Last month’s post on the realities of low-cost SEO for small businesses seemed to hit a nerve and got some great responses. One of the best was from a Bill Trott, the owner of Bill’s Pest and Termite in Phoenix, not to mention a guest star on Discovery’s Property Wars.
Here’s the email Bill sent:
Re: June 10th Blog – Interesting blog…I’m a SBO and stumbled across your blog in my attempt to get a glimpse into that other world of SEO. I read the feedback/comments and while a few responses were spot on, most (from a business owner perspective) were less than accurate. There seems to be a void of misunderstandings/lack of knowledge/stereotypes/trust between small business owners and SEO Professionals. Interesting when you consider we share the same goals.
From my experience one simple key to success for SEO Types would be to listen more and talk less, at least initially.
If down the road you wish to share the experience(s) of a SBO’s road from a $120,000 a year YP Disaster to several SEO Rip-offs and the slow (ongoing) successful recovery hit me up. I suspect my perspective would be of value to your readers and the feedback would assist in charting my future course.
How could I say no?
Here’s the transcript from my conversation with Bill:
Bill Trott, Owner
Bill’s Pest and Termite Control
PO Box 43076
Phoenix, Arizona 85080
How long have you been in business, Bill?
I’ve been in business for 16 years. Started out myself in a truck. Had to do it face to face, knocking on doors, mostly realtors. It was hard work, but it paid off handsomely. Practically overnight, I went from one truck to 5-6 trucks. I worked my way up to where I was spending $10,000 per month on yellow pages ads. They were full-page ads for the Phoenix metro area. That was about ten years ago.
When did you realize the Internet was going to be important for your business?
I was out there working and got completely caught with my pants down. Seemed like it happened overnight. Around 2005 to 2006, the calls from my yellow pages ads disappeared. I was paying more for those ads than I was bringing in. And US West/Quest wouldn’t budge on price. I had to hire an attorney to get out of my contract. The problem was, I had all of my eggs in one basket.
Everybody said “go to the Web.” So I hired an outfit to build a site. Thought I was pretty smart. Bought a GoDaddy domain and got moving. The problem was the web developer kept raising their rates and I had no control over anything. Even worse, I wasn’t getting any business from it even though they were supposed to be getting me on the search engines.
So I hired another outfit to build and host a new website — about $6K + $160/month. I figured out how to track what the website was doing and I soon discovered that the ROI wasn’t there. By then I knew a little about SEO, so I hired another SEO outfit, paid them upfront and never heard from them again. That left me with a bad taste in my mouth, which already tasted pretty bad.
So, once you had been burned by the SEO/Website game (like so many other small businesses), what did you do?
My greatest pleasure in running a biz is every Friday handing a check to my employee. The bigger the check, the better. Knowing that one of my guys can take his family to circus this weekend or buy braces for his daughter because we did well is a great feeling. I need to make wise decisions to keep giving my employees the peace of mind that comes with getting a paycheck.
So I had to educate myself.
So, you taught yourself SEO?
Yep. I went to the Warrior Forums, SEOMoz, etc. I learned how important keywords were. I looked at the content the SEO guys had put on my site to target certain keywords. When I read it, it sound like the writer had no idea what he was talking about. I don’t want my customers reading that. So I rewrote everything myself. I learned how to tag pictures, h1s, h2s, page titles, the works.
And what happened to your organic traffic as a result?
I went from about 12 views/day to 200 on a good day.
And how did that increased traffic turn into business?
Probably tripled my business based on dollars banked. And as my Internet business has grown, I am definitely seeing more competition for the big keywords. With the increase in income, I started investing in local radio ads so I didn’t have to rely on Google. Good thing too, because I got hit on May 21st by a Google update. My traffic is down about 50%.
What do you think happened?
I was using Backlinks Genie. That’s what one of the forums told me to use. What I didn’t realize the pages I was promoting, I was promoting with one keyword. I learned a lot of things in life the hard way. Now I am trying to learn about link disavowal to fix the problems.
About how much time each week do you spend on SEO?
I easily spend 20 hours/week on SEO. I am generating a good income from my website.
Besides SEO, what other local digital marketing do you do?
I pay Yelp $350/month, Kudzu about $550. The ROI on Yelp is great. It pays for itself. That said, I do have an issue with Yelp — my customer reviews got filtered. We try to get a lot of reviews from our customers, so when they don’t show up it’s pretty frustrating.
Do you do any email marketing?
Not much. I find it pretty intrusive. The only thing I do is send customers a reminder about their yearly warranty. I did do a newsletter a few years back, but it wasn’t bringing extra business.
What do you think of mobile marketing?
I see the trends, not just with me but with my kids. Youdesign is the mobile template I switched to. I am thinking about building an app for realtors so they can schedule an inspection in one step.
What about social media?
I have a fairly active Facebook page. But Twitter was another mistake. I hired a company that specialized in local Twitter marketing and now my site has been marked as a spam site by Twitter.
What do you have planned for the next 6-12 months on the Web?
More of the same. I want to stay on the cutting edge of Internet marketing. Radio is good, but we are going to see dramatic changes when the Web takes over radio. The good news is part of my radio ads go out over the stations’ Web streams.
What advice do you have for marketers who want to get your business?
I get bombarded every day with SEO people who have the miracle cure. Sound like car salesmen. People call and say, “Hey you don’t have enough h1 and h2 tags so you’re losing money.” The Fear Factor approach.
I’d say I get two calls per day from Internet marketers and I hear the same sales pitch over and over. Instead of the car salesman pitch, educate me. I know that if the guy’s talking 90 mph, he doesn’t know what my needs are. You need to evaluate the problem and listen to the customer, instead of trying to sell them.
And, of course, what everyone really wants to know is: When are you next on Property Wars?
Not sure, but stay tuned to Discovery: Property Wars.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.