Search engine marketing is going through a revolution. Wil Reynolds of Seer Interactive says there are more changes going on than he has seen in 13 years. There’s a massive shift that will benefit small to mid-sized business.
Traditionally, it’s been difficult to reach the small-to-mid-size business advertising market. However, as more local businesses move their advertising online, companies like Google, Groupon and Facebook are looking to cash in.
Google adds more emphasis on local/small businesses in search results.
Reynolds says that up to 40 percent of the results are now local results, (even if you don’t specify a location). Recent changes in the way Google ranks websites favor local businesses, even over established brands.
Until recently, if you Googled a common phrase such as “shoes,” you used to see a mix of online-only stores and familiar brand names. Today, you’ll see local search results based on where you are doing the search, (even if you don’t include a city or state name). The remaining top spots go to big brands, like Nike. The local results come from Google Business Listings (or Google Places), with directions, maps, reviews and coupons.
Other evidence of this shift is the fact that Google is hiring more staff to sell local ads. They ramped up their customer service and are marketing to small businesses. For example, OrangeSoda was part of their recent push to sign up new small businesses with $100 million worth of AdWords credit.
Changes hurt virtual businesses.
I met search engine optimization legend Bruce Clay at Affiliate Summit, a conference for affiliate marketers. Affiliates sign up with merchants to sell their products online and get paid when someone clicks on their link and buy. I listen to affiliates because the good ones are not employees on salaries with paid holidays. If they don’t make sales, they don’t eat.
Local search marketing was a hot topic because it has the potential to really hurt affiliates and stores without a local presence. I asked Clay why big brands are still so highly represented in local listings. He explained that Google “counterbalanced [the changes] with the inclusion of less trusted local results by providing higher visibility to the brands.”
Groupon preps for an IPO.
Groupon found a way to consolidate the scattered local market -- offer social networking sharing features to coupons -- and split the revenue. The brilliance of the model is that the business has no up-front costs and they can track results. In addition, they have leveraged e-mail and social networking to build critical mass. which is tough for a small business to do on their own.
Google tried to buy Groupon for $6 billion this December. To put that into perspective, consider how that would be more than they paid for YouTube and Doubleclick combined. Groupon spurned Google, hired thousands of new employees, and are now talking about an IPO.
The majority of Facebook ad revenue comes from smaller companies.
Facebook is going local too. In an article from Advertising Age, it’s estimated that in 2010 Facebook made close to $2 billion in advertising revenue. A majority (60 percent) comes from small businesses, a number that is “greater than the $740 million coming from major marketers like Coke, P&G or Match.com.”
What’s different about Facebook (and what Google admits they don’t do well) is they leverage your friends (social networking). People are having conversations and creating content on Facebook that is only shared with their friends. In other words, it’s not accessible to search engines. We spend a lot of time on Facebook and now for the first time, Facebook has surpassed Google as the most visited website.
Facebook Places combines local and mobile. It’s still new, but it’s powerful because it leverages a person’s network and mobile to reward people for visiting local businesses (here’s a guide to setting up your Places page).
Local and mobile are growing and Clay predicts that within two years, 70 percent of traffic will go to local, and 30 percent to mobile. That’s a huge shift, and there is a lot of competition between these and other companies to get a piece of that.
Janet Meiners Thaeler is an Evangelist for OrangeSoda Inc. and the principal blogger for their corporate blog and Twitter account. She regularly advises clients on blogging and social media strategies. Her own blog is Newspapergrl.com (and Twitter account @newspapergrl). She is passionate about online marketing and is always looking for new insights, resources and trends to help her clients.