Credit: William Cho

Getting Small Biz to engage with Search Engine Optimization is difficult to say the least. That said, the opportunity for elevating SMB's from traditional print and radio advertising to an online platform is massive, given the sheer number of businesses that contribute to the economy through a vast number of product and services.

As search marketers, bringing about a shift towards an online presence is a win-win situation for both the client and the service provider. So the challenge is definitely there, but I'm about to provide you with 5 tips that are geared towards engaging SMB's to consider SEO and online marketing in general.

  1. The Approach - It's a human connection after all - sales is about being persuasive while still keeping a relationship with the customer. I'd start by approaching businesses that already utilize some for advertising: such as radio, or print advertising. Tell them you Googled their business and couldn't find them, but perhaps found their competitor instead.
  2. A Website isn't Enough - Whether the small biz you're pitching has a website designed in 1997 or post 2004, the real question you should be asking is whether they get any traffic. Chances are, they don't have an analytics program installed, or have no idea how to leverage their website to gain more prospects to their business.
  3. Start Small and Up sell - Most SMB's don't have a budget carved out for something 'new' such as SEO, so this isn't the time to quote an extraordinary amount. Aiming for premium SERP rankings won't mean much to a small biz, if they don't see a tangible benefit associated with their investment. Instead, start small with services such as Google local, to at least get their name on the map.
  4. Pay for Performance - When starting out with a reluctant small business, it may be beneficial to structure a contract based on a pay for performance plan. Reporting on this can be as simple as asking the business (if they are excited about going online) to ask their customers how they found them, or by setting up goals through Google analytics if they happen to have a website. Once you're able to make a tangible link between your efforts as a search marketer to increased ROI for the small biz, you can change the plan to an hourly rate or a monthly retainer.
  5. Develop Relationship with Other Stakeholders - Being part of a channel marketing solution is often the best way of employing pull marketing. By this I mean developing strategic partnerships with traditional advertising service providers that small businesses are already used to and have a budget for. Reaching out to that local newspaper or radio station might provide valuable opportunities to add SEO and search marketing in general as a 'upgrade' package to their traditional advertising services. It's important to remember that the search marketing services are completely in your control and the contracts are directly outsourced to you or your firm to avoid the parent agency promising anything that you can't guarantee (eg: #1 rankings guaranteed in the SERPs).

I'm sure there are many more to consider, including the example of the gentleman who got free pizza for life by securing his local pizza place for a premium ranking on Google. Leave a comment and add to this conversation about how you'd approach a local small biz.