Just the other day, I read a tweet from a teenage entrepreneur decrying how SEO is a waste of time. Why chase a couple hundred extra daily visitors to your website by becoming a slave to content and ever-changing search engine best practices? Why not master the blacker arts of growth hacking and see real, big, fast results? 

For many small business owners — who don't have the time to even open a dictionary to look up "growth hacking" let alone carry out a long-term SEO and content marketing strategy — such announcements could just throw salt in wounds.

SEO Band-Aid

To the rescue with an SEO band-aid may be a new, inexpensive way for smaller operations to gain insights into how well their digital marketing efforts are going. The product — one-time, custom marketing and SEO data reports — promises to offer a "quick dive" into the same types of data that larger, more sophisticated brands spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to attain through subscriptions to high-test tools. Data such as competitor discovery, keyword results, social media connections, and SEO and website recommendations.

The purveyor, San Francisco-based GinzaMetrics, touts that no subscription is necessary for their new offering. Its reports begin at $200. Its target market?

“Sometimes those organizations aren’t ready to commit to taking the time or the resources to commit to a full platform, but they still want the insights it can provide," said Ray Grieselhuber, GinzaMetrics founder and CEO in a statement.

The use scenarios are easy to imagine. A small agency is about to head into an important pitch and whips up a one-time report to impress the prospective client with intel on its competitors. Or a marketing director at a small firm faces a quarterly review and taps a report to prove her worth to the sales and finance bosses. 

You've Got Options

Then again, it’s easy to imagine that less expensive, potentially as powerful tools might do the trick. SEO specialists like Kari DePhillips, owner of digital agency The Content Factory, can easily rattle off a list of reasonably priced tools like Moz, SEMrush, SEOsitecheckup and Google Keyword Planner.

Certainly, anyone who ever managed a website knows about Google Analytics and its ability to help monitor traffic and campaigns (and how a decent version is free). For others, Facebook is another virtually free, or relatively cheap, digital marketing data goldmine.

"One of the best tools for both marketing and analytics of that marketing is through Facebook. Facebook provides the ability for small business operations to do marketing to their specific demographic and peer group, and then track how successful those efforts have been," says Alexander Ruggie, PR director for digital marketing agency for MilestoneSEO.

Learning Opportunities

Or surprising tools.

"One of the best SEO tools isn't actually an SEO tool at all, it's a PR tool," says DePhillips. "Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a great way for small business owners to DIY their own PR, and in the process it can help them develop a network of backlinks that are great for SEO."

DePhillips conducted an experiment going "hard at HARO" for a month, after which she earned 11 high-quality backlinks (a provider of SEO mana).

But Are They Solutions?

Then again, it makes sense to wonder if time-constrained, resource-constrained marketers and small business owners can afford to "go hard" with any of these tools. Can they wield even inexpensive SEO analytics well — even one-off SEO reports?

"These tools are great for snapshots of campaigns and their success. Ultimately, though, without constant input and new campaigns launched regularly for an increased data pool, the information found through these tools will be limited and not likely the marketing silver bullet that small companies were hoping for," Ruggie says.

That brings us back to our teenage tweep. Maybe he was on to something with his SEO angst.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  andrechinn