The Spring 2009 issue of Entrepreneur Startups features an article written by Kim T. Gordon called Big Results on a Small Budget. The focus of the short article is in providing small business owners with four marketing suggestions that are tailored to those on a tight budget.
While I was certainly happy to see search marketing involved, I don’t much agree with Kim’s suggestion:
Use local paid search. When your prospects search online, who will they find first, you or your competitors? The best way to guarantee your company appearing at or near the top of search results is through pay-per-click advertising. Being at the top of the page is critical to getting noticed, as most searchers rarely go past the first page of results. And the good news is that local paid search is often quite affordable and is readily available through Google, Yahoo and other search engines.
Paid search is an affordable option for those looking to drum up business. If you’re on a tight budget though, why not look at spending no money to capture that same audience?
I often fear that too many all in one marketing types simply suggest paid search because it’s effective before giving other forms of search a solid look. As enhanced listings mature and search engines’ users adapt their patterns to use these universal results – more free opportunities for listings appear.
If you were to perform a search on a major engine for any keyword phrase that combines geographical modifiers alongside a product or service name – you’re likely to see something like the Google OneBox results. It’s that familiar map with nice red icons that plot the nearest vendors that provide exactly what you’re after.
Best of all – Few businesses are out there taking the time to claim and enhance these free listings. That leaves you with some great opportunities to to clean up without spending a dime on search referrals.
My other issue with the author’s suggestion of local paid search is that she emphasizes reaching your targeted audience. Going into any paid search marketing campaign blindly will cost you far more than necessary. Paid search campaigns are optimized over time by evaluating clickthroughs, conversion rates and so on. You can’t afford the luxury of buying that information when you’re truly on a tigh budget.
Now, to the author’s credit, advertising in Google’s Local search results is certainly affordable. In my experience the analytical data for these campaigns suggest that having a unique icon on the map along with a more enhanced business profile will instigate more productive clickthroughs.
My last gripe is that no one reading the referenced article would ever know that such a search advertising product even exists. Furthermore, even basic local listings can be pushed offline and result in your customers generating favorable reviews, relying on Google for coupons, and ultimately generating more free business opportunities for you.
I’ve already gone through how to make the most of your local search profiles on Google in an old article on Search Engine Journal. If you’re interested, please check that out along with David Mihm’s local search ranking factors research.
I’m not against renting space. I just don’t understand why you’d want to rent space you could own for free.