The internet marketing landscape has changed quite a bit in the past 3 years and has further defined itself further in the past 12 months. With Google raising $4 Billion from new stock offerings in 2005 we will see more changes underway over the next 3 years. Unfortunately, I fear the small business is going to be left out in the cold in this process. Perhaps a better statement would be that the small business has already been left out in the cold.
This writing is certainly not designed to provide a solution to the growing problem. More so, it has been written to raise the awareness and acknowledge the difficulty small business has on the web. Certainly the small business does not receive any sympathy from the major search engines in their quest to provide quality information for those that are searching the web.
Let’s review how the situation has been created. We have to make the assumption a small business does not have the financial resources for a proper advertising campaign on the web (even though it is less costly than offline advertising) and they do not have the man-power to devote time for the non-costly methods of marketing. Yes, I have distinguished between advertising and marketing.
Marketing is the process or technique of promotion, selling and distributing a product or service. Advertising is to make your product or service publicly known; an announcement to call public attention by emphasizing qualities to arouse a desire to purchase.
Can the small business market at no cost? Yes, absolutely, however, the issue at hand is not expenditure but time. Time they are already spending on their business and do not have more time to spend on non-costly marketing methods on the web. What are these non-costly but time-consuming marketing methods? This would include but not limited to writing articles, maintaining newsletters, maintaining email addresses with auto-responders, submitting their articles through a variety of methods and resources over the web. Let’s not forget standard search engine optimization issues and HTML coding. Oh, the best one of all is “natural” link exchanging as defined by Google. If you have not already been there, manual link exchanging is a time consuming process even if you do decide to spend money on lost cost services that can assist. You cannot use “link farms” as that is against search engine policies and will cause your listing to be down graded.
In order to reach top ranking on the search engines it all boils down to links (or link exchanges, link popularity) and content. Inbound only links better than reciprocal inks. Writing content for your site, articles, news, newsletter is time consuming to properly write a 500 word article and the submission process is not easy either. Some services and software exists to help you in your submission of articles, but just like link exchange services they can only do so much. Could you create a blog and place your articles, certainly. However, you can see the “things to do” list only keeps growing for the small business owner.
Could they engage in pay-per-click campaigns? Sure, however, you now are entering in a financial issue and one that does not necessarily provide a great return on investment. Pay-Per-Click campaigns are good as an overall marketing strategy and if you use it in combination with a variety of other internet and search engine marketing methods. On its own it cannot provide the returns the small business is seeking. Searching the key phrases (no longer key words) and understanding which ones to select is equally not an easy task. It requires due diligence, research and analysis to understand the information and make an informed decision. Assuming they can get past this part of the pay-per-click process, the next phase is writing the pay-per-click ad headline and content. Unfortunately we see many small businesses flocking to pay-per-click advertising in hopes of a quick return. They might as well go to a casino!
There is indeed another problem associated with Pay-Per-Click campaigns. The ratio of exposures to hits is equally a problem when you are supposed to keep a certain percentage ratio between the two. When search engines like Google are allowing your ad to be placed on other websites with their Google Adsense, your exposures are indeed going up, however, how many people actually click on the links? From Google’s perspective probably a lot, but from the individual advertiser’s perspective this is not necessarily a good situation. Google is now dictating what key phrases you “should” bid on and ultimately consolidating the bidding war into small key phrase groups and larger number of advertisers.
Lastly, at least for this writing, but not necessarily on the subject, is time to see revenues. There is no doubt that it takes months for a website to propagate through the Internet. This is by no means a short-term situation and expectations need to be set accordingly. Just because you have a website does not mean that you will see rewards anytime soon. Once again we get into the dilemma of time resources to do the necessary internet marketing work in order to see benefits 6 – 9 months later.
Requirements set by the search engines as they seek to provide quality responses to those that are searching are making it increasingly difficult for small businesses to compete on the web. So, who will end up on the first page or in the top position of searches for key phrases? Unless something changes and the small business is given a chance, it will be the larger corporations that have the man power time and the money.