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A reader, Ikey Benney, has some very strong opinions on how Internet marketing has failed small businesses. He goes so far as to say that his small company is halting all Internet marketing. Is he right?


Hey, I work for a really big company, IBM, so maybe I am no one to talk, but the small businesses I talk to tell me the exact opposite story. Ikey’s comments, made yesterday on this blog, reveal a common misconception on how Internet marketing ought to work.
Ikey claims that small businesses “cannot get top 10 positions in order to get traffic and and sales” and backs up the claim, saying, “Just type the major keywords like: business, advertising, camera, online shopping, computer and tell me who you see in top 10 positions? Are they small businesses, individual website owners or big corporations?”
The answer to Ikey’s question, in general, is that large companies do tend to snare those high-profile terms more than small companies do. But isn’t that because they match them better? What small business is a better match for computer than Apple Computer? Looking at the most popular keywords misses the point entirely.
Small businesses don’t typically match broad search terms because they don’t have the breadth of product offerings to do so—they aren’t the right matches. But what if we search for terms that really do match small businesses?
I wrote a blog a few months ago on how someone took a free Squidoo lens and got a number #1 ranking in Google in just a few weeks for “bergen county psychiatrist.” Not “psychiatrist.” But she didn’t want the top ranking for psychiatrist because she lives in Bergen County, New Jersey and that is where she wants to get patients from.
Ikey also says that small businesses can’t afford the huge per-click costs of paid search, but geotargeting, which allows any business to identify the geographic area for the paid search query makes it possible for any small business to buy search ads just for the small local area they serve.
Ikey thinks I am in denial about how big companies have taken over Internet marketing, but I think I have my eyes open. Small companies can compete in Internet marketing much more easily than in offline marketing that requires deep pockets. Did anyone see Blendtec’s viral marketing campaign? I had never heard of them before and they now are found on the first page of Google results for “blender”—ahead of all other commercial listings.
In offline advertising, they could never afford to run more advertising than larger blender competitors, but on the Internet they can compete on an even footing for a far smaller budget.
I understand that money always helps—it helps on the Internet too. But in offline marketing, money is a far more potent force than it is online. Free online techniques such as search marketing and social media marketing level the playing field to a far greater extent than in the offline world.
While you’re thinking about your Internet marketing, there’s one more day to win a free copy of my new book. Enter the content by tomorrow with your Do It Wrong Quickly success story and get your chance to win.

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Mike Moran

About Mike Moran

Mike Moran has a unique blend of marketing and technology skills that he applies to raise return on investment for large marketing programs. Mike is a former IBM Distinguished Engineer and the Senior Strategist at Converseon, a leading social consultancy. Mike is the author of two books on digital marketing, an instructor at several leading universities, as well as a Senior Fellow at the Society of New Communications Research.

5 replies to this post
  1. Very thought provoking article as my this is a major mission of my business. While we do provide an SEO optimization service we realize that not everyone can be the proverbial #1 or even in the top 10 of search engine. We do believe that at least on a local level that it’s important to develop good relationship with clients through not only networking opportunities but also through exceptional service and this is often an area where the small business can excel. We recently changed out “mission statement” to say,
    We organize and secure your information with the most innovative portable media and web technologies to produce personable marketing solutions to grow your business.
    with the key phrase being “personable”. Some of these solutions include, business blogs, creative business cards, response items, etc.
    Interestingly enough the web is actually a much cheaper medium for showing photographs and other important elements that use color. For most of our clients showing color photos in magazines or newspapers who be totally cost prohibitive but a significant portion of our web customers post or have use post frequent photos of their work and while not a fancy cutting edge technical thing it brings in a good bit of business they would never have had plus they do combine smaller ads in newspapers and have them point to the galleries on their web sites.

  2. No wonder Ikey is complaining. Look at the crap he’s selling on his web site. Typical “snake-oil” salesmen talk. This web page looks like it came straight out of 1998 – and that was almost ten years ago. FireFox even managed to catch 3 pop-ups from his web site. How do you expect any of your traffic to convert if you’re dragging their attention away from your main copy to that of THREE different pop-up messages? Often I find the ones complaining are the ones that are simply doing things wrong. Instead of learning, keeping up with the times, and changing where change is due, they decide to remain hard headed.

  3. I was going to post an encouraging statement for Ikey about how we’ve done just what he say’s can’t be done. Then I looked at his web site and realized that this is just an effort to get traffic and exposure for his questionable web site.

  4. Hello Mike:
    You made excellent points in your rejoinder to my comments about the death of internet marketing for small businesses and individual website owners.
    If it is true that you work for IBM, then that explains your denial about what is so obvious.
    Frankly, I am very baffled by it because you have more computing expertise than I do and yet you refuse to see that which is on tip of your nose.
    Are you aware that there are more small businesses than large corporations?
    Do you know how many small businesses and individual online businesses there are on the internet?
    Just because a few of these out of hundreds of millions (that have been languishing online) attain top 10 ranking in a few obscure keywords (which extremely few people are searching for) do not mean that internet marketing is working for small businesses.
    My observations and conclusions remain valid:
    (1) The major search engines discriminate against small businesses and individual website owners.
    Google (“Don’t Be Evil, But Be Sinister”) is even bold enough to state that: they give preference to “authority websites”, (read: large corporations, government and media websites who market offline and easily generate thousands of visitors and hundreds of thousands of one-way links)
    (2) If this is so, how then can a small business attain top 10 ranking in the major keywords which the majority of the people are searching for?
    Yes, any dimwit can put together a crappy website optimized with niche idiotic keywords which 10-20 people search for daily and manage to get top 10 ranking in the search result.
    To have 10 visitors daily to your website is not going to make any website owner rich anytime soon.
    This is what I am highlighting, and I am sure millions of individual website owners and small businesses around the world would see “eye to eye” with me because this is their reality.
    (You are not a small business owner, so this may not be a reality for you.)
    (2) The solution to this conspiracy to kill off small businesses and individual website owners is that they must have to go offline to do some marketing otherwise they will go belly up.
    By marketing offline, they would finally begin to generate massive visitors and traffic to their websites, as well as sales.
    This is the strategy of the few small businesses that are doing well online.
    They use offline marketing to succeed in online marketing.
    They are not squandering money doing pay per click or SEO, which have poor ROI and is not cost effective.
    (3) In conclusion, I may add that a complete revolution in information technology is long over due.
    It seems all the big information technology companies including search engines were started in the garage by a bunch of loony geeks who was just fooling around.
    With venture capital funding, and IPOs, they emerged to dominate the information technology industry.
    That explains why they (especially the 500 Ib gorilla in Redmond and its twin, the other hardcore, sinister 250Ib gorilla in Mountain View, who is so deceptive that it even uses “Don’t be evil” as its motto, even though it is evil incarnate in every way!) are so out of touch with reality, so evil and determined to destroy small businesses.
    However, all will be well in a few years.
    Pride goeth before fall.
    Companies reap what they sow.
    (Look at the fates of one-time giant sinister companies like Enron, Adelphia, and MCI WorldCom!)
    I can feel the wind of a massive information technology REVOLUTION blowing because it is small businesses that drive world economy.
    When this high tech revolution arrives, these sinister gorillas will be blown away.
    THEY CANNOT RUN, NOT TO MENTION HIDE.
    I am very sad that IBM concentrates on developing technologies for large corporations and ignores small businesses.
    This folly was the cause of the birth of the Redmond 500IB gorilla and its sinister activities.
    And the folly of this 500 IB gorilla was the cause of the birth of the Mountain View 250 IB gorilla.
    I am predicting that the folly and sinister activities of this 250 Ib Mountain view gorilla is going to engender a high tech revolution that will put their lights out.
    To all small businesses and individual website owners who have been discriminated against and denied success on the internet, I say to you to be patient. The “Final solution” to this menace by these sinister gorillas is on the way.
    You can bank on that.
    Ikey Benney

  5. Gee Ikey, you certainly seem angry about the state of affairs in Internet marketing. Perhaps I really am in denial, but I spend a lot of time talking to small businesses who contact me based on my speaking appearances and my writing, and I teach a search marketing class each month locally that is attended almost exclusively by small businesses.
    What they tell me does not jive with what you are seeing. They tell me that they are succeeding with Internet marketing and that they have never found a more cost-effective way to get their message across.
    In the old offline marketing world, there was no way to compete with large companies because money controlled everything to such a great degree. On the Internet, money is still an advantage, but not nearly as great an advantage. If you have an interesting message, you can get people to spread it for free.
    It doesn’t totally level the playing field, but it makes it far easier for small businesses to compete with large ones online than offline. For proof, why not take a look at what companies buy ads on Google? Most ads are from companies you’ve never heard of. I don’t think all these folks buying ads are collectively irrational, so you have to think that some small businesses are making money.
    In addition, many large companies such as eBay and Amazon grew up from nothing on the Web. There are no comparable success stories in offline marketing that grew so large so fast.
    In short, I see many successful small businesses flourishing on the Web. Perhaps you might want to see what they are doing.

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