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 analytics package was out of budgetary reach for a lot of small businesses. But thanks to Google Analytics (and, hopefully, Yahoo Web Analytics when it launches publicly), small business owners now have access to the type of data that only their deep-pocketed competition could previously afford.
B: Blogs – Have you noticed in my ongoing “Small Business Success Stories” series here on Search Engine Land how often a blog plays a major role in a successful online marketing campaign? Element One Photography, real estate agent Teresa Boardman, and Avante Gardens are just three examples of successful small business blogs.
C: Common Craft – “Explanations in plain English” is the tagline for this video-making company that takes somewhat complicated ideas/services/tools and brings them to the masses. RSS in Plain English is their most popular work so far, and a great primer for small businesses who don’t quite “get” why RSS is so great.
D: DomainTools.com – It’s not the best place to brainstorm domain ideas for your small business, but DomainTools is the best place to do competitive research on domains that have already been registered.
E: Education – From Search Engine Land to Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Guide, and the countless other excellent web marketing sites, getting an online education is pretty easy. Is there another industry in which the best in the business consistently share their wisdom so openly?
F: Firefox – Any small business owner wanting to become a do-it-yourself search marketer can thank the Firefox web browser and its countless plug-ins that put a wealth of SEO data at your fingertips.
G: Geotargeting – There are almost 20 cities named Columbus in the USA. Those dentists in Columbus, Ohio, sure don’t want their ads being clicked on by searchers in Arkansas, North Dakota, and Texas. We overlook it, but the ability to geotarget ads is a real blessing for small business owners.
H: HitTail – It’s not the only analytics-type service you should use, but with almost-real time tracking of sites and keywords that send visitors to your site, HitTail is a great complement to your primary web stats program.
I: iStockphoto – A great photo or image can dramatically improve any piece of content, no matter how well written it is. iStockphoto offers an amazing collection of images, many of which can be purchased for web, blog, e-book, or similar uses for just a couple dollars.
J: Junk Mail Filters – Be glad that you can filter away all those “Submit your web site to 5,000 directories” and “We’ll put you at #1 on Google for $49.95 per month” emails. They’re useless and should be ignored at all costs.
K: Keyword Research Tools – Whether it’s Keyword Discovery, WordTracker, or one of the many others, keyword research tools seem to get more powerful every year while still staying affordable for small business owners.
L: Local Search – All three main search engines offer local search business listings, and countless other local/social directory sites bring value to small businesses, too. Add it all up, and local search is the best way for local businesses to connect with local customers.
M: Matt Cutts – You may not like all of Google’s policies, but give credit where it’s due. Small business owners can be thankful that Matt’s blog offers a direct window into Google’s anti-spam and search quality efforts.
N: Networking – When you start a new small business, the first piece of advice you’ll get is to join the Chamber of Commerce. Why? Networking. It’s how you meet local people who might become customers or business partners and help you grow your business. Small business owners can also network online thanks to social media sites with local networking opportunities.
O: Onebox – Thanks to Google’s local search onebox, a small business now has an extra ten chances to show up on page one of Google’s SERPs.
P: PPC – For many small businesses, there’s no better and faster way to get search engine visibility than a well-planned PPC campaign. Pay-per-click advertising can bring in targeted traffic while you’re waiting out those weeks or months for your SEO campaign to bring results.
Q: Quality Over Quantity – Small businesses can be thankful that, when it comes to content and links and competing in local search, it really is about quality over quantity. With a few exceptions, you probably don’t need to go out and find hundreds or thousands of links; a few high-quality links should be enough.
R: Reviews – No small business owner likes getting bad reviews, but progressive small business owners know that it’s smart to embrace online reviews and encourage happy customers to write reviews. Searchers rely on reviews to make buying decisions, and local search algorithms look at ratings when determining rank order.
T: Tools – Using the right SEO toolbox can give any small business a big advantage over the competition. But it’s important to remember that tools can’t make decisions for you; that’s your job.
U: Unleashed – Geared specifically to small business owners, the Small Business Marketing “Unleashed” conference has quickly become a must-attend event for both its educational and networking opportunities.
V: Video – Video used to be something that only Big Companies could afford, but today there are numerous companies bringing affordable video marketing to the small business sector. And with blended search results becoming more widespread, videos can be an effective tool for attracting new traffic and customers.
W: Webmaster Central – It’s not just the tools and data you get from having a Google Webmaster Central account that matters; equally important is the fact that GWC provides a direct line of communication between small businesses and their primary source of natural search traffic. The communication aspect is highly underrated, but something to be very thankful for.
X: Xenu – Give thanks to Xenu Link Sleuth, which advertises itself as a tool for checking broken links, but really provides so much more link information than that.
Y: Yahoo Site Explorer – With Google and MSN both neutering their public link reporting tools, Yahoo Site Explorer offers the best free, straight-from-a-search-engine snapshot of a site’s indexing and inbound links.
Z: Zappos – Any small business that thinks social media, and Twitter especially, are useless as business/marketing tools need only look at what Zappos is doing. They’ve become the poster child for how to connect with customers online.
Happy Thanksgiving back to you, small business owners!
Search Engine Land Assignment Editor Matt McGee offers search marketing consulting and training to businesses of all sizes. He blogs at Small Business SEM and HyperlocalBlogger.com. The Small Is Beautiful column appears on Thursdays at Search Engine Land.