SMEs and Local Search

Greg Sterling writes:

Data from a recent telephone survey of 500 small-and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), with 100 or fewer employees, revealed that approximately 5 percent had adopted search engine marketing. Incidentally, that was the same figure as those who reported advertising in Internet yellow pages.

At a high level, there were two principal barriers to SME adoption of geotarged search engine marketing: the perceived lack of local search usage and the complexity of campaign set up and management. Both of those issues have now been addressedat least in partand the way is cleared for growth in both consumer and local advertiser adoption.

In one broad sense, the growth associated with local search is simply a reflection of the growth and usage of search engines and, beyond that, the rise of the Internet as a daily utility in people’s livesat least for the broadband set. SMEs are themselves Internet users and are very much aware, if only anecdotally, of the fact that more and more of their customers are online and searching as a way to find products and services-often in the local area.

However there’s a gap between this recognitionand even what might be considered a pent up demand for access to online marketing channelsand SME behavior. As mentioned, they haven’t boosted or shifted their ad dollars commensurate with their desire to be in front of online consumers.

Kelsey Group-ConStat SME advertising data from June of this year reflects a 10 percent jump from the same time last year in the perception of the Internet as an important marketing medium. Simultaneously, however, the percentage of SMEs using the Internet as an alternative to traditional media was flat versus last year.

This brings me to the second barrier to small business adoption of online marketing and search in particular: complexity and confusion. Setting up an effective search campaign takes time. There’s obviously a learning curve. And that doesn’t even get into provisioning a campaign across multiple paid search networks. Even if you’re committed to figuring it out, there’s potential for confusion and frustration.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.