Most every small business is looking to find ways to get new leads and convert those leads into paying clients.

In today’s online world, there are plenty of ways to do this.  Some methods take a lot of time and energy but pay off well in the long term, while others can be almost immediate.

Online Marketing is the most cost effective way of bringing in new customers to your business and should be a part of any successful business model in today’s world. Paid radio commercials, phonebook ads, newspaper and magazine ads all cost money, but the majority of people no longer look for businesses in print advertising but, instead, search the internet to get answers to their questions or solutions to their needs.

In this post we are going to talk about 2 of the most effective ways to drive new leads to your website and gain new clients for your small business using online marketing.

Option#1: SEO – The Slow & Steady Approach

As most people know, getting found on page 1 search results on Google and other search engines is a major key to online marketing success.

One of the ways to achieve that, is to perform Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on your website.  SEO is the ongoing process of optimizing your website so that it has the best chance to appear on page 1 search results for keywords that are specific to your industry.

For example, if someone was looking for a plumber for either their home or their business, chances are they are going to look to Google to find one.  When someone types in “residential plumber” or “commercial plumber” into Google, a list of relevant local businesses will show up. Wouldn’t it be great if your business came up on the first page?  After all, most people don’t look beyond page 1 results.

The amount of business you can get from page one results of Google is quite impressive.  It can make the difference between a successful and not so successful marketing campaign for a small business.

Now everyone wants to be on page one search results, so getting there isn’t free, and often requires a significant monthly investment, and using the SEO approach can take time, usually months or more all depending on how competitive your industry is. But the long term payoff can be very well worth it.  Once you get to page one, you will find the calls and website visits start pouring in.

So what does it cost?

Getting to such a premium position on Google is not cheap.  It does require an investment as does anything that is highly sought after. How much depends primarily on how much competition you have.

For example, let’s look at 2 different businesses.  The first business owner runs a local hair salon. The second business owner runs a local medical supply business. Which one do you think is going to require more time and money to achieve page one search results? Well if you guessed the hair salon business you’re right.  Why because there are hundreds of them in most major cities compared to dozens or less of medical supply companies.

It’s fair to say that you should expect to pay no less than $500 per month for effective ongoing SEO, and depending on how competitive your industry is, that price can go up considerably.  And again it takes time to get there, but once you get there, this can be a continual source of leads for your business and greatly contribute to your business’ overall success.

Important note: Stay away from shady low cost SEO companies that use black hat (underground) techniques to try to get your site ranked on page one quickly.  Google frowns upon these techniques and if it ever finds out you’ve used them, it can delist your site entirely from search results and that can have a devastating effect on your business.  So if someone approaches you (often from overseas) and “guarantees” they can get you on page one Google results for a ridiculously low price – run in the other direction and protect your business.

Option #2: SEM – The Quick and Easy Approach

Okay so not every business wants to wait months to get to page one search results. Maybe your business is just starting out or maybe you want to grow your business now rather than later.

Well there is an option for that too.  It’s called Search Engine Marketing (SEM). This is the process of using paid or sponsored Google ad listings on page one search results for specific keywords.

So basically, instead of waiting months or longer to get your site to page one, you can get there is just a matter of a few days.

Paid listings are the ones that you usually see right at the very top, side and bottom of Google search results and have the little green “AD” box next to each listing. Google make billions every year off these little paid listings to promote businesses that want to get to page one without going through the tedious process of SEO.

So the method is the same in that if someone types in “residential plumber” into Google, you can have your business website listing come up on page one results (top, side or bottom). Only this time you are actually paying to be there each time.

And the great part is that you only pay Google when someone actually clicks on your listing.  This is called the Pay-Per-Click model or PPC.

So what does it cost?

Again, the concept is very much the same.  The more competition there is for your industry (or keywords related to your industry), the more it is going to cost to get there.

Depending on your industry, some keywords may cost you $2 – $3 per click.  Other more competitive keywords could cost $10 or $15 or more per click depending on how many other local businesses are bidding for their site to get listed when someone types in those keywords into Google.

To make sure you have a good well managed SEM campaign, you’ll need a company that’s been trained by Google to properly setup and maintain your online marketing campaign.  And typically they will set you up with a monthly budget that works for you and your industry.

For example, how it works is that you pay a monthly fee for a trained Google expert to setup and maintain your campaign plus the cost for each click when someone clicks on your ad.  Most SEM campaigns usually start around $500 or so, depending on how many leads you want to drive to your business and how much competition you have.  Generally, the more you put into your monthly campaign, the more you’ll get out of it and ultimately the more leads and sales for your small business.

So why would anyone consider SEO over SEM? SEO is usually cheaper in the long run.  Once you get to page one using SEO the only thing that limits the amount of leads you can get each month from it, is the demand for your product or service each month based on Google searches.  Whereas, with SEM, you pay for each individual lead (or click to your website), and that will limit how many leads you get each month to your site.  Of course the obvious advantage of SEM over SEO is that it only takes days to get to page one as opposed to months or more with SEO. 

Important note: Look out for big SEM companies who give you the annual pitch on how they can drive more leads to your website. Too often these big marketing companies whose focus is more on display ads or other techniques, are more about volume than quality.  Don’t let your small business get lost in the big shuffle. I’ve heard too many stories of small businesses signing contracts with big national companies offering SEM services only to have their Google campaigns improperly maintained and end up wasting their hard earned small business dollars on useless clicks that are not relevant to their website. SEM takes time and effort to be setup and maintained properly, and unless you have a huge budget, big box marketing companies usually won’t spend the time on your campaign that it needs to be successful; because their business model doesn’t afford the time it takes to make the smaller guy more successful.

Summing it Up

Remember, it takes money to make money.  SEO and SEM should be looked at as a return on investment.  And as ROI goes, SEO and SEM are 2 solid ways to get a great return on your business investment.  The money you make each month from your campaign should far outweigh the money you put into it each month (keeping long term results in mind when it comes to SEO).

Have you been considering online marketing for your business? Which method is best for you?  What is it going to cost to make it effective for your industry?

Make sure you talk to a Google-trained expert to discuss which option is right for your business or talk to your web provider to find out if they offer SEO or SEM services as they know your site more than anyone else and will likely be one of your best options for online marketing success for your business.

For more information on how to grow your business, please contact:

Patrick Melnyk
780-702-2706 x 224