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 Problem Of Inconsistent SMB Contact Details – Part II

Last month, I discussed the prevailing problem of small business owners whose contact details appear inconsistently across multiple local directories and search sites. When a barbershop can’t be found at the address that appears on Google because the owner changed locations and forgot to update his online profile(s), everybody loses – from the business owner to the search engines and most of all, the frustrated consumer who ends up at the wrong address. In this post, I will describe a few of the available solutions to this problem. As with most marketing tasks, a business owner can [...]


Research: The Key To SMB Knowledge

Having just returned from SMX West, I found my brain teeming with topic snippets related to online search marketing. SEO, trademark usage, display and search ad combo campaigns, the Microsoft-Yahoo! deal, mobile ads, and so many more. While the range of topics was vast, all of them fell within the spectrum of online marketing. And in this vast array of online marketing topics, one aspect kept popping up regardless of the theme of the session I was attending: research. Research: what is it good for? On its face, research sounds a bit intimidating. And it can be. Taken to ultimate levels, [...]


The Problem Of Inconsistent SMB Contact Details – Part I

Have you ever thought twice about how to find the correct contact details for a local business – i.e., their name, address, phone number? The answer should be so simple:  just Google it. Well, the reality is not that simple. In fact, few questions in the local online search world are as complicated as this one. This problem raised its head as soon as we started building AmIVisible. While working on adapting our SMB database with the information of millions of local businesses to the site, it became clear that many businesses have conflicting contact details across various sites. The p [...]


Local Search Complexity = SMB Frustration

In my role as president at GetListed.org, I sometimes receive emails from users asking why one local search engine or another is displaying an old location for their business, or why the search engines still aren't showing their new website address, or why the phone number listed for their retail location is actually the one for their warehouse. The short answer I give them is that they can likely fix their particular issues by verifying and updating their information at each search engine's Local Business Center or Local Listing Center individually. It's (usually) a fairly painless process [...]


Geo-Targeting For Local Placement: Just How Narrow Is OK?

Advertising exists to help merchants sell products and services to people who need those same products and services. Bringing the merchant together with the consumer is the objective. In the online sector how those two are brought together requires a combination of money, targeting, and compelling or persuasive ad copy. How are those elements joined? How do businesses make sure that ads for their products and services are viewed by a needy consumer? PPC advertising is part science, part art, and part prayer. A foundation for serving ads to the most desirable demographic comes through the us [...]


Doing All The Small Things Right

Many small businesses ask me, ‘how can I get found more online?’ Or, ‘I have a web site but I rank so low that I never get found so I get little traffic’. So you may expect me to answer:  "just list your business on Brownbook.net  (the global wiki style directory site that I founded with @daveingram) and you will be fine," but that’s NOT where I start. I start like a teacher in a classroom, ‘have you read the Google webmaster guidelines?’ Even as a person fearful of technology, the basics are listed, they clearly explain many areas that are blown out of proportion by som [...]


8 Opportunities To Optimize Content Beyond Local Listings

Not to beat a dead horse, but as I said in my last column, I think 2009 was truly a watershed year for local search. Between Google’s introduction of the generic 10-pack, its beta test of local listing ads, dramatic improvements to Bing’s Local Listing Center, and numerous partnerships throughout the industry— all of these developments and more have placed increased focus on local search and its integration into organic search results. Traditional search marketers far and wide – including some of the absolute best in the industry – have recognized that the 10-pack/7-pack has chang [...]


How To Get Customers And Keep Them Coming Back

Brand advocacy, reputation management, loyalty and reward programs are all the rage now, as consumers have unprecedented opportunity to broadcast their complaints as well as their satisfaction with businesses, specific purchases and customer service. What customers say is vitally important to the public perception of a business. While advocates and reputation managers may work to improve and enhance the image of a given company in the public eye, really only one thing is required to establish and maintain a good reputation among consumers: Provide the product you promise and support that produ [...]


Small Business Keywords On Google Maps

In a previous column, we saw that about 20% of Orlando businesses show up on Google Maps' first search engine results page (SERP) for at least one local keyword, and that 61% showed up in one of the first 50 SERPs. These figures surprised many, as they imply that one in five local businesses is highly optimized for Google Maps, a fact that is not consistent with the common perception of the online marketing skills of SMBs. The main criticism was that showing up for one keyword is far from being enough. In most categories, the critics claimed, local businesses have to rank high for multiple [...]


Do You Know What Your Customers Say About Your Business?

Do you ever read reviews of companies you do business with? Do you read product reviews before buying a new camera, vacuum cleaner, or computer? If so, you are not alone! According to Lynn Terry on Clicknewz.com, 90% of consumers use reviews at least some of the time when planning purchases. That being said, as owner of a SMB, you want to help your customers recognize the merits of your business and the products you offer. And beware the unhappy customer. An unhappy customer may post reviews that can damage your company’s reputation and persuade potential customers to shop elsewhere. Do not [...]


Keyword Visibility For Orlando Local Businesses

In order to be found online by potential customers, local businesses can take action in a number of ways. In my last post, I presented data on how many Columbus businesses advertise online, publish a website, or update their online listing. When properly implemented, these actions can significantly improve a local business’s online visibility. However, many businesses who spend precious time and hard earned money on building a website or on advertising online fail to see the desired results. Worse yet, many business owners do not even know how to measure success in terms of online visibil [...]


The “Other 20%” Of Local SEO: Advanced Ranking Factors

Last month, I highlighted 10 fundamentals of Local SEO, most of them involving techniques to ensure consistent, accurate business data at the major search engines, and some simple on-site recommendations. I compared those strategies with the football analogy of "blocking and tackling" -- basic no-brainers that will lay the foundation for success in local search. In fact, like so many other business phenomena, local SEO seems to follow the Pareto Principle: 20% of your optimization efforts (taking care of last month's basics) will get you about 80% of your results, especially when it comes [...]


SMB Online Visibility In 2nd Tier Cities

A lot of statistical data and analysis is published about SMB online activity in the top US markets, often leaving out many of the tier two cities. In this post, I will share some data on the online visibility of local businesses in Columbus, Ohio. With a population of some 750K, Columbus and its surrounding area are home to over 80K small to  medium businesses. As it turns out, many Columbus business owners are active online, building websites, updating their listings and advertising their business on various sites. The following chart shows the percentage of Columbus SMBs who have a visi [...]


Why I’m NOT Drinking The “Real-time Local Search” Kool-Aid

I'm hearing more and more about "Real-Time Local Search" - that phrase is popping up everywhere; but I'm just not buying the hype that positions it as some amazing new essence that businesses and consumers must embrace... sorry. I acknowledge that it's useful to have a label to refer to this concept, but is it revolutionary? Or, is it the next stage in an evolutionary process?  Stay with me a little and I'll explain why I think it's an evolution, and also what small and local businesses should be doing about it. I recently attended the excellent Local Social Summit 2009 event where I ha [...]


Blocking And Tackling: 10 Fundamentals Of Local SEO

We’ve reached the midpoint of fantasy football season, and in our SEMpdx league, my team is hanging on to a playoff slot by a thread.  (Yes, I am "that guy" who roots for the Patriots to get into the red zone and then stall out, just so my fantasy kicker Stephen Gostkowski gets a chance at a few more field goals.) One of my favorite halftime interview clichés from NFL coaches is "we’ve just got to do a better job of blocking and tackling." While that’s sometimes a euphemism for "the other team is way better than us," in other cases the coach means his superstar team is getting slopp [...]


Man Cannot Live By PPC Alone. Can He?

Much has been written lately about the value of combining text ads with display/image advertising online in order to boost visibility and brand awareness. This trend is not necessarily a new one: Yahoo/comScore issued a study in 2006 showing an increase in "online and offline purchasing by consumers who are exposed to integrated campaigns" that combined search and display. It struck me that using only search ads or display ads or even a combination of the two needn’t be the only method by which small businesses tap into their potential customer pool. I would suggest that there are a variety [...]


Can Search Marketing Generate Emails To Local Businesses?

Local businesses typically use search marketing to achieve two main objectives: getting customer calls and walk-ins. They do this by publishing their address and phone number in search engines and local directories so that an interested customer can take action one way or another - by walking into a restaurant or calling a plumber for example. But while getting more customers on the phone or through the door is the declared offering of many SEM agencies, "Advertise with us and your mailbox will be packed with new emails every day!" is one advertising slogan that you would be hard presse [...]


What Is A QR Code And Why Do You Need One?

We all know that one of the keys to great SEO is making sure you keep your website updated, new and fresh. Whether you do this with a blog, or you change your homepage with new offers, coupons or new products, it serves to show Google that your site is "alive." For many small businesses in particular, this is a real challenge. So you already have great, fresh content on your site—what’s next? Do you know what is coming that may benefit your small business? Have you heard of QR codes yet? Here is a quick introduction: What Are QR codes? They look like this: They come to us fr [...]


Be Wary Of Call Tracking Numbers In Local Search

Call-tracking phone numbers are often hailed as a best practice strategy in paid search campaigns thanks to their ability to demonstrate a specific number of conversions or inquiries generated by the campaign. The kind of at-a-glance analytics these numbers offer make it easy for businesses and search agencies to calculate Return On Investment, a desirable metric for both parties to gauge the success or failure of their engagement. Agencies and service providers are eager to demonstrate the value of their SEM acumen to small businesses and large corporations alike, and because it’s suc [...]


5 Easy Ways To Make Sure Your Website Is Good To Go!

I have worked in the online ad world for a few years now, and have had the opportunity to review a large number of websites. Many were full of information with lots of bells and whistles and features that made them appear sophisticated, while others were skeletal in content and simple in their organization. Either of these types of sites may glean terrific results for the small business owner, but there are a few aspects that help to ensure that a search campaign launches successfully with very rapid ramp up in traffic delivery. Here are a few suggestions that may seem obvious, but you’d be [...]


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