Charlie in Tucson, Arizona wants some help predicting the future.

Hello Peter-

I own a small brick and mortar here in downtown Tucson. Every SEO guru I speak with tells me things are getting more difficult for small business SEO. In your opinion is this true? I want to grow my ranks but not if my money is going to be a poor investment.

-Charlie

Thanks for writing Charlie. Although I gave up looking into my crystal ball years ago, I can assure you small business SEO opportunities are never going away. However, the word ‘difficult’ is more about perspective than an assessment how you can improve your organic positions.

One of the things I always tell small site owners is to ignore everything you hear and read how to rank better. The reason is this business is filled with hacks who do not have the experience to give you qualified advice. So no, in my opinion small business SEO is not getting difficult. Actually, it’s getting easier than it was just a few years ago.

Here’s how…

  • Few companies are using Google relevancy standards in their site content
  • Genuine content designed for your target keywords still continues to work well
  • Link building is deader than a doornail
  • So if you invest in your content you will rank better than relying on deceptive techniques
  • Often your competition isn’t optimizing their site content with new Google standards
  • Video is now more important than ever in ranking organically
  • Sexy new gimmicks no longer work (bye, bye link building)
  • Local SEO is becoming vital to small brick and mortar businesses
  • Google loves sites with genuine, relevant content
  • Youtube SEO now gives you the ability to market with video

This is actually the short list. What’s really staggering to me is how so many SEO geeks still continue to rely on link building. Links no longer get you ranked. Believe me, if they did, I would be spam linking my client sites 24/7.

So why does everyone focus on links? Because it’s easy. You hire some joker who owns a piece of syndication software. He (or she) builds you a few thousand backlinks. Pretty soon you think you got a ton of stuff for your money.

Hmmmm…if it’s stuff you want like a spreadsheet of thousands of crappy backlinks, you’re future will probably bring you a Google spam backlink pattern warning.

Stuff doesn’t get you ranked. Genuine, real content does. How much? It depends on your target keywords and competition. But I usually start with a dozen posts or pages. Each of those are optimized for one keyword phrase. Next comes video which gets embedded in this content.

Soon the keyword densities are improved slowly over time. It’s a methodical approach. But Charlie, there’s one thing to very careful about when hiring an SEO guru. Qualified client ranking case studies.

If I were you, I would speak with a dozen SEO-ers. Ask them to share 6-12 case studies including the keywords they helped their clients rank on Google. Don’t get scammed with Yahoo! or Bing ranks. They’re pretty easy to generate so focus on Google.

Or even better. Don’t hire anyone. Instead, write a dozen posts or pages about your products. Or hire a local freelance writer to help. Then optimize each article with one target keyword. Sure you can find writers on Elance or Odesk. However, I find working with a local freelancer always works better.

Aim for 400-800 words for each article. But don’t be dumb. Avoid the temptation to syndicate these articles. Only use them on your site. If you go down the syndication road, you’ll run into duplicate content issues.

Charlie, the trick to local SEO is to focus on your site content. Add more to it everyday. Google loves sites that have updated content. Thanks for writing and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need some free advice.