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Should small businesses ditch the web?

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

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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