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.

Thoughts On Categorization In Local Search

Properly categorizing your business at Google Maps is one of the most important Local Search Ranking Factors, as I mentioned in last month's column. There's been a lot of chatter about business categories since then, most notably at the Local Search Summit in San Jose, during August's Search Marketing Now webinar on Local Search, and on Mike Blumenthal's Understanding Google Maps blog. Fellow Small Is Beautiful columnist Hanan Lifshitz offered a glimpse into how most IYP portals categorize the average small business in his own column last month. He found that over 60% of SMB's in Alexandria [...]

What Is The Potential For Growth In SMB Online Marketing?

The handful of SEM companies that we work with at Palore make millions of calls to Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) every year. This raises the question of whether the market for SMB online advertising is saturated, and how much room there is for growth. A good (albeit somewhat simplistic) way of answering that question is by looking at how many SMBs are currently marketing themselves online, and more importantly, how many are not. It is this latter group, local business owners who still don't advertise or otherwise promote themselves online, that defines the room for growth in this indus [...]

You Don’t Own Your Own Business Details Anymore

Who owns your business details - your phone number, address, company name? As the owner of a business, do you have the right to choose where your details are listed online in search engines, directory sites, blogs, forums, social networks, and, do you have the right to force such sites to remove your details? What are the rights and wrongs of this issue? A quick look back in time will shed some light on the matter. Business listings first went public in the form of the printed Yellow Pages directory in 1886 thanks to Reuben H. Donnelley. The listings were, however, only accessible by geo [...]

A Closer Look At Local Search Ranking Factors

I am continually amazed by, and thankful for, the efforts of the Local Search Ranking Factors panelists. The survey remains one of the most visited pages on my website (right up there with my blog's homepage) despite being static for 364 days a year. I receive weekly or even semi-weekly emails or comments thanking me for putting the study together; credit really should go to the participants! It's clearly a lot to digest in one sitting, so in this month's SEL column, I thought I would take a little deeper look at a few of the responses that I found most interesting.  While these responses [...]

How Many Categories Should A Local Business Have?

When dealing with someone, the first thing that you want to know, is who that person is. In the SMB world, this boils down to what category a local business belongs to. In the old days of the yellow pages, consumers were used to knowing search the pages for, and media companies were used to selling to many distinctly different categories of SMBs. However, in today's online reality, we find that many local businesses fall into multiple categories. For example, "L & G Drain Cleaning" from Falls Church, VA, has 5 categories on Superpages (Plumbing Contractors, Sewer & Drain Cleaning Se [...]

Local Search Marketing: More Than Just Google

From marketers to Wall Street analysts to the Department of Justice, everyone (even the general public) recognizes that Google is the 800-pound gorilla in the world of search. And particularly with the introduction of the generic 10-pack to Universal results, this fact largely holds true in Local Search as well. Google Maps has pulled even with Mapquest thanks largely to this decision by the higher-ups in Mountain View. There's tremendous value for small businesses in optimizing for Google's Universal results, as Hanan Lifshitz pointed out last week. It's hard not to imagine that small bus [...]

It’s All About Local Organic Domination

Lately I've been speaking with SEM experts about what small business owners should do to increase their online visibility. While opinions vary, most experts agree about the importance of ranking high on Google's various organic search results. Listening to them explain what a local business can hope to achieve, I found that the language was hardly ever about being the "only winner" in a category, but rather being in the "leading group of search results". This is consistent with the reality of search, where we are used to seeing multiple results in each page. Being "among" the 10-pack is oft [...]

Do-It-Yourself SEO Advice For SMBs

In last week's Small Is Beautiful column, Hanan Lifshitz posed the question "Do SMBs Still Need the Middleman to Advertise?" It's an especially timely question, given the recent Borrell report about the number of small businesses who cancel their contracts with online advertising providers within a year. The short version of my reaction to the study is that there are simple explanations for this churn: a sales mentality rather than a service mentality on the part of the providers, and an exclusive focus on scalable Pay-Per-Click offerings as opposed to organic SEO, which req [...]

Do SMBs Still Need The Middleman To Advertise?

Having worked in the local search space for a while, I am often asked how is it that SMBs are so slow in adopting self-serve systems in their online advertising. And indeed, in the age of Internet advertising, when anyone can purchase keywords on search engines, is there really a need for a middleman anymore? While an important function of these middlemen is to convince the local plumber or dentist to spend their hard earned money on online advertising, they also help guide the SMB owner through the planning phases of the ad campaign, explaining the various options and helping to optimize t [...]

How To Handle Negative Reviews Of Your Business

The rise of websites that empower consumers to write reviews of our businesses is causing many business owners anxiety, or even outright rage. Of course we love it when people say great things about our business, but what about when they say bad things? Do we really have a reason to fear? Just how significant are bad reviews for the future of our businesses? How can we insure against them? And how can we control what’s said? Here are my practical views on some of the myths and realities of the feared bad review, and some tips on dealing with them. First off, it’s important to realize [...]

All Aboard The Twitter Train, SMBs!

Twitter has reached critical mass.  Oprah's recent announcement that she'd joined Twitter, and her near-instantaneous recruitment of over 1,000,000 followers, has signaled a tipping point—tweeting is no longer a pastime exclusively for the technorati and uber-geeks.  In fact, it seems like elitist spinsters are the only demographic not to embrace it yet at some level (anticipating protests from Maureen Dowd devotees—no, this is not her actual Twitter account). Unsurprisingly, the Brits are way ahead of us in terms of Twitter adoption, having been much faster to incorporate mob [...]

Gauging The Online Visibility Of SMBs

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 t [...]

A Guide To Video Search Marketing For Small Businesses

Search engines are pushing the universal search movement to evolve results into a multimedia-rich blend of images, maps, local and video. As a result, search engine algorithms will look more favorably on video content for the top spots on their result pages, meaning the opportunity for exposure increases for any video producer that is on top of its SEO game. So says my friend and Kelsey Group analyst Michael Boland, and I have to agree when I see searches like "reclaimed fireplaces lewes" yield eight out of the ten first page spots on Google taken by video (at time of writing). What you’ [...]

Google’s Generic Local 10-Pack: Boon Or Bust For Small Business?

Last month, I moderated a fantastic session at Searchfest '09 subtitled "Little Is the New Big." But had our conference taken place on April 10 rather than March 10, even that ambitious tagline wouldn't have done the panel justice. That's because two weeks ago, Google decided to start showing 10-packs and other local results (including an authoritative onebox!) for non-geo-targeted keywords. Whoa.  Talk about a game-changer.  This change has impacted (or will soon impact, for those that haven't figured out local search yet) businesses of all sizes. Just in law search results alone, [...]

Opportunities For Small Businesses Online

Our clients often ask us for help in picking their next markets and verticals—they are usually interested in the hot markets and verticals, where many small and medium businesses (SMBs) already invest money online. Palore provides this information by analyzing millions of web pages and seeing which SMBs advertise and where they advertise. The chart below shows the penetration of SMB advertisers on leading IYP sites in 8 verticals, covering 8 major cities. The bright blue cells indicate a low percentage of advertisers in a specific market/vertical, darker cells indicate higher percenta [...]

A Google Alternative For Small Business: Breadcrumbs & Business Directories

So, you’ve junked your day job and made the commitment to your shiny new startup business. You’ve created your website, and what’s the first thing you do now?  Like just about every other startup business person you do the search on Google for your business name. At this point, two things might happen: You discover you "own" the first page of Google results and you feel satisfied that you’re now on the map, or Your business is nowhere to be seen, and you lapse into a state of abject depression OK, so it’s not quite as binary as that, but you get my point.  What we’r [...]

March Madness Strategies For Small Businesses

Some of you may know that around this time every year, I come down with a serious case of NCAA Tournament fever.  During the month of March, when people ask for my phone number, I respond "65-32-16-8-4-2-1."  Assuming clients are able to get a hold of me somehow, all of my doodles during phone calls somehow turn into brackets. I find myself buying lottery tickets with the numbers 8-9, 7-10, 6-11.  An unseen force compels me to blurt out "5-12 upset!" every so often on the street, drawing stares from my fellow Portlanders.  So please indulge me this month as I feebly try to draw a compar [...]

The Importance Of Measuring SMBs’ Online Visibility

The term "online visibility" usually refers to the visibility of sites on the web.  This column will discuss the online visibility of small and medium businesses (SMBs) and why it is harder to define, identify and measure SMB presence than web site visibility. Web site visibility consists of several relatively easy to measure features such as how well the site appears in search results on search engines or how many external links lead back to the website The online visibility of an SMB is more complex. For one thing, the way a website appears online is very conclusive: the site has an e [...]

Tips For Optimizing Your Local Business Listings, Courtesy of SMX West

In last month's column, I highlighted the need for search marketers, search engines, and data providers to reach out to small business owners to increase their awareness of the free opportunities to claim their businesses online.  Well, the two excellent Local Search panels at SMX West, put together by Search Engine Land's own Greg Sterling, did just that. It's just a shame there weren't more small business owners in attendance! So for SMB's reading this column, I thought I'd highlight a few key takeaways related to maximizing your presence via local business listings. In the first pane [...]

And Your Next SMB Advertiser Is…Already An Advertiser

SMBs who wish to advertise online now have many options: vertical sites, local sites, search engines, traditional and new directories; SMB owners need only choose where they would like their business to appear. Online directories are a common choice for advertisers, and the group at Palore chose to examine the more traditional type of national directories such as Internet Yellow Pages. We decided to focus on the south of the US for a change, rather than the top markets on the coasts. Looking at leading categories of SMBs in 3 major cities: Atlanta, Dallas and San Antonio, our review covered [...]

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