Small Business Website Marketing Frustrations

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Small Business Website Marketing Frustrations

Anyone who has worked for or run a small business knows how hard it can be to get good marketing advice. Everyone from the high priced consultant to the guy you buy your laptop from has advice on how to get ahead online. Most of them are wrong. It can leave a small business owner so desperate for advice, they’ll take it from anyone. Even the guy sitting next to them on the plane…

This week, I happened to be “that guy.”

frustrated business ownerOn a late night flight to Cleveland, I found myself sitting next to a woman and her young daughter. We were having a nice conversation when she mentioned she had started her own business but was frustrated with her website. Of course my ears perked up and my attention was captured. I’ve heard my fair share of stories of bad advice, but this woman’s story was right up there.

She spun a long tale of woe, recounting bits of advice she’d endured during her short career with this website. I sat amazed as she shared with me the advice she’d been given and the thing she’d been told to do.

I realized that many people offering advice about website marketing read an article or two and feel as though they have it all together. Others seem to be coming from plain ignorance. And the person who pays for the bad advice? The business owner, who is usually on a shoestring budget and just wants to run her business.She doesn’t have time for unfounded, groundless advice that could potentially destroy her business.

Unfortunately, I cannot educate those who feel that they know everything already. People who are well don’t need a doctor. But I can do everything in my power to be sure that small business owners have the information they need to correctly build and market their website. All they want are straight answers in a language they can understand.

Moving to GoDaddy
One consultant told her she needed to move her website to GoDaddy’s platform. She transferred the domain registration, her email accounts…everything. Unfortunately it took a few weeks of frustration before GoDaddy support realized she was Mac-based. GoDaddy’s sitebuilder program is incompatible with Mac OS. GoDaddy’s advice? Buy a PC. Needless to say, it took just as long to get everything off Godaddy and back to her original registrar as it did to transfer things over in the first place. The result? Countless hours and dollars wasted from really bad advice.

Search Engine Submission
The next thing she was told was to pay for a submission service to search engines. This is where I had to bite my lip to keep from exploding. No one has had to submit a site to the search engines since the year 2000. Search engines have programs called “spiders” that will find your website and download a copy of your site to their servers. Submitting your site to search engines is a thing of the past. It’s not necessary and usually a rip-off offer. $29.95 to submit your website to 100 search engines? Name six of them.

Search engines will naturally find your website. Read the Google guidelines. In fact, anyone who has anything to do with creating, programming, developing, and marketing a website should be made to read those guidelines. Search engines want your website, and they work hard to get it. Just by picking up a few links to your website, you can ensure that the search engines will find your pages.

Domain Registration
Amazingly, all of the advice to this point was enough to make me scream out in frustration, but that wasn’t the best part. Her Mac guy, who helps her computer run smoothly, tells her that the “trick” to getting into Google . . . . wait for it . . . . is to register her domain for 10 years.



No wonder the internet is such a mystery, and business owners make what they think are good decisions based on advice, only to have zero results. With this kind of advice, zero result would be preferable to the lost hours and ill-spent money.
overwhelmed website owner
Registering your domain for a few years; whatever you think will make sense is the best advice I can give. There is an element of the algorithm that is debated about the length of time that it is registered. Anecdotal evidence suggests that domains registered for a year are not as reliable as domains registered for 10 years – based on the ideas that the owner has made a commitment to the domain.

I can understand that – it makes sense. However, this item alone is not the primary part of the algorithm! It is a very minor part, and there are so many other intricacies that are much more important than the years of domain registration that you purchase. Logically, if everyone went out and re-registered their domain for 10 years, what then? Who is most relevant?

Straight talk.
The basis of website visibility in the search engines is your architecture, content, and incoming links. Those are the fundamental principles of building a website marketing strategy. Everything else supports these principles. The rest is details. For a small business owner, here are the basics:

  1. Build a site that is focused on your goal.
  2. Provide a clear goal for the visitor; contact form, phone number, clear directions.
  3. Write keyword-focused summaries about each page in the Page Title and Meta Description.
  4. Get website links from business associates, directories, local memberships.

. . . and then read the Google Webmaster Guidelines. I am surprised how many people have not seen this document. It is a true road map for any business owner who has questions about how your website should be built.

Related Articles:
Are you Creating a Customer Experience?
The Three C’s of Marketing: Content, Context, Community
10 Ways that SEO is Like Sales

About the Author:

Matt has taught Google employees how to understand and use Google Analytics, consulted with Experian on how to present data, developed online marketing training for both Proctor and Gamble and Johnson & Johnson and presented analytics methodologies to Disney, ABC & ESPN. As founder of SiteLogic, Matt teaches marketers how to create measurable and profitable strategic marketing plans.


  1. Dr. Pete May 22, 2008 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    So, her tech guy’s business plan looks something like this?

    (1) Register domain name
    (2) Wait 10 years
    (3) Launch website

    I hope she has a lot of capital. 🙂

  2. Pay Per CLicjk Journal May 23, 2008 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    We too, hear all of these horror stories. You almost wonder if these people who give them bad advice are only guilty of being just as equally ignorant themselves. It’s just a shame when a client comes to you burned from the past.. makes the job that much harder!

  3. Sheri Bigelow May 26, 2008 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    Not sure it makes sense to take advice from anyone who will give it. Perhaps the best advice would be to be careful who you get your advice from. Experience and success trump theory and false implications. Does the laptop guy run a successful online business?

  4. Ramona May 26, 2008 at 8:00 pm - Reply

    Setting up a website these days can be simple,but managing and marketing them is a whole lot of time and effort many small business aren’t aware of.This aspect for success is so often negelected by the Co.’s that set up sites.

  5. Matt Bailey May 27, 2008 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the comments, everyone. Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that most businesses have horror stories about SEO’s and web design companies. It’s very rare that business owners or companies don’t have any problems.

    Too many business owners have been burned, or worse yet, don’t know that they’ve been burned with bad advice. The speed of doing business is faster than ever before and lends itself to people trusting advice from almost anyone.

  6. Jonathan Hook July 10, 2008 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    Unfortunately there seem to be a couple types of people out there. Those who know that they don’t know anything about online marketing and those who think they know something but don’t. The downside is that those who think they know something are happy to rattle it off to anyone who will listen and those who know they don’t know anything will listen to anyone who talks.

    My advice is to only take advice from someone who has a proven track record online. A great idea for small business owners is to hire a proven consultant to run the online marketing. It takes all your energy to run a small business – I know, I run one. You don’t have time to keep up with all the available online tools.

    Most importantly, what you do online should tie in with what you do offline – it is not a completely different beast. Online marketing should enhance your offline marketing – or else you are really wasting your time.

  7. Jay July 18, 2008 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    I definitely feel this woman’s pain. It can be very confusing to try to figure out how to market yourself on the web, especially with all the secrecy that surrounds Google and the conflicting advice that is out there on what matters and what doesn’t. Even as a reasonably tech-savvy individual, I had a very difficult time wading through all of the misinformation.

  8. Nikki July 20, 2008 at 7:07 pm - Reply

    I have been there, trying to get “good” advice on using the Internet to advance a small business. It is almost impossible to get any better advice than what you just dispensed. Thanks

  9. EH July 28, 2008 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    The feeling of not knowing what to do is frustrating and it is easy to want to follow the advice of someone who supposedly knows what he’s doing. However, it is really informative to read such books as “Search Engine Optimization: Your visual blueprint for effective Internet marketing.” Books like this can help you gain a better understanding before you go and ask ‘consultants’ for help.

  10. Justin January 28, 2009 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    For some reason the SEM snake oil salesmen always target the small guy… probably because they don’t know any better. I have had many frustrations trying to dispel stupid myths that are spread by these companies. I share your frustration.

  11. Tim Andren April 10, 2009 at 10:21 pm - Reply

    Great advice for the beginning small business owner. Marketing is so important to gaining an income stream and it’s essential to have a website presence these days. So many business owners go through the nightmares of domains, hosting and designers. This article will help some avoid those pitfalls.

  12. joomla development May 25, 2009 at 3:16 am - Reply

    Thanks for the good information on using the Internet to advance a small business.

  13. Anonymous January 11, 2011 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    It’s hard to know where to go for advice. Great list of the basics for those small business owners out there.

  14. Brian Mathers April 3, 2011 at 7:35 am - Reply

    This is the best article yet that addresses the biggest problem that the small business owner is faced with. Sometimes the business owner of course is their own worst enemy as they combine trying to get a cheap website built and then trying to market the site on a show string budget.

    I don’t know why a business owner would not spend some quality time with us commenting here and Matt Bailey. There are many ‘SEO Advisors’ out there giving the wrong advice, which sees the good guys get tarred with the same stick.

    I just lost a client because whilst he was not paying a lot for support/training, he had shown a willingness to learn by doing some of the stuff that is the good advice contained in this article. But, he wants everything yesterday such as the being on page 1 of google for lots of keywords and selling lots of products from his website. We are a company just a bit smaller than Matt’s but strive to deliver based on SiteLogic best practice. However, this former client has been swayed by a big SEO company that has lots of offices in different locations and lots of staff, and now he is willing to pay more because he thinks they will get him ranking higher faster, because they have promised him.

    The biggest problem I see is this SEO company have said “give us a list of the keywords you want to rank for along with the pages and we will get you on page 1 of Google”. How often have you heard that. There is a good chance the business owner will target all the wrong keywords that could be easy for the SEO company to get a page to rank high on Google but of course nobody is searching using these terms, and only the SEO company is winning, and when challenged, will say “but we got you onto page 1 of Google, didn’t we”.

    As you can see my blood is now boiling, and so we should ping this article right round the world and get these business owners better educated so they don’t get ripped off and instead follow the right guidelines.

  15. Simon July 29, 2011 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    Great article and relevant comments.

    So many small businesses get a web site designed, realise it is not ranking in search and then go looking for quick silver bullets. Then they are at the mercy of a bunch of people, all offering a solution for only $97 that will solve there problems.

    As always a good, relevant, well designed web site with good content is the starting point. Then in many cases getting a good book from amazon with good feedback is a good starting point.

    Perhaps if more SEO professionals offered to work on risk and reward, this would foster an environment of trust.

    Colchester, UK

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