Life Beyond Google – Search Marketing is More Than Just the Behemoth
I followed a blog conversation the other day that reminded me of how many people still believe that search advertising lives and dies by Google and Google alone.
A small business owner told her audience that the business she runs has been approached by her Yellow Pages provider to advertise in its online directory and search networks. She’s been thinking she should try search marketing instead. What should she do?
Most people, presumably search engine optimization and search engine marketing folks, told her to forget everything and just do Google. But I don’t think so.
First, Google has actually lost market share in local search, while its local search competitors gained it. The Q3 2009 WebVisible Report, for example, showed that Yahoo and Bing both gained market share among the major search networks by as much as 5 percent. Bing continues to do well since its summer launch, mainly due to cost-per-click rates almost 30 percent less than Google’s in a majority of verticals.
But mainly the “Google-only” approach doesn’t work because it's not indicative of how consumers search for local products and services.
Think about it: If consumers are looking for additional cubicles for extra office space, they probably search online from work. If they discover leaky toilets in their homes, they likely use their home desktops to research local plumbers. If they're in their cars with two young, hungry children, they use their navigation systems to find the closest burger joint. If they're traveling on business and spill coffee on their suits walking to a meeting, they use their smartphones to find a dry cleaner within walking distance.
Those are four different types of searches, using what I like to call four different “personas” — business owner, homeowner, parent and business traveler. There are more — vacation traveler, mobile salesperson, student and the list goes on. Each conducts searches in different ways with myriad devices.
The challenge for any business, whether you conduct transactional business online or use the internet to drive response on a local level, is to be where your potential customers are searching. That’s no small feat, considering there's an utter lack of standardization, thousands of entry points and no time to manage them all.
So how does a small business cope? By simplifying its approach to knowing how consumers find it. To do this, answer the following questions about consumers:
- Where are they looking for you? Do they use Google, Yahoo or an online directory? What about the phone book? Do they use wireless devices or go online?
- When do they look for you? Consider the products and services you offer, and think about the situations in which your customers are likely to need you. Will they need you for an emergency service, or when they're on the road? Will they wait until they have time to research at home?
- How are they finding you? What keywords do they use when they search? What categories is your business listed under in the directories? The best way to gain insight is to test a few search campaigns and then analyze the data. A carpet cleaner in Orange County, California, for example, discovered that using the term “pet stains” worked well in certain neighborhoods but not in others. It realized that to increase business in affluent neighborhoods, it should instead use the term “elite steam cleaning.”
The bottom line: You can never just be in one place — even if that place is Google — because your customers are everywhere. It's not just about search; it’s about being found.