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The other major point that was made in article, besides inter-related points of expense and profitability, is that search engine companies themselves keep changing rules, thereby making a tough job almost impossible. Absolutely true. It seems that Google and Overture come out with a new option, and a new set of rules, almost every day. Of course, it’s not really every day – it just seems that way to those of us laboring to keep up with field. What is most irritating is feeling that they are doing this to keep up with each other, not to benefit consumer or advertiser. These competitive forces do little to help industry mature, a phenomenon we have seen many times in high-tech arena. Again, it comes down to resources – if big ad agencies are having trouble keeping up with changes, can small business hope to adapt? Not really. Not until dust settles, at least.
One facet of search engine marketing that holds some hope for small local businesses is search engine optimization (SEO) with geographic modifiers. In this scenario, optimization of a website for organic search is made infinitely easier if a geographic term is added. For example, optimizing for term “chiropractor” on a national level would obviously be useless; optimizing for “chiropractor, CT” has been successful in giving one of my own clients an excellent ranking on Yahoo, achieved through fairly basic SEO. Even here though, there are limitations. It may be difficult for small business owner to find good SEO. And even geo-modified SEO is only good for certain categories: “attorneys New York” entered on Google brings up a plethora of entries that are obviously highly competititive. It depends on industry, and on local market in question.
It was high time an article like one in question was published. Search engine marketing, and website promotion, is an absolutely chaotic, immature discipline, made worse by get-rich-quick scams that are littering Internet. Choices for small businesses abound, but they must be made very carefully. One project currently in development here at Small Business Online, http://www.SmallBusinessOnline.net is a website promotion model that approaches problem from opposite end – consumer. If advertiser can’t reliably and consistently place his message in front of right consumer, then perhaps consumer needs to be directed to advertiser by a different mechanism. At Small Business Online we are working on a program that will cost-effectively help drive traffic to specific advertising. Certainly, as shortcomings of SEM via major engines are scrutinized, more creative methods for linking advertisers with consumers in a cost-effective manner will eventually bubble up. In meantime, small business needs to keep in mind that if Madison Avenue is struggling with SEM, then it’s fraught with risk. More than ever, caveat emptor should be rule.
Neil Street is co-founder of Small Business Online, based in Wilton, CT., a web design and internet marketing company dedicated to the Internet needs of the small business. His website is at http://www.smallbusinessonline.net Send email to email@example.com He can also be reached at (203)761-7992.