Question: In a recent article you stress the importance of establishing a social media presence. You suggest hiring an expert to optimize one’s website. How do I find one and what are the costs involved?
 
Answer: Your website is a critical sales and marketing tool. However, before a prospect can interact with you, they must first find your website. Search engine optimization or SEO is the tool you must utilize in order for your site to appear on page one of the various internet browsers.
 
Selecting a SEO “expert” requires a fair amount of due diligence on your part. Most small business owners are digital marketing novices, making it hard to know what you are buying when you hire a SEO consultant.
 
Before you take the plunge make sure you have a basic understanding of what it takes to create an effective “selling” website. Google values quality content that’s helpful to the visitor and will reward quality content with higher search rankings.
 
Optimizing a website is both an art and science. You must educate your consultant about your products or services and who are your target customers. The consultant will likely run tests using certain “keywords” which is a trial and error process that takes time and patience.
 
There are many articles on the web that deal with SEO and the more you understand the process the better chance you have of creating an effective website.
 
Before you hire an SEO expert, check with other business owners who they trust to manage their websites. Invest in a consultant who genuinely wants to get to know your company and customers.
 
Regarding the costs involved, you must first develop your website. Hourly rates range from $50 to $150 or you can opt for a flat fee of $1,000 to $5,000 depending on the SEO consultant. Once the site is up and running monthly maintenance fees for managing and adding new content can run between $1,000 and $3,000. As with all things of value you can expect to get what you pay for. Your local SCORE counselor can assist you in choosing a qualified professional.
 
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Gray Poehler is a volunteer with SCORE Naples. Business counseling on this and other business matters is available, without charge, from the Naples Chapter of SCORE. Call (239) 430-0081 or visit https://naples.score.org/mentors .The SCORE business office is located at 900 Goodlette Road North, in the Fifth Third branch bank building. Office hours are 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.