Small Business Internet Marketing: An SEO Dream Job?

This post was guest blogged by Phil Van Treuren of Contest Blogger.

So, how the heck can a guy who has some talent in search engine optimization and Internet marketing make a living without the downtown commute? This was a question I found myself asking earlier in the year when my employer gave notice that operations were shutting down. I had plenty of self-taught SEO and Internet marketing experience gleaned from years of blogging in my spare time, and thought it would be great to turn my hobby into a full-time career. But I loved working close to my family, and the idea of commuting into the city from my suburban home and starting over at the bottom of the corporate totem pole just didn’t appeal to me.

Who would have thought that a local family-owned plumbing company would be the perfect place for an SEO specialist? An old acquaintance heard that I was looking for work, and wondered if I’d be interested in doing some marketing for his business. It was a smaller operation with about half a dozen employees that specialized in drain cleaning, basement waterproofing and plumbing . . . which I knew absolutely nothing about. But the owner would give me some time to learn the industry, and some resources to concentrate on expanding our Internet presence. The starting salary would be limited, but he was willing to accelerate raises if I could bring in new business.

I liked the idea of working close to home and having the freedom to concentrate exclusively on a long-term online marketing project, so I took the job and started analyzing our web presence and that of our competition. Basement waterproofing was where the company made its largest profits, and there were several large waterproofing companies in the area that made millions every year. After a little research, though, I was surprised to see that our competitors had done absolutely no search engine optimization, and their sites seemed to rank high for lucrative keyword phrases primarily because of domain age. They had the budget to toss lots of money at Adwords, which we didn’t, but I knew that we could probably outrank them in the organic searches with some hard work and patience.

I started with a complete overhaul of our company website, which was nothing more than a rarely-visited landing page when I started. I use WordPress for my blogs, and saw no reason to learn another platform just because I was creating a small business site. I set up a company blog to frequently update the site with fresh, relevant content, and started learning as much as I could about drain cleaning and basement waterproofing (which ended up being more interesting than I thought it would). After a few weeks, I had written nearly a hundred posts that were set to publish on a regular schedule in the coming year.

The next step was off-site optimization. I was intent on keeping it whitehat, and knew that I could effectively counter the big advertising budgets of our competitors by outworking them and being patient. Much of my strategy concentrated on social media and article marketing, which required me to become something of an expert in the field of basement waterproofing, but the hard work was worth it in the end. Several months and dozens of articles later, our company is now outranking our larger competitors for many important keywords, and we’re starting to see an increase in business because of it. Our organic search traffic is trending upwards, and the company is looking forward to record profits next year.

If you want to pursue a career in SEO and Internet marketing, would a smaller local company be a good starting place for you too? You might be surprised at how many opportunities there are in your home town to make a living in your field and play a key role in expanding a small business. Here are a few tips to help you find a local Internet marketing job and bring real value to your company.

1. Educate Your Employer

When pitching yourself to a potential employer, remember that they probably know next to nothing about how SEO and an increased Internet presence can help their business. Be specific about what kind of results they can expect, but don’t lose them by getting too technical. They don’t need to know about anchor text and metatags, just that you have the expertise to bring them new customers.

Some small business owners tend to be overly reliant on traditional forms of advertising, such as newspaper advertising and phone books, and skeptical about Internet marketing. Although print ads are still an important part of any marketing campaign, be prepared to explain to your boss that customers are turning to the Internet to find local services with increasing frequency.

Make sure your employer knows that SEO takes plenty of hard work and patience, and that it might be several months before they start seeing results. When the organic traffic does start rolling in, make sure to provide regular reports on new visitors, where they are coming from, and how they found the site. Your boss needs to know that the many hours you spend at the keyboard are producing results for the company.

2. Be Prepared to Work Hard

This holds true for just about any job, of course, but don’t expect your workload to be lighter just because you’re employed by a small company. You new employer isn’t likely to have the kind of budget to pay you what larger companies could, and you’ll probably have to settle for a smaller salary while you help the business grow. Make sure your boss agrees to review your salary on a regular basis, and compensate you appropriately for the new customers your are bringing in.

Effective Internet marketing means becoming an expert in your company’s products, even if you don’t know anything about them on day one. And don’t think that you’ll be able to concentrate exclusively on the keyboard. A smaller local business will also need you to focus on other areas of marketing, from direct mail to print advertising to cold calls. Your job will likely involve many tasks that will regularly take you away from SEO.

3. Appreciate The Benefits

Even though you will probably be starting off at a more meager salary than you would like, don’t forget to appreciate the many benefits of working for a smaller company. If you’re like me, being able to take the kids to school in the morning and drive home for lunch every day is worth a lot. Getting paid to do what you enjoy and being given exclusive control over Internet marketing campaigns is a bonus, too. And you may find the friendly, family-like environment provided by a small business to be less stressful and more rewarding.

Finally, remember that your rewards will be proportionate to the amount of work you put into the job. It might be a small company now, but you could play a key role in expanding operations and attracting new revenue and customers. Getting in on the ground floor of a growing company can be a satisfying and lucrative experience, and there’s no reason why you can’t do just that.