cent to an SEO company, our SEO is made up of five different components…

#1. Create A Google My Business Listing

Without doubt, creating a listing on Google My Business is the fastest and easiest way to get your business to show up in search results!

When you see a business on Google Maps, that is created with a Google My Business listing. Creating a listing and optimising it for appropriate search terms is much easier than the same task for a website.

The smaller you target market from a geographical point of view, the easier this strategy is going to be. For example, with my business there is absolutely no reason why I need to restrict my target market to my local area. It’s just as easy for me to supply my services to a business on the other side of the planet as it is to have my next door neighbour as a client.

However, getting my business to rank well on Google My Business for my local local area is significantly easier than to do it for a national or even global community.

So even if you have the capacity to service clients on a national or global scale, if you are just starting out it would be better to rank near the top of Google Maps for your local area and capture a high percentage of local leads than to capture zero percent of national leads.

It’s also the most cost effective way to show up in search results because it’s also free. I won’t go into specifics on how to optimise your Google My Business listing because I found the Ranking Academy YouTube Chanel covers pretty much everything you need to know and provides it in an easy to follow format.

#2 On Page SEO

“On page SEO” is one component that you could expect a paid service to take care of for you. This in simple terms is optimising the settings for all of your important pages on your website to give information to Google about where it should show up in search results.

We do this using a WordPress plugin called Rank Math. The most commonly used WordPress plugin for this is called Yoast SEO which we used for years but we recently made the switch. We first heard about Rank Math through this video by Ahrefs

We also use Ahrefs and in our opinion it’s one of the best SEO optimisation tools available so we followed their advice and have been very happy with the switch.

We don’t however focus too much time and energy on this component of our strategy. The reason for this is because if we wanted to get our video marketing page to rank well this is going to take quite a bit of effort because it’s a competitive search term.

So what we do is make sure our video marketing page is well optimised for the search term and then focus our attention on our blogging strategy below where we can target keywords that are far less competitive. As the overall SEO strength of our website improves, pages such as our video marketing page will organically start to rank higher in search results.

#3 Answer Questions On Our Blog

We offer a number of services but our research showed that the least competitive avenue for us to target was to create educational resources for ActiveCampaign.

We start our research by seeing what people are searching for related to ActiveCampaign on YouTube because video is our primary form of marketing. Once we have selected a topic that we plan to create a YouTube video for we then create a blog post for that topic first.

Our post ActiveCampaign Lists Explained is one example. By creating the post and the video we have the opportunity to show up in search results for the keyword phrase “ActiveCampaign List Cleanup” on both Google and YouTube. It’s also going to be much easier to get a good ranking for this search term than something like “video marketing”.

We find it makes sense to start with the blog post because we can write it out in full and trim it down to suit the needs of our video. It also takes a little more time for the blog post to appear in search results so it’s helpful to have it published before the video.

#4 Build Links To Our Blog Posts On Other Sites

Although this is the type of thing SEO services will say they do, their approach is quite different to ours. An SEO service might put your link in a comment on another website or list your business on a business directory to get a link.
Yes, we too will look for easy wins such as business directories but our main focus is to adapt our educational content posted on our blog for other platforms. It’s not a case of using the blog post text as a video script and then posting that video everywhere because each platform requires a different strategy in order to get a good result.
So we adapt the content to fit our YouTube strategy and then post the video there. Once the video is live we add it to the top of the related blog post because this is helpful to both our blog SEO strength and also adds views to our video which helps our YouTube channel.
Next we modify the video to be suitable for LinkedIn and post it there. For various reasons we’ve chosen not to use Facebook and Instagram but if you do, you could do the same there.
And lastly… When possible we modify the same bit of content to make it suitable for a pod cast.
It’s really important to understand though that although we cover the same topics, it definitely takes more effort than simply repurposing the exact same information and not every bit of content gets used in all places. It depends on the topic.

#5 Free Publicity And Podcast Gest Appearances

The last piece of the puzzle is to use press releases to generate free publicity and find relevant pod casts to appear as a guest speaker. Podcast shows will add links to your site and in some cases you will get a link from free publicity but not always.

To Sumarise...

The overall strategy is to create quality educational resources to answer questions that our research tells us our audience is searching for, then create as many links as possible to those resources from other websites.
On the downside, all of this takes time to put together and it also takes time to build up visibility on Google and YouTube. On the plus side, each of the resources we create will be working for us for years to come without spending additional time and money on that particular resource. The more of these quality resources we add, the more effective they will be so for example, 100 quality resources will be more than 100x better than a single quality resource.
More importantly, if someone is going to take our place in search results, they’re going to have to put in a little more effort than paying an SEO company $500 a month.

All This Sounds Like Too Much Effort For Me!

If you’re not prepared to go through all this effort in order to have your website show up in search engines, then you’re better off not spending your money on SEO at all. Paying someone $500 a month isn’t going to compete with a business who’s prepared to put in effort towards a strategy similar to what I have described here.
It’s just money down the toilet so you’d be far better off taking that same budget and spending it on something like pay per click advertising. At least with pay per click advertising, you pay your money and get instant traffic to your website.
Personally I’m not a fan of pay per click advertising but that isn’t because there’s a problem with it. I don’t like it because the traffic stops when your budget stops. I prefer to invest my time into something that will grow over time. However I know some people hate the idea of putting hours of effort into something that will take time to produce a result.
In the end, it all comes down to you being prepared to understand the options and deciding on an approach that suits you.

Did I miss something?

My goal is to make this blog post the best resource available on this topic. If you didn’t get the answer you were looking for, something wasn’t 100% clear or maybe you did get the info you wanted… Either way, I’d love for you to comment below so I can make any necessary improvements.

Look forward to hearing from you!


Leave a Reply

Table of Contents