Small Business and Search: It’s Still (Almost) All Good

By Kris McDermott, Account Strategist

There’s been a lot of talk in the industry lately about corporate mergers and acquisitions – the ‘Googlehoo’ announcement and the Microsoft/Yahoo talks are at the top of the headlines.

It’s to be expected, then, that some bloggers are crying conspiracy and saying that search is becoming unattainable for advertisers with smaller budgets. But where do small and medium-sized businesses really stand in the search landscape?

Some of the more disillusioned pundits say search isn’t the right place for small biz anymore, citing complaints such as these:

-If the Google/Yahoo deal goes through, it’s very likely that CPCs are going to increase on both engines. Fewer clicks at a higher cost can lead to heartache for small businesses.

-Google’s quality score calculations penalize websites with slow load times. This discriminates against small businesses which don’t have the development resources necessary for sophisticated websites.

-Google’s AdWords platform is too complicated for any non-certified person to wrap their heads around and the default settings for beginner users play on their ignorance by setting the CPCs too high.

That all seems far too “glass half empty” sort of thinking for me. At the end of the day, search marketing is a great tool for small and medium sized businesses. In many ways, it represents the democratization of media—it doesn’t require million dollar+ investments like television. It doesn’t mean hundreds of hours devoted to layout and creative design, like print media. It doesn’t mean auditioning actor after actor to do voiceovers on radio commercials.

The key to managing a search program—for both large and small budgets—is to do it with intelligence and perspective. CPCs on high volume, competitive terms increasing? Start building out long tail terms and trying local targeting to increase conversions. Website too slow loading? Keep it simple and get rid of any flashy, non-essential content. Confused by the platforms which the engines use? Access the metric ton of tutorials that each engine has on its product. Advertisers on all budgets have to be smart with their search programs or that $60 million dollar corporate account is worth less than the $1,000 a month Mom and Pop shop.

Search might not be perfect, but it’s the only media I know of that rewards advertisers for being relevant to their consumers. For advertisers with limited budgets, that’s a perk that can’t be ignored. It’s in the best interest of the engines to encourage small business advertisers, sure (revenue is revenue) -- but it’s in the best interest of those advertisers to continue to start or refine their programs on the engines.


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