For SMBs, The Time Is Now To Embrace Search Advertising

As a recently as a few years ago, the owner of a small or local business could legitimately ask, “Why should I buy search ads?” After all, he or she first faced the hassle of setting up an ad campaign in a relatively foreign platform — then, assuming they got ads served, maybe people clicked. But at the cost, what benefit was the advertiser really receiving?

If you are not an online business, how do you translate a click into something an SMB can understand — and place value on? It was simply impossible to know. And who can blame them? According to our research, proving ROI is the top need for local advertisers, especially small businesses.

SMB Indications

Since that time, however, search advertising has reached a tipping point. Today, the search advertising industry has products and features that make it easy to use, affordable and relevant to small and local businesses regardless of location, business model, number of storefronts or the digital sophistication of its employees.

Plus, search advertising platforms and tools now provide real clarity and insight into how advertising dollars are performing against metrics they can understand.

Put Yourself On The Map

First, any local business is missing out by not taking advantage of free listing services on Bing and Google. These allow businesses to input local store information and even upload pictures, list specialties and services.

These listings fuel many of Google and Bing’s products and services — including the search engine results page experience and map tools — which are used by hundreds of millions of consumers every month. Simply put, local businesses are missing out on impressions, clicks and possibly leads by not participating.

Search Is Going Mobile

It pays to understand just how the search world is evolving. A few years ago, search was a PC-centric function — someone would sit at a keyboard in their home or office when they searched for [Seattle Italian restaurant] or [shoe stores in Santa Monica].

That’s changing — fast. An IDC release earlier this year showed smartphones now out-sell features phones worldwide, with 216 million smartphones sold in the first quarter of 2013. In that same quarter, tablet sales also surged, growing 142 percent, with more than 49 million sold. In fact, tablets are the fastest-growing tech device ever released.

What does that mean for small businesses? It means your potential customers now are connected regardless of their location. They could be in a car a mile away, or walking a block away, when they search for a service or product you might be in a position to provide. According to comScore, 86 million people used a mobile device to search for local businesses in the past year.

Now, search advertising platforms such as Bing Ads and Google AdWords offer tools that can help small and local businesses more effectively reach those on-the-go customers. For instance, both platforms have a Call Extensions feature, which shows searchers your phone number within your ad. On Google, users with mobile devices that support phone calls can simply tap on the number to call you. Bing call extensions are powered by Skype, allowing users to place a call to your business from any device.

These ad products only charge you when a call is completed, including providing reports to help you track and manage the performance of these ads. This is a KPI that SMBs can understand: I pay each time my phone rings. This is hugely powerful, as searchers will make an estimated 70 billion phone calls from search results (using mobile devices or PCs) by 2016.

Make It Easier For Them To Locate You

Another advance in search advertising for local companies is its ability to send customers directly to your doorstep. In fact, 85% of consumers use the Internet to find local businesses. Similar to Call Extensions, AdWords and Bing Ads offer ads called Location Extensions, which give searchers an address, phone number and a link for directions.

Local information continues to be the primary information customers look for, and clicking on directions provides them an easy way to physically get to your business whether they are at home or on the move. Like Call Extensions, advertisers only pay when consumer click to get directions — another action that local business will not only understand but also see the value in.

Target Those Around You

Both Bing Ads and AdWords provide many options when it comes to targeting — time of day or week, age or gender and so forth. Of all these options, local businesses can really benefit by taking advantage of Location Targeting to ensure that their ad gets in front of the right customers — this makes the best use of advertising dollars by reducing waste.

You even can specify the size of the radius around your location where you want your ad seen. So, if you want only searchers within, say, five miles to see your ad, you can make that happen.  That kind of “geo-targeting” simply didn’t exist a handful of years ago, and it’s perfect for the small business. Getting your ad in front of the right people — that is the value of targeting.

Search Is Easier Than Ever

Search providers understand that small businesses don’t have the time or resources to deal with the complications of creating search-advertising campaigns. So, Bing and Google both provide tools that make campaign creation easier, removing the complexities of things such as figuring out what keyword modifiers to use.

Our offering is called Bing Ads Express, and it’s just the thing for most time-starved small businesses. You start by telling us about your business – name, address, phone number, business category, etc. Then, you create an ad based on templates that are all ready to go. Finally, define your budget and the distance from your location which you want Bing Ads to reach people.

Then, Bing Ads Express takes all the power of Bing Ads to create an effective ad for your business. You can check in whenever you like to see how your ad is doing and who is responding to it.

Understand Your Ad Spend

My last point applies to what I wrote at the top of this piece: That it used to be hard for a small business owner to understand the return on investment from search advertising.

Today, Bing and Google take much of the mystery out of understanding your search-advertising spend with analytic tools and ad products that make it plain what your ad dollars are doing, such as driving phone calls and helping people locate your store. And, this is only the beginning as both companies make substantial investments in evolving their platforms to meet the unique needs of traditional SMBs.

With all that search advertising offers a small business firm today, it’s clear that there is no better time to take the next step toward making your business more successful. For small businesses, search advertising is no longer a luxury – it’s an everyday essential.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords | Microsoft: Bing Ads | Paid Search Column | Search Marketing: Local Search Marketing


About The Author: is responsible for Microsoft Search Advertising’s global brand marketing and communications activities, which includes Bing Ads. He has over 15 years of digital marketing experience across a diverse set of industries, including Entertainment, Technology/Software, Advertising, and Creative Services. John has been overseeing search advertising campaigns for over 10 years.

Connect with the author via: Email | LinkedIn


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  • JustConsumer

    Good example of the smart marketing.

    All presidents/founders/co-founders of NoName companies, publishing obviously promotional articles all around, should study how does smart marketing look like.
    Feel the difference between smart marketing and annoying promotion.

  • Jerry Nordstrom

    To expand on John’s points. The local businesses I work with often find these advantages of PPC advertising most compelling.

    You hit on the radius targeting which is clearly very valuable.

    Target any device – I can target a Smartphone only, a PC or both. Businesses that have know the phone call is a key piece of the conversion funnel find this option very lucrative. Tow truck, locksmith

    Exclude or target specific keywords, demographics and Geographics.
    A basic set of options we have all used, but when properly implemented the ability to reduce unwanted expensive traffic and hone in on your perfect prospect is awesome.

    Exclude or target specific websites through display ads.
    Place your ads on the exact pages of a highly trafficked website that YOU KNOW is perfect for your local audience.

    Reporting/Analytics – Automating the generation of high level reports gives the small business owner the information they need in a format they can consume.

    Attribution reports
    Many small businesses have never evaluated how their sales happen in great detail, “we get referrals” is a common refrain. Attribution reports really opens their eyes to exactly how their customers are behaving throughout their sales journey. It also helps them understand why a mix of ppc, social, and seo are all important to the conversion funnel.

    I have many more from my own perspective, but these are the ones that I have found small businesses really latch on to.

  • Alan Mitchell

    Although it seems simple, and is nothing new, I strongly believe there are massive opportunities for SMBs to stand out from the competition by providing more relevant and tailored ads:

    Businesses who struggle to get a good ROI from search advertising need to seriously look at their campaign execution.

  • alidaxla627

    My Uncle Gavin got
    Infiniti QX80 SUV from only workin part time on a home computer… pop over
    here B­i­g­2­9­.­ℂ­o­m

  • Thomas

    hey, i bought my Russian bride there, wait, sweet heart is that you? Farticals and Flogs are the future didnt ya know.


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