Local search engines can help drive small businesses

A company's success hinges on boosting its online presence these days. But while blogging is the solution du jour, it may not be the right fit for every company. For some, targeting local search engines is a better option.

A company's success hinges on boosting its online presence these days. But while blogging is the solution du jour, it may not be the right fit for every company. For some, targeting local search engines is a better option.

"A lot of 'experts' say that every business ought to blog, if for no other reason than to boost its presence online," says Mike Manuel, social media strategist at Voce Communications. "For local folks, I question whether or not blogging will really do anything for them."

Local search engines have advantages for smaller businesses, which have two big issues in planning PR strategy - relevance and money.

"In the US, a substantial portion of advertising is local," says Chris Copeland, senior partner and MD at Outrider. "[Local search engines] speak about things relevant to where [their customers] live. It's a valuable and powerful way to receive and give information."

Smaller businesses have smaller budgets, but spending less does not mean you're missing the mark.

"It's more cost-effective and productive to use a smaller search engine," says Adam Selig, CEO of Visible Technologies. "You'll better reach a targeted audience."

Local search engines also provide opportunities for customer feedback. And the key for PR firms with small business clients is finding satisfied customers.

"The goal of the agency that represents a smaller client is to find real evangelists of the client and encourage those individuals to make a contribution," says Selig.

Greg Jarboe, cofounder of SEO-PR, has been watching the evolution of local search engines for about four years. SuperPages.com is an SEO-PR client.

"Asking 'Where did you find us? If you like our service, can you rate us?' should become standard operating procedure," he says.

Jarboe also cites research conducted in August by WebVisible and Nielsen//NetRatings showing that, of 3,000 Web customers surveyed, 70% said they had done a local search; 46% had done one within the previous 90 days.

"This is a significant opportunity that companies should take advantage of," says Jarboe.

Key points:

Small businesses benefit more from local search engines than blogs

Local search engines reach a targeted audience at cost-effective rates

Local search engines give satisfied customers the opportunity to post recommendations

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