Local internet Search & Small Business Sales And Marketing Budget
Being a small business and competing with big brands in terms of SEO is a very discouraging venture. It takes little common sense to know that if you are a mom and pop coffee shop that you will never outrank Starbucks for the term "coffee shop." What does take more common sense, or actually learned intelligence, is the importance to rank high locally for the most important terms dealing with your business.
When people are looking for information about a specific product or service, searching for its name (or category) and location is typically the most direct method. This means that if you are an plumber in Athens, Georgia, odds are that your most important keyword is "plumber Athens, GA." This can be verified by a quick study using many of the available free research tools.
Recently Pew Internet Research conducted a study and confirmed that 51% of consumers use the Internet as their primary source for gathering information and looking for local small business results. More importantly 38% will rely on search engine results pages to guide their purchasing decisions. Interestingly enough, 17% of those surveyed will rely on specialty websites while only 3% will rely on social media. Is this to suggest that small businesses should ignore social media? Absolutely not! Social media can be viewed as the "broadcast media" of days gone by. Unfortunately, we still see plenty examples of small businessesabusing social media by not being social. (The point is to create a conversation and not a diatribe.)
Armed with this information how should the savvy small business allocate their sales and marketing budget? It would make perfect sense if I urged you to take a look at the reportand see how the findings line up with your current marketing budget. By that statement, If greater than 26% of your monthly spend is going toward newspapers or greater than 5% is going to radio, then it would be suggested that you reevaluate. Take heed, this is a survey on averages. If your small business seeks to be average then keep doing what you are doing.
Let us apply some experience and intelligence to the results of the survey. Various businesses fall into various categories. Restaurants and bars are separated for a very good reason. The onset of specialty sites such as Yelp dominate consumer influence for food and beverage establishments but hold a very different place in regards to impact for traditional retail and local services. Also, the small business owner needs to determine what stages of the ZMOTmarketing model needs more focus.
We tell our clients that budgets really should not be viewed as choices between each other. Newspaper and radio are the stimulus and your SEO focuses on ZMOT and conversions. Both are necessary parts of the process. In many circumstances SEO and PPC can provide stimulus but it should never take 100% of the small business sales and marketing budget.
So what can you do to increase your local business results and improve your local internet search?
1. Create great content. There is a huge demand for each and every company to educate its consumers and feed their fans with articles, blogs, videos, social media interactions, and even podcasts. All these areas certainly take time, and a local small business owner who is not committed to at least one of these areas will certainly be dominated in the search engines by a competitor who is.
2. Create an interactive website. The old-school business card style websites are a thing of the past. At a minimum a local small business should have profiles and links to those profiles on many social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Foursquare.
3. Optimize directory listings. All too often when a website is launched the web developer or site owner fails to build proper links to the newly developed site. If a site is built and no one can find it, does it really exist? Spend the extra hour and make sure that your name, address, and phone number on all of your social media sites and directory listings maps the information that is on your website.
Time is money. As a small business owner you can either send your own personal time or hire someone to do this for you. The time invested on your local Internet search and local business results in terms of local search engine optimization and internet marketing will give you the highest return on investment.