By Ben Jacklet
Portland-based AboutUs is launching a new product today designed to help small businesses make the most of their websites.
It's called a Site Report, and it enables customers to learn easy-to-understand details about up to 50 pages of any website - what's working, what isn't and how to fix it. The cost is $9.95 per month, and the target market is the small business owner who does not have the time to keep up with the intricacies of search engine optimization. Typical clients for AboutUs include magicians, wedding photographers and e-commerce clothing retailers - all of whom rely on web traffic for business.
I met with the company's founder and CEO Ray King yesterday, along with Chief Strategy Officer Martin Laetsch, at the funky office in Portland's Central Eastside that serves as headquarters (complete with ping pong table in the conference room). The business has been through some changes, including the closure last year of its office in Pakistan. But King and Laetsch seemed optimistic that their new product, affordably priced and easily scaled, will lead to growth.
Founded in Portland in 2005, AboutUs has compiled a massive editable index of websites using wiki technology. Now it is marketing how-to-improve-your-website services to businesses in that index in jargon-free English.
King noted that it's becoming more important than ever for small businesses to rank high in web searches, because 93% of searchers do not go past the first page of 10 results, and most do not even scroll down from the top three or four. But he argues that it is never worth it to resort to "Black Hat" tricks and games to improve search results. "The goal is to build a reputation with credibility, good content and good services," he says.
Attempts to game Google and other search engines are "guaranteed to come back and bite you," King says. JCPenney, BMW and other top-tier businesses have suffered black-listing as a result of such practices.
"When people follow best practices, the web becomes a better place for everyone," says Laetsch. He joined the AboutUs team two years ago, having previously served as a consultant to Google. Laetsch says the idea behind the new site reports is to offer small businesses the same advantages that major businesses with large marketing budgets enjoy, to keep up with the latest in an ever-changing world. He notes that Google makes about 370 significant changes to its algorithm every year.
If the new product catches on, AboutUs could grow quickly. For now the company has two open positions. And as is often the case with tech ventures with huge potential upsides, the supply of potential employees has little in common with the rest of the Oregon economy. "It is very difficult to find the exceptional talent that we're looking for," says King.
Ben Jacklet is managing editor of Oregon Business.