Today, the question every small business owner needs to ask himself is: will search engine users be able to find my business online?
The online visibility of a business is difficult to measure. Having a good website is just the beginning. SMBs need to be listed on leading directory sites, vertical and local sites and they need to know which sites will bring them the right customers and a lot of them (see our post on the importance of measuring SMBs’ online visibility for more on that).
Moreover, online visibility of SMBs is a relative term. To measure an SMB’s online visibility we have to compare it to the visibility of its competitors—local businesses in the same vertical and in the same market. For example, a New York dentist with a good website, who advertises on many directories, may have low online visibility, because his local competitors invest even more in online advertising. Conversely, a Milwaukee dentist, with a mediocre site and only a claimed profile on Google, may be the most visible dentist in his area because his competitors do not do much with their own online presence.
Take a look at how it looks on a map: A Boston dentist, Business A (the blue icon on the map), can see how visible his business is in comparison to 10 of his direct competitors. The green icons represent businesses that are more visible than Business A, and the red icons represent businesses that are less visible than Business A.
Business A, Beal Mark, advertises on an IYP site and is listed on various online directories. Most of his competitors have done less and are therefore less visible to new customers, like Business B, who has claimed his business profile on two leading search engines, but does not advertise. Other dentists are more visible to new customers, such as Business E, who advertises on an IYP site, and also uses PPC (Pay Per Click) ads on local sites.
It’s like the joke about the two friends who are walking in the jungle, when suddenly a tiger appears in the distance, running toward them. One friend pulls a pair of ‘Nikes’ out of his bag and quickly puts them on. With a surprised look, the other friend says, “You don’t really think you can out run that tiger with those?” “I don’t need to out run the tiger”, his friend replies, “I just need to run faster than you.”
Both SMB owners and companies that sell online advertising to SMBs should take this into account: not all markets and verticals are the same, and should be approached differently. While SMBs in some markets can get to the top of the list by spending just $20 a month, others, in more competitive markets, may need to spend thousands of dollars to gain online visibility.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.