Whether it is here or on some of the other places that I write about SMB Internet marketing, I talk a lot about the plight of the SMB (small and medium business) with regard to online marketing. Despite the size of the market that the SMB represents it has always been under served.
There are a few basic reasons for this. Most SMB owners don’t have the resources whether they be money, knowledge or skilled employees that can carry out Internet marketing and social media campaigns. The biggest barrier in this marketplace is likely money because credit for the SMB is incredibly tight thus making it harder to pay for advertising and promotions as cash flow is suffering as well.
So what’s the SMB to do? Well, Google is providing a new opportunity that is currently being tested in the Houston market which essentially combines organic and paid results but at a much reduced cost to the business owner. The New York Times reports on a classic SMB tale of the need to be online but the resources that limit success
Jason Cowie, the owner of Kingpinz Skateboard and Snowboard Shop in Houston, has done a pretty good job of getting his business noticed on the Web. Just type “skateboards in Houston” on a search engine, and his store will be among the first listed.
But one of his sure-fire ways to drive Web visitors and foot traffic — buying search ads on Google — got to be pretty expensive. Mr. Cowie, whose shop is just 1,000 square feet, found himself bidding for placement against deep-pocketed national chains, and having to spend $1,500 to $2,000 a month just to keep up.
Google’s response is one that allows the SMB to have something that stands out on a SERP (search engine result page) but also takes a swipe at the old guard of SMB advertising; the Yellow Pages
Now Mr. Cowie is trying something new: for a flat fee of $25 a month, he is making his listings on Google stand out. Whenever his shop comes up in a search page or on a Google map, it is adorned with a bright yellow tag. The tag links to the Kingpinz Web site, but these enhanced listings, as the ads are called, can also link to a coupon, store directions, a photograph or a video of a business, or, in the case of a restaurant, a menu or reservations page.
Here’s how this looks to the searcher
Google knows that the SMB struggles to pay for AdWords campaigns of impact and that the future is going to be more online than off. Mr. Cowie echoes that sentiment and Google understands that it may have been missing a real easy mark.
“I think Google is going to be the new Yellow Pages,” Mr. Cowie said. “More and more of these younger kids are used to Google. They are looking at their phones rather than opening up a phone book.”
But Google’s auction-driven search advertising system, AdWords, has confounded many small businesses. So Google tried a new course. ”We are acknowledging that AdWords is really complex for small-business owners,” said John Hanke, a vice president of product management for Google.
So let’s do the math. While Mr. Cowie was spending $2,000 per month on AdWords and struggling he can now gain some advantage over his competition for just $25. In order for Google to recoup that $2,000 from this customer they need to sign up 80 businesses for $25 bucks a month. I think that should be pretty easy for Google.
Of course, if this rolls out to the rest of the world we will need to keep an eye open for what happens when everyone likes the idea of a cheap boost to their ad and the nice yellow “sticker” is just one of 7 or 10 in a maps result. Well, I suspect there will be the $100 per month “blue ribbon of Google search excellence” just waiting to help out the SMB.