Recently, we had an opportunity to sit down with George Bounacos. He is the founder and chief operating officer of Silver Beacon Marketing, a marketing services company that helps businesses establish a presence online and increase their profitability. In this first in a series of three posts, we asked George what small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) need to know to start focusing on search engine optimization.
What are the three most important things an SMB marketer should do when trying to improve search engine optimization (SEO)?
Write pages with meaningful content. Don't take shortcuts and follow all the rules. Google and Bing each publish "Webmaster Guidelines." Smart business leaders read them. They're short and written in plain English. Anything being done that runs counter to those guidelines is a serious issue that should be addressed.
Remember the axiom about things being too good to be true. That goes double for things on the Internet. Don't fall victim to someone who tells you they can buy you rankings or links or somehow have a deal with a search engine.
As someone who works with various businesses to advance their goals for SEO, what do you need from clients to be effective?
We work in a consultative mode where we learn about the businesses and their goals for the future. That means time with organization leaders to discuss how their websites meet or do not meet those goals. From a technical perspective, we need access to analytics packages the companies may have installed, web server logs and access to the web server.
Do you have any advice on how to choose a company to support online advertising, SEO and related support?
Online marketing still lacks a strong central authority that certifies marketers. Membership in various organizations is a nice credibility enhancer, but they accept everyone who pays dues. Search engine companies use tests to certify individuals and companies for advertising or analytics, but there are still several ways for bad people to cheat on those tests.
Like any other partner, a great way to choose a company is to ask for recent references. Make sure that you collect multiple names. Five would be ideal, but insist on no less than three. These should all be current clients or clients the agency has worked with in the last year.
Search the company and its employees on sites like LinkedIn and call the local consumer affairs department where the company is headquartered to learn if there are any outstanding complaints.
There is nothing wrong with hiring a freelancer instead of an agency, but insist on the same level of professional certifications. At a minimum, anyone touching your website should have be a licensed business with liability insurance if they have access to your website and corporate data.
George Bounacos, Silver Beacon Marketing's founder and COO, began an obsession with online businesses in the 1980s. The four startups of which he has been part have sold for a combined $96 million. While an executive at CARFAX.com, he created the company's Buy Back Guarantee program and led revenue generation from more than 20,000 businesses. Later, he managed a lead generation practice for an internet yellow pages firm. He has since launched two online businesses, including Silver Beacon, which focuses on profitability for small businesses and non-profits.
A graduate of George Mason University, Bounacos has been a Google AdWords professional for years. He judged the School of Management's undergraduate business case competition each semester for a decade and has guest-lectured in three other GMU business classes in the last two years. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors appointed Bounacos to a three-year term on the county's Consumer Protection Commission in 2009.
Bounacos co-chaired the American Diabetes Association's Step Out fundraising walk in Northern Virginia and led social media efforts for the International Children's Festival at Wolf Trap. Bounacos and Silver Beacon donate more than 400 hours of work each year to SPARC, an organization helping Northern Virginia adults with disabilities.
Silver Beacon Marketing's clients range from small businesses that receive one million daily visits to solo entrepreneurs.