SEO for Small Business might just be the new Unicorn. Unless someone searches for your business by name, the chances of them finding your website are close to zero with the new algorithms. Google, Bing and Yahoo all appear to have thrown in the towel when it comes to filtering out “lead sites”.
Type in a simple search like “Dentist” or “Solar” and you will get varying results depending on the search engine, but the first results will not be any local dentist. They will be a “directory” site or a “lead” site.
A “directory” site is like Yelp! or Foursquare. They list businesses and in theory all of them are real businesses with a physical location. Just like the original domaineers, if you don’t claim your listing, someone else might and try and hijack your listing. Claiming your listing is usually free, and the downside is the sales calls and emails that will follow asking you to advertise.
If you own a business, you are getting these annoying calls already. Among them are probably a few calls from “SEO” or “Google Partners” claiming they can help your listing on Google. The misleading “Robo-Calls” are getting out of hand. I get at least a dozen calls a day from companies trying to sell me advertising services on Google, Yahoo and Bing. They all have huge mark up’s and great sales pitches, but won’t do it on a pay for performance basis. The best part is they call everyone, they haven’t reviewed our listings as they say they have or they would be more selective in who they call.
You probably get calls from the Lead sites and directories as well. Even if you aren’t a dentist, you know about 1-800-Dentist right. Lawyers know about Lawyer.com, Every contractor knows about HomeAdvisor.com or Angies List. These are all directories or lead sites. They don’t do anything that Google, Bing or Yahoo couldn’t do. So why have the big three thrown in the towel and let the lead sites and directories take over? Money. The simple answer is they can call you directly and ask for money, and they get it. They use some of your money to pool together bigger bids for the keywords and buy more advertising on Google, Bing and Yahoo. Effectively locking individual small businesses out of the market. If you really want to understand “Penguin” and SEO, just follow the money.
The funny part to us is how most of the world said it was about getting rid of websites that weren’t mobile friendly.
“Lead” sites are companies that spend all day making sure their website is in a top three position. They collect information about potential clients and sell the “leads” to companies in the area. One lead site owner I talked with was getting between $200 and $400 per lead for solar clients. If you want to know why solar is so high priced still, there is your answer. Layers of expenses are being added by the search engines.
The best that you can do is to have a good local listing program. Going back to our two searches, if you have a local listing program and someone looks for your office, even though your listing doesn’t show, a window with your information will like this window here:
If someone enters “Dentist” Generically, and you have a local listing program, then you might show up on a list just after the first high paying ads, and just above the Lead and Directory sites like this:
If you look at the generic search result where I just entered “Dentist” you do see a couple of ads for dentists at the bottom of the ads at the top and the side. These ads are very expensive, and a good local listing program can yield better results for about half the price. I bet Oceanic Dental and Ford Dental Group have good local listing programs, getting them to the top. In most cases it is better to stop fighting the directory sites, and spend the rest of your ad money on videos and other media to get a deeper reach into your marketplace.
Ideally, Google, Bing and Yahoo would do the right thing and make search better by eliminating Lead sites and Directory sites but the money is too good. Your best option is to get a good local listing service and give provider good information.