Picture this: You’ve spent two months creating a website for your small business. You’ve poured yourself into it. The web site is a thing of beauty, and it showcases your work very effectively.
But no one can find it.
Six months go by, and you’re not getting any traffic from search engines. You type your business name into Google and … nothing. Not even your own website.
Think it sounds far-fetched? It’s not. It happened to Kim Koehler, a professional photographer in Littleton, Colorado. I’ve never met Kim, and have no business relationship with her, but I believe her story is a good one for other small business owners to hear.
Shortly after opening Element One Photography, Kim launched a dazzling website to showcase her equally stunning photography. But the entire website was designed in Flash — a kiss-of-death in the search engine optimization (SEO) industry. “I had no idea it would be invisible,” Kim says. “Even when I would put ‘Element One Photography’ into Google, there were no results.”
What to do then? Kim didn’t have the time or money to rebuild the site or make a new, SEO-friendly site. With help from a local web marketing consultant (and extended family member), Kim forged a new plan: They’d launch a blog on WordPress.com to showcase her photography.
But, like many small business owners, Kim wasn’t too familiar with blogging. So, in the beginning, Kim let her consultant write the blog posts. “It was mainly because I did not know what to put in it,” Kim says. “I did not know what keywords to use, or what would seem interesting enough to drive people to my blog.”
After about three months of blog training and basic SEO education, Kim took over the blog and has been posting as much as she can. She often writes about recent client photo shoots, includes a few photos, and uses an important keyword in the title of the blog post. Is it working? Kim says the blog is bringing in plenty of customer leads, and shared this chart showing traffic to her blog:
Despite the success of her blog, Kim says she still wants to get her main website fixed so it brings natural search traffic, too.
Meanwhile, Kim also used social media to market her business. She says MySpace, a popular hangout for teens, has been a good source of clients. “I actually owe the success of my first high school senior season to MySpace,” she says. “I started a MySpace because it was free, and I felt it would help me reach my target audience. Almost half of my clients the first year could, in some way, be traced back to my MySpace marketing.”
Kim says online marketing is a must for a small business like hers, even more so than advertising in more traditional places like the yellow pages. “The Internet is definitely the new yellow pages. If you are not visible online, you might as well just plan on closing up shop, because you cannot survive without an online presence. Not only can being online bring you more business, but it also makes your business more credible.”
That credibility is supported by having strong online reviews from happy customers. Without even trying, Kim has four positive reviews on Google Maps. “The more times people run across my name online,” Kim says, “the better chance I have of people actually remembering to call me when they need photography of any kind.”
Kim’s story offers several lessons for any small business owner: Even if you don’t get your website right on day one, there are other ways to acquire online traffic. Blogs, social media, strong word-of-mouth, and a bit of basic SEO knowledge can go a long way toward increasing online traffic, visibility, and most importantly, sales and revenue.
Search Engine Land Assignment Editor Matt McGee offers search marketing consulting and training to businesses of all sizes. He blogs at Small Business SEM and HyperlocalBlogger.com. The Small Is Beautiful column appears on Thursdays at Search Engine Land.