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.

SMB’s Need More “Local” Outreach

(Business owners, if you're looking for actionable advice, skip to the end) I spoke at a local Chamber of Commerce here in the Portland area last week, giving a brief presentation on the fundamentals of SEO. Unlike a previous event I'd attended just three months ago in eastern Washington, about 75% of this audience had actually heard the term "SEO" before. But after my brief synopsis on local search, I still received a couple of questions from the audience related to "claiming your listing" and what that was all about. It seems that even in incredibly savvy small business markets l [...]

SMBs Claim Their Online Business Profiles

We at Palore are always on the lookout for new profiles of SMBs who are likely to purchase online advertising services. Our success to date has been primarily with two profiles of advertisers: "traditional" SMBs who advertise on IYPs and other traditional media, and the more "savvy" SMBs who advertise on search engines and vertical sites. But recently we ran into a new and more interesting group within our sources and the blogosphere - this post will discuss this group. We found that many SMBs are interested in online marketing but have yet to take the first step towards advertising. A [...]

A Small Business Year-End Marketing Checklist

2009 is almost here, and I hope small business owners have already been thinking long and hard about their plan of attack for the new year. Those who have are ahead of the game. If you haven't given the new year much thought, start now. Successful online marketing is about developing the right combination of strategies (thinking) and tactics (doing). In this column, I'm going to focus on a short list of the latter -- quick things you can do now to help set the stage for a successful 2009. Since the holidays are upon us, and you're probably busier than normal, I'll do my best to keep it shor [...]

Small Businesses, Get Into the Spirit of Giving!

"‘Tis better to give than to receive."  It's a favorite refrain this time of year.  Cynics might call it a clever advertising ploy cooked up by retailers to encourage consumer spending, but in general it holds true that making someone else happy makes us feel good. When it comes to the World Wide Web, generosity can mean real benefits for your business--even better than higher levels of dopamine! The spirit of giving can lead to: links to your website higher search engine rankings positive associations for your company and most importantly, more business! [...]

A Small Business Search Marketing Thanksgiving From A-Z

Thanksgiving is almost here, and as the McGee family sits down at a table full of turkey, stuffing, and potatoes next week, we'll do our regular Thanksgiving tradition: From A-Z, each family member takes a letter and shares something s/he's thankful for this year. In that same spirit, here's a list of things that small businesses can be thankful for -- one for each letter of the alphabet -- this Thanksgiving. These are things that can make the difficult challenge of online marketing a little easier for any small business. A: Analytics - It wasn't too long ago that a full-featured ana [...]

SMBs, Video and Search – Looking Backward & Forward

I’ve been writing monthly articles for Small is Beautiful for about almost a year now, offering observations and insights into what we’ve seen working with small and medium sized businesses from the front lines but will be winding down a bit in 2009. Our focus is still very much on serving the SMB advertiser, but we are finding that the best way to serve them is through partners. We’ve also found that, although our advertising platform is very useful for helping SMBs optimize their search efforts with video, our technology is more complementary to the smart "blocking and tackling" [...]

A Business Idea For Joe The Plumber: HyperLocal Blogging

The 2008 election is over and so, in all likelihood, are Samuel J. Wurzelbacher's appearances on cable news shows. Wurzelbacher, better known as Toledo's own "Joe the Plumber," gained national celebrity, of course, as the symbolic everyman both presidential candidates hoped to reach with their economic messages. Joe's 15 minutes of fame are about up (or are they?)-which may not be a bad thing. His thoughts on everything from Middle Eastern relations to fiscal responsibility are the subject of frequent press ridicule. Sadly, the economic downturn will last longer than Joe's 15 minutes. [...]

Finding The Sweet Spot

Many of our customers are companies who sell online marketing services to small businesses. When they come to us for sales leads, they usually know exactly what they want - what profile of businesses they‘re looking for and from which sites they'd like us to get the leads. Nevertheless, we do have customers who come to us asking we point them in the right direction - they want to know what the top categories of SMBs advertising online are, or in other words where the sweet spot is. While there are many lists and reports out there, such as this YPA's Top 10 IYP Headings, we wanted to provi [...]

A Small Business Success Story: Element One Photography

Picture this: You've spent two months creating a website for your small business. You've poured yourself into it. The web site is a thing of beauty, and it showcases your work very effectively. But no one can find it. Six months go by, and you're not getting any traffic from search engines. You type your business name into Google and ... nothing. Not even your own website. Think it sounds far-fetched? It's not. It happened to Kim Koehler, a professional photographer in Littleton, Colorado. I've never met Kim, and have no business relationship with her, but I believe her story is a goo [...]

Back to Basics: A Look at Video Search and SMBs

Like many of you, I’ve attended lots of industry shows and events during the past several months related to search and directional marketing. What is especially amazing to me is how frequently I am asked about the ‘secret sauce’ behind optimizing online videos for search success, especially with regard to organic search. Truth is, we’ve found no single element or silver bullet that can catapult a business to the top of SERP. In fact, a big part of the trick is to stick with the basics, adjust a bit and apply them to video. While online video advertising platforms provide the capabil [...]

Looking Back At “The Summer Of Local”

At the start of this summer, I wrote "it seems like Local has been rumored to be "the next big thing" in Search as many times as Cubs fans have said ‘this is the year'...2008 finally could be the year where the prediction, at least for Local, comes true." Well, here we are in October. The Cubs' World Series run is over...again...but, the last four months have been an absolute whirlwind of Local-related news items and innovations in technology and interface. These advances, and plenty of others I haven't even listed here for reasons of length, have heralded Local's arrival as a critic [...]

Many San Diego SMBs Advertise Online, Or Do They?…

Here at Palore, we recently finished working on a large scale project in San Diego County, covering all businesses in all categories, from more than 10 leading local, vertical and IYP sites - a total of 168,466 businesses. The fact that the number of total businesses we reached exceeds the one published by some data providers by about 35,000 businesses can be explained by several things. Our data is based on multiple and diverse sources that may have both new businesses that don't appear elsewhere and closed businesses whose listings have yet to be updated. In the following chart [...]

How To Walk A Mile In A Search Engine’s Shoes

Small business owners are often curious, and sometimes desperate, to understand why their web sites are doing well -- or doing poorly -- when it comes to search engine visibility. Online forums and message boards are filled with questions like "Why is my competitor outranking me?", "Why doesn't my new product page bring me any search traffic?", or "How come my site hasn't been crawled in a month?" If you live and breathe search marketing, these questions are often pretty easy to answer. But when you're busy running a small business, these questions may as well be rocket science. One way to [...]

Evaluating Google’s Response To Mapspam Reports

Yesterday marked the two-month anniversary for the official "Report Spam on Google Maps" thread on the Google Maps Help Group. I thought it might be useful to review the instances of spam reported thus far, for insights into some of Google Maps' vulnerabilities and the implications for local business owners. A brief history of Google's mapspam reporting mechanism Google's spam reporting tool for web results has been around since November 2001 (according to Internet Archive). But unlike Google's webspam reporting tool, the mapspam thread is entirely public-at least for the time being [...]

How Much Are SMBs Spending On Online Advertising?

At Palore, we examine SMBs' online advertising behavior, collecting information on the online presence of small businesses, ad spend data, advertising packages, etc. We recently completed a advertising-related survey of small businesses in the Boston metropolitan area that includes over 20 local, vertical and IYP sites. We looked at over 30 categories of businesses. The first chart below shows the average monthly ad spend by businesses in four categories: jewelers, hair salons & barbers, spas & beauty salons and health & exercise clubs. In our survey we tried to sta [...]

Small Businesses, Conversion Rates, and Online Video: A Good Mix?

Can using online video adverting get your small business to quintuple traditional search engine marketing conversion rates? How about increase them sixteen-fold? While it would be irresponsible for anyone to promise results like these, there are some very interesting early indications in the marketplace about the benefits that integrating effective online video advertising can have on a search engine marketing campaign. Our column last month generated a fair bit of buzz when we reported some stats from a recent FindLaw piece of research: That consumers typically visit an average of 4.8 we [...]

A Small Business Marketing Success Story:

Being small is hard enough. But being small and in retail? That's like having two strikes against you before the game even begins. From setting up relationships with banks, to finding trustworthy suppliers, to building a loyal customer base, being a small retailer is a challenge many businesses can't meet. And if you're an online-only small retailer? Well, that adds a whole new set of pros and cons into the mix. is one such business that's so far been able to meet all the challenges of being a small, internet-only retailer. The nine-employee company sells premium pet foods and [...]

Social Responsibility And The Small Business

In the profit-centered business, customer happiness is merely a means to an end: maximizing profits. In the customer-centered business, customer happiness is an end in itself, and will be pursued with greater interest, passion, and empathy than the profit-centered business is capable of. - Putting Customers Ahead of Investors, John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods A couple of weeks ago, a shopping mall near my home announced that they would start checking the IDs of teenagers at entrances to the mall after 5:00 pm on Friday and Saturday nights, and not allow anyone under 18 to enter [...]

Video SEO For SMB’s: What Does Standing Out Online Really Mean?

Why all the fuss about the importance of online video SEO for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) as a way to ultimately help to drive action and sales? I get versions of this question on a super regular basis, but instead of trotting out some top-level trends, today I thought I’d cite a specific study that proves to be very illustrative to this discussion: In looking at a bevy of recent writings, some very interesting research was noted by my friend and SEO guru Mark Robertson, who reported that research from the folks at FindLaw showed that video marketing, which in this case [...]

Small Business Success Stories: What We’ve Learned So Far

A baker, a guitar teacher, a florist, and a real estate agent: Those are the four small business owners I've profiled in this space recently. Before I continue with more online marketing success stories, this seems like a smart time to step back and see what we've learned to date. Listening to the experiences of others can be a great learning tool, especially when those small business owners have gone down paths you've been hesitant to try, or maybe didn't even know existed. The four small business owners you've read about have very different stories and backgrounds, but as the interviews r [...]

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