With the many changes that Google has implemented in the past couple of years, and the increased competition on the search engine results pages (SERPs) as more businesses focus on improving their online marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has unarguably become more challenging.
As a result of these changes, I see/read/hear a lot of SEO’s and marketers questioning (or completely dismissing) the effectiveness of the more traditional and basic SEO practices. Although results will vary by industry and location, the “basics” can still be very effective for small businesses, and should be considered an important marketing option for them.
Small Business SEO Case Study
In what has traditionally been a Yellow Pages dependent industry, Dry Cleaners, like many other small businesses, are transitioning their marketing resources from the phonebook to the web, trying to find the most effective balance of web design, content creation, SEO, social media, and email marketing that will fit within their budget and time constraints.
I started working with Clothesline Cleaners, a Boise area Dry Cleaning business, in late 2012, which for that industry and market was still reasonably early in the move towards online marketing. They had already established a small online presence – a website and some social media sharing – but decided to make it more of a priority as they saw the ROI of their yellow page advertising falling. Their goal was to completely eliminate their Yellow Pages budget.
At that time, Clothesline Cleaners had 2 stores, 1 in Boise (they now have 3 Boise locations), and another in the nearby city of Meridian, Idaho. For those of you unfamiliar with Boise, the metro area (including Boise and Meridian) has a population of 600,000 – 650,000 people.
This was a limited engagement project. It included initial on-page optimization (the four locations share one website) and local optimization for each store, a short period of monitoring and editing, and some extra citation building for the original locations.
On-Page Organic SEO
On-page organic SEO (traditional keyword based SEO) work included:
- Keyword research
- Mapping of existing webpages vs. webpages suggested by keyword research – looking for content gaps
- Application of keywords to title tags, h-tags, meta description, alt. tags, and content
- Minor changes in site architecture for better user experience
- Basic internal linking
Local Optimization (Google Maps)
Each store was optimized for its locations. Local optimization included:
- The completion of on-page SEO (Organic work outlined above)
- Registered each location with the search engines
- Built citations for each location
- Content mark-up – including Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) – was applied to webpages
- Discussed importance of online reviews and possible strategies to encourage them
Since the completion of our SEO engagement, Clothesline Dry Cleaners has been publishing one blog per month on their site, and continuing with a few social media updates (mostly Facebook) each week.
The chart displayed below represents the data gathered the from Clothesline Cleaner’s Google Analytics reports. It shows total monthly traffic broken down into Organic (blue), Direct, Social Media and Referrals. Search Engine Optimization should impact organic search results.
The following graph isolates the improved organic traffic.
The data clearly shows that Clothesline Cleaners benefited from traditional SEO. They went from 20-30 organic visitors per month, to 610 organic visitors in March of 2015.
Although I recommend SEO to be part of on-going marketing efforts, clearly even this limited engagement is still producing good results for Clothesline Cleaners 2 years later. Future SEO efforts should include:
- Collecting more positive reviews on Google and Yelp – this should be a priority.
- Adding more text to existing website pages – the search engines like text.
- Blogging more often – I would recommend at least weekly.
- Promoting their content more aggressively through relationship building and outreach.
- Building quality backlinks.
Without incorporating some of the above listed SEO steps into their marketing plan, they risk having their future rankings and organic traffic dropping off as the search engines make adjustments and competitors improve their SEO.
Traditional Organic and Local SEO can play an important role in helping small businesses to improve they’re online presence. Clothesline Cleaners is no longer paying for Yellow Page advertising.
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