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.

80 thoughts on “Small Business Internet Marketing: An SEO Dream Job?”

    1. Li Weng says:

      That’s what I was thinking… Don’t tell me John still had an employer earlier this year lol

      1. It says guest blogger right at the top of the article.

    2. Stanley Tang says:

      Doesn’t sound John Chow to me…

      1. Four20 says:

        I agree, it just doesn’t sound like the way he normally writes

      2. Ben Pei says:

        Yeah.. Not his style..

    3. Yeah obviously.. Only a sucker would be an employee, even if it’s web related.

      1. John has an employee on this blog ๐Ÿ˜‰

    4. Hrm, that’s what I was thinking as soon as I read the first paragraph. John, can you clarify who this is?

    5. John Chow says:

      Yes, this was a guest post. I forgot to put up the by-line. It’s there’s now. Sorry for the confusion.

    6. why are you asking? its clearly written Guest post in the first line ???

      1. I think, it didn’t have that originally.

    7. IT IS a Guest Post now it a line below that says

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

    8. Yes it a guest post.

    9. hmm.. educational post.. but quite the common sense string.

  1. Hussein says:

    Yeah who wrote this? Is that you John? I think it should be “A” Seo Dream Job and not “An” Seo Dream Job.

    1. Why would it be “a seo”? It’s pronounced Es Ee Ou, so “an” is the proper article.

      1. An is only used when the start of the next letter is a vowel.

    2. Ms. Missive says:

      An SEO is correct. It’s not about the letter immediately following ‘an’, it’s the SOUND of the letter. Artem is correct “ES EE OH”. It sounds like a vowel so SEO should be prefixed with ‘an’ instead of ‘a’.

      1. I’m interested to hear his clarification on who wrote this!!

      2. Again “An is only used when the start of the next letter is a vowel.”

  2. Azmi Jahan says:

    Oh wow, sounds like John had an employer. So John was working for someone else, no wonder some days were skipped from publishing posts here.

    1. John has an employee. He doesn’t work for anyone else no more – he just blogs ๐Ÿ˜‰ and runs TTZ and TTZMedia.

  3. J.D. Meier says:

    I like the point about specific results.

    It’s easier to make a case if you offer results, not just activities or spending time. It also means that you can set some expectations more effectively.

  4. That was actually a nice post to whom ever wrote it.

  5. Is that you John? Good tips anyway …

  6. Melissa says:

    I was very confused after the first paragraph as well! John or not John? Decent post though. Also, the title is correct. It should be “An.” If the first letter makes a vowel-type sound, you use “an.”

  7. It happens anyway. It’s good that you got a huge backlog of well typed post or else it would be bad, pretty bad.

  8. Live4Game says:

    John working for somebody? That’s new…..

    1. Jack Mehoff says:

      That doesn’t make any sense. It’s more like people are working for John.

  9. Ms. Missive says:

    That’s a great post.

    I’m curious to know what sort of salary should be pitched at this sort of gig though. Does anyone have a price range they would charge a small business?

    Also, this definitely reads like a guest post….. I can’t imagine John wrote that about himself.

    1. Ms. Missive, a starting salary for me was easy to calculate; I just asked for as much as I had been making at my previous non-SEO related job, with the opportunity to have my salary revisited the work started to show results.

      And remember, if you are working full time for a company, then all of the website work and SEO you do is considered “work-for-hire” and not “independent contractor.” That means that if you leave that job, the employer owns all of the articles, website work, and any other writing you did for them on the job.

      This isn’t the case for Independent Contractors, though!

    2. It’s just depend upon on your skills

    3. well it does state, “This post was guest blogged by Phil Van Treuren of Contest Blogger.”

  10. My advice is:

    If your job is not related to doing SEO…then don’t even try it. It will consume all of your time and chances are you will do it wrong… just hire someone.

    1. Yup it’s time consuming but don’t difficult

    2. SEO doesn’t take up alot of time. Nor is it difficult.

  11. Picasso says:

    thanks, really good article!

  12. I realized also that it wasn’t John’s style but overall an interesting post….SEO is not a simple task and it will consume much time so follow the experts and you’ll make it happen.

    1. SEO is easy. Depends where your trying to optimize for however, if its Google – just go for the authoritive links and ensure that you have used etc tags.

  13. I think it was John who wrote this post.

    1. It’s a guest post – which is mentioned on the first line ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. dg says:

    Question for Phil Van Treuren: did the increased profits (not just revenues) realized by your employer exceed your salary as a SEO expert?

    1. I never had a salary as an SEO expert. Everything I know about SEO I taught myself from blogging, and only did that part time.

      My previous full-time job was a Technical Writer for a mortgage broker education company. So yes, the increased profits did exceed what I had been making from Internet Marketing up until then.

      1. dg says:

        I meant did your employer profit more than he paid you?

        1. Your employer should always profit more than he pays you. Why pay someone to work for you if it’s just going to allow you to break even?

          1. dg says:

            So in your case, what was the return-on-investment earned by hiring a SEO expert? By what % did profits increase after the SEO was complete? (I’m curious because I am considering paying an expert to do it vs. doing it myself)

  15. jtGraphic says:

    Nice article. That’s how I got started.

  16. Great post!
    Thank John

  17. BusinessX says:

    Basic sales is educating the buyer. For a SEO gig, explaining the demographics would help. Generationally, older people buy old school (phone book/print/etc) and younger buy online. In this example telling a company in the trades that the benefit of attracting younger home owners is that they have yet to establish a cadre of tradesmen to call. Get a young twenty something to call you in an emergency, you have them for life. A Internet campaign now could pay dividends that lasts for decades.

  18. Rahul says:

    I’m also quite interested in SEO. I’ve also recently installed the All-in-one SEO plugin for my website as well which was built on wordpress.

  19. i always follow your blog, and make blog and blog again to become like you. thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. nice post , i like the first point – educate your employer

  21. Justin says:

    I am a beginner in SEO and really does not know much about it. All I know is content is the king of website. How much I should pay if I have to hire an SEO expert for my site?

  22. Having the flexibility to make your own decisions is a big plus. SEOs/Web Developers work best when left to their own devices and not subject to the ever changing whims of the client.

    Once your client understands this, the relationship becomes much easier and beneficial to all parties.

  23. There are so many local businesses with poor sites and no SEO. You can start slowly and gather a few clients at a time.

  24. charles says:

    A great post for newbs, however the most important aspect that was overlooked in this article was metrics. Meaning the ability to quantify your results over that of which the company is already doing with print, yellowpages and other traditional media. Just because the phone rings does not mean it came from your SEO efforts. And a website visit could have come from a print ad, not through article marketing. This is the single biggest challenge to local SEO.

  25. What an informative post. I’d like to see more from Phil.

  26. I love this success story. John you don’t have many guest bloggers, do you? I think I can only recall seeing one before (but I dropped off the face of the earth over the past 6 weeks so who knows ๐Ÿ˜‰ Phil isn’t a blogger I’m familiar with, so I’m excited at the potential of a new regular read. We’ll see.

  27. OK it’s not a blog. Bummer.

  28. I educate myself here, to get more stuff

  29. Good post written by a guest blogger.However, having a small business blog and hadnling the SEO-part is actually very easy.All you need to do is come up with quality content regularly and thatยดs it.

    1. Jake Stone says:

      So true. If the service has value it will attract links. Every small entrepreneur should run their own website so that when customers contact you they immediately recognize your style.

      Jake Stoneโ€™s last blog post: Real estate sales

  30. Hey Phil,
    Great to read your success story. Its a true inspiration.
    I am a blogger and have been reading such posts for some time now and this is the best one till now.
    By the way, I visited your forum website. Its very cool.


  31. Toy Store says:

    I tend to be a jack of all trades. (I just accidentally typed hack of all trades…might be significant.) I’d love to be able to sit down and focus full time on something like SEO.

  32. game-girl says:

    SEO -dream-job has got many merits and liberties.It gives everybody a free hand.

  33. It seems as if true SEO is a double-edged sword because when you follow the rules to a T, you can easily get penalized for over-optimization.

    Practice SEO strategies with a balance in mind and remember to alternate anchor text between keyword phrases.

  34. Your article provides further proof that what we’ve been doing with our clients DOES work. By adding a few other IM techniques, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in their leads for clients. Local business marketing online is very effective. Thanks for bringing these opportunities to light!

  35. Tim says:

    Great article,

    I found myself in a similar situation earlier this year and followed the same path somewhat.



  36. Local is the way to go, Matt Cutts with google mentioned that recently as being a great opportunity for 09.

  37. game-girl says:

    Yes, he is a walking Google encyclopedia.

  38. Atniz says:

    A lot of companies will be looking ways to promote online and this would be the golden year for SEO experts to make extra cash. No need to work for the company.

  39. Thanks for providing this information and really it is very useful.

  40. I think its pretty easy starting and SEO firm, just difficult getting clients.

    1. Jake Stone says:

      You don’t say… almost like starting a website is easy but getting traffic is difficult. I wonder how “easy” it really is to start a SEO firm, basic presumption being there needs to be constant stream of customers for the company to have any meaning whatsoever.

      Jake Stoneโ€™s last blog post: Real estate sales

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