Small Is Beautiful is for the millions of small businesses that have to compete against larger, often better staffed and funded rivals for top positions in search rankings and ads. Columnists offer creative advice and tips that smaller, nimble search marketers can exploit to gain a competitive advantage online.

The Importance Of Measuring Mobile Impact On Offline Conversions For Small Businesses

How often do you perform a mobile phone or Internet search for a business and immediately call that business? I’m betting fairly often. You are not alone – your customers do this all the time! At Marchex, we specialize in digital advertising solutions for small businesses. Over the years, we have learned a lot about the needs of our small business customers and we’ve spent a significant amount of time monitoring and measuring how changing digital advertising trends and consumer adoption of new devices, like smartphones, impact the way small businesses sell products and services. To [...]

How To Find The Right Local & Vertical Sites For Your Small Business

Most small business owners understand that they should be listed on major national search engines such as Google and Bing, but how do they know which local directories and vertical sites are important for improving their SEO? If you’re a dentist in Boston looking for local sites, you could look at the listings of other Boston businesses, such as Boston Standard Plumbing: If you want to find vertical sites, you could look at the listings of other dentists, such as Tribeca Dental Associates in New York: Even better, you would want to look at businesses that are in both your locale a [...]

6 Simple SEO Tips For Small Businesses

In Marchex’s field research and surveys with small businesses, SEO consistently surfaces as a growing priority for small businesses. When we asked small businesses how important SEO was for their business, 53% said "very important." Further, considering the ongoing changes to search engine algorithms (e.g., Google’s recent "Panda Update") and the big impact these changes can have on a business’s ranking, it is imperative that small businesses take a thoughtful approach to their SEO strategy. Here are some simple SEO techniques any small business can do today to boost its search [...]

3 Ways Small Businesses Can Use Social Media To Drive Customer Loyalty

Customer loyalty is at the heart of every business, both large and small. One common industry statistic that is referenced time and again is that it is five times more profitable to spend marketing dollars to keep your best customers rather than acquiring new ones. Small businesses get this equation in spades. A Harvard Business Review study demonstrated that recovering only five percent of abandoning customers could increase profitability by 30 to 85 percent. Recently, Marchex asked several hundred small businesses in a customer survey what was most important, and "keeping existing cust [...]

Listen Up, Small Businesses: Your Customers Are Telling You Something

Last week’s inaugural Conversational Commerce Conference (C3) was dedicated to bringing together relevant groups and influencers to discuss the growing connection between marketing and customer service. Core to this discussion was the rapid adoption of social media and mobile Internet-enabled devices, and how these trends are being leveraged by businesses both large and small, to reach and build relationships with customers. In addition to attending the conference, I had the opportunity to present how small businesses can  improve their bottom line by capturing and analyzing what cust [...]

The Connection Between Facebook Citations & Google Place Pages

Google and Facebook’s ongoing battle to dominate the Internet can make it difficult to understand some Internet trends. This is further complicated by the fact that Facebook is blocking the Googlebot from crawling its pages. However, Google does have quite a few Facebook pages in its index – a quick search suggests as many as 2.6 billion: When you check out Google Place Pages for small businesses, you do find many references to Facebook. Here’s an example of a plumber in Boston with a Facebook citation on his Place Page: The fact that there is a Facebook citation here do [...]

How To Reduce SEM Churn With Integrated Customer Intelligence

Turnover in the SEM world has been a long-standing challenge as annual churn estimates from Borrell Associates range from 50-70 percent. While every organization cites a slightly different number, the issue represents real revenue dollars as finding and onboarding a new client or a new SEM agency is no small endeavor. However, with new tools that engage SMBs in monitoring their advertising performance, I expect SEM agency churn will likely subside in 2011 and retention levels will normalize. The Churn Challenge For Small Businesses Part of the SEM churn challenge is that SMBs typically we [...]

How To Get More Granular With Hyperlocal And Vertical Site Listings

Most small businesses understand that they should be listed on major national search engines such as Google and Bing, but how do they know which local and vertical sites are important for improving their overall SEO performance? For example, if you’re a plumber in Boston looking for local sites to post your business listing on, you could look at the listings of other Boston businesses, by running a query for "Boston Plumbing" to find other local sites: If you want to find vertical sites, you could look at the listings of other dentists, such as Tribeca Dental Associates in New York [...]

Does Being Listed In Multiple Cities Help A Truly Local Business?

If a business doesn’t have a storefront, is mobile, or provides a service to a large geographical area, it is logical that the business owner would want to be listed online in multiple cities. Service providers such as locksmiths, lawyers, accountants, and chains often get their business optimized for the many areas they service. As Chris Silver Smith wrote, it’s very important for these types of business to rank in multiple cities in Google. What one wouldn’t expect to see is a simple storefront business in a single location, such as a salon, getting listed across a large geographica [...]

Local SEO Tips For Franchise Operations

Recently, a friend of mine who works in SEO called to pick my brain about why a particular business wasn’t showing up well online. The business, a Family Dollar Store franchise in Albuquerque, received an 8% customer reach score. When he searched on Google for "dollar store" in Albuquerque, the business did not show up on the first results page. The business also did not appear for the following relevant keywords that their competitors did: To better understand why this franchise had a low visibility, we compared them to another franchise – in the same city – that did appear on [...]

Using Citations To Optimize Google Maps Ranking

One of the most important factors in one’s ranking on Google is your volume of citations (i.e. mentions of your business name and address, not just links to your site.) The challenge lies not in obtaining hundreds of citations from any site, but by getting the right citations from the right places. That is, the sites that Google values for your type of business. A good way to determine which citations one needs is by researching the competition and using their citations as a guide – much as one would do with link building for site ranking improvements. The process seems relatively strai [...]

9 SEO Realities For Small Businesses

David Ingram and I recently had the pleasure of sitting with Tom Critchlow from Distilled (SEO consultants) for a few hours to asses our local business directory, A whole load of notes and actions flowed from the meeting -- some of which may be very useful to others. Here are a few points to consider (any input, comments, tips, notes, thoughts… gratefully received): 1. Homepage footers are bad news and may even carry penalties – solution: integrate the footer navigation into the content on pages. 2. Information architecture is key to a well indexed site -- how do th [...]

Advertising Online Costs Too Much Money!

It's a perceived problem with small business advertising. Anecdotal evidence from local online customers indicates that one of the sore spots for small business owners involves the cost of online advertising. Hmm. To my knowledge what one spends on advertising is determined by how much the advertiser is willing to spend. Cost is controlled by the advertiser, especially when the ads are in the online space. That being said, there is no question that many small businesses have been buffeted by the economic storm that the country has endured over the past few years. In continuing efforts to ke [...]

What Keywords Am I Missing?

The typical process that an SMB will go through when building an online marketing campaign usually begins with defining their target audience, performing keyword research, analyzing which words bring the most traffic and conversions, and utilizing keyword research tools such as Keyword Discovery. Upon taking these steps, SMB owners will wait to see their results on search engines, make the necessary tweaks, and eventually reach a higher position in online search results. If you do your homework, the process seems fairly straightforward. Here’s an example of a plumber in Chico, CA who c [...]

How Can SEM Affect The SMB Purchase Funnel?

Could Search Engine Marketing (SEM) companies offer more to small businesses? Are the current SEM services in the market just part of a whole suite of initiatives that a small to medium enterprise (SME) needs to grasp to be successful online? What are those extra pieces of the jigsaw and how do they fit in to an online marketing strategy for SMEs? My co-founder here at, David Ingram recently created an initial 'draft' matrix of services and initiatives as part of our ongoing market evaluation (please do add comments below ie. general input, thoughts, links to relevant supplier [...]

Do Small Businesses Need A Website?

Attaining a much-coveted spot on the Google 7-pack can be tough, especially for competitive keywords and in major cities. Business owners are advised to build an effective website and optimize it as one of the crucial factors in obtaining a better ranking. The common assumption today is that without a website, most businesses will have lower online visibility. This is a story about a small business practitioner who made it to the Google pack - without a website - in a competitive category in Manhattan. As a starting out cardiologist working in a New York City clinic, she depends greatly upo [...]

Get Back To Where Your Listings Once Belonged

This is a story about how much can be lost by mis-categorizing your business. We received a complaint from an Oregon art supply store that they were being incorrectly compared to an irrelevant business. The so-called competitor, called Hair’s Where It’s At, was also categorized as an art supply store on AmIVisible. Our initial assumption was that we had somehow erred, but we decided to take a look to be sure. It turned out that Hair’s Where It’s At is listed on major directories and search engines under the following categories: For example, Google Maps had categorized the [...]

Survey Says? Just Tell Me What You Want!

A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece on the importance of research for small businesses; how research provides critical insight to customer wants and needs, and how research may focus the direction of a given business model. Well, now it is time for me to take my own advice! I’ve been offering my views via the "Small Is Beautiful" column in Search Engine Land for seven months now, and while there have been numerous retweets and a few comments about my musings, I don’t have a clear notion as to whom my customers are. Since it seems that I’ve not done my research, I’m asking for yo [...]

Small Businesses With Low Online Visibility Can Easily Improve

When you ask small business owners if they want their business ranked high on the Internet, nearly all answer in the affirmative. But how many of them invest in their online visibility? To answer this question, we took a look at businesses in San Diego and calculated their visibility on search engines, directories and yellow pages sites. We discovered an interesting distribution between those with low, medium, and high online visibility. The graph below depicts the online visibility of 194K San Diego small busineses: As we see on the left side of the chart, the majority of busines [...]

The Mobile Year…Again?

As I’m sure many of you have heard, this is the year of mobile. Well, a year of mobile, if you listened to Steve Ballmer of Microsoft at SMX West last month. Regardless of whether mobile search hits the volume levels that have been suggested, what is clear -- is that mobile ads, mobile search, and smartphone use for local businesses has gained traction this year. It stands to grow through this year and onward. What does this mean for an owner of a small business? Getting found on the go For companies that offer goods buyers may want while on the go, having a mobile presence provides a [...]

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