Online Search: Small Businesses Level The Playing Field

Seventy percent of US households use the web when shopping locally, and about 25 percent of all searches are looking for local information. As more and more households make the switch to broadband connections, this trend will continue to escalate.

Search engines have eclipsed print and TV ads as the primary way consumers find local products and services. But until now large national and international brands had a stranglehold on Internet search marketing. Only they had the manpower or outside resources to plan and implement a multiple site, online search marketing program.

Why should your business get into the online search pay-per-click (PPC) arena? Let's do the math. A recent US Bancorp Piper Jaffray study indicates that the average lead from a search engine costs $0.29. Yellow pages and direct mail leads cost $1.18 and $9.94 respectively. So, a search engine delivers four leads for the price of one Yellow Page lead and 34 for the cost of a single direct mail lead.

But that is not all. PPC advertising:
- expands your market
- targets more, higher income consumers
- is measurable

Some businesses will look for ways NOT to take advantage of this opportunity. I don't have a website, they whine. How will I figure out which sites I should advertise on? How will I manage all those keywords across multiple sites?

Google and Yahoo! answer some of those questions. If you do online PPC with either, they will distribute your ads across multiple sites. However, you'll still have to manage much of the program yourself.

New services are now available that allow small local and regional companies to effectively and efficiently hook customers online and only in the geographic areas where the businesses operate.

ReachLocal is my favorite of the new services. It is the one I'm using for my own business and for that of my clients. It selects the sites on which your ads appear, manages keywords across publishers, optimizes your keywords on a daily basis and even provides a free website for those businesses without a web presence. Additionally, it makes all of your leads measurable. You get daily reports on web visits, emails and telephone calls generated by your program.

PPC is perfect for high cost local transactions such as home purchases, mortgages, or medical services. So, no more excuses. You now have the ability to level the playing field with national competitors. Go local.

Harry Hoover is managing principal of Hoover ink PR, He has 26 years of experience in crafting and delivering bottom line messages that ensure success for serious businesses like Brent Dees Financial Planning, Levolor, New World Mortgage, North Carolina Tourism, Ty Boyd Executive Learning Systems, VELUX and Verbatim.

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