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Google Gives SMB Market Something to Look Forward To

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.

Your thoughts?

  • Pat Morrell

    Interesting innovation, but only one in every six people click on Google ads. Contrarily, nearly 50% of Google users click on the first organic search result and nearly a quarter of all Google users click on the second result. Seems Mr. Cowie would be better served baking that $2000/month into a content-driven SEO effort to maintain his Google search rank (likely his prime business driver, if clicks are an indication), and use the $25 yellow tab premium to treat his employees to lunch.
    .-= Pat Morrell´s last blog ..A Generational Gap: Google Buzz and Online Privacy =-.

  • Frank Reed

    @ Pat – Mr.Cowie has both bases covered on this one though since his shop is the first organic result as well. Looks like he is just trying to “corner the market” and figures the $25 bucks will generate enough business to have to hire more employees to take to lunch.
    .-= Frank Reed´s last blog ..Social Media Requires A Learner’s Mind =-.

  • Pat Morrell

    Interesting innovation, but potentially irrelevant unless color emerges as a major click trigger. Only one in every six people click on Google ads – contrarily, nearly 50% of Google users click on the first organic search result and nearly a quarter of all Google users click on the second result (with succeeding results declining at a similar rate). Seems Mr. Cowie would be better served baking that $2000/month into a content-driven SEO effort to maintain his Google search rank (likely his prime business driver, if clicks are an indication), and experiment with the $25/month “highlighting” tab for 3 months to gauge an increase in engagement. If not, put that $25/month towards lunch for his employees, and keep generating quality, keyword-rich, non-spam content.
    .-= Pat Morrell´s last blog ..A Generational Gap: Google Buzz and Online Privacy =-.

    • Jason

      Hello Guys,

      I have been reading around alot about the feedback after this times article ran. I have come across some hostile, and interesting points of view. A big portion of this tool has been left out about how we use this tool in a micro local marketing campaign. We already organically dominate all of our searches for any business we are engaged in. In our case this new feature is not aimed at your PC, but at your phone. This is one point that all the bloggers have failed to point out. If you search for us on your smartphone in google maps, our listing now stands out because we have a banner under our location. Has nothing to do with seo, we would show up on here anyways if we were simply listed in the local business center. In our case this is great because our customer is looking for us on there phone while they are out and about….Great read, I love all the insight…


      • Frank Reed

        Jason – great work in getting involved in the conversation. Your demographic definitely is much more mobile friendly so I can see your excitement on the mobile banner.
        .-= Frank Reed´s last blog ..Social Media Requires A Learner’s Mind =-.

      • Jeremy H

        @Jason – it’s nice to “be in bed with google” huh? Congrats on the NYTimes publication. However your in niche market with probably little to no competition for competing keywords Google associates with you enhanced ad listing.

        On a side note, I wonder how much value there is for say a lawyer in New York? They all will buy this so you will see the cute yellow flag for every ad and of course clicks will reduce as competition increases. In addition, Google has yet to figure out how to effectively truncate and de-duplicate LBC listings. I can see a locksmith buying an enhanced add for a competitors listing and have the offer link to them. If they introduce pricing tiers then the bigger wallet wins! This hybrid of organic/paid on the results page has the Yahoo SSP feel about it (paid inclusion).

        All in all I think Google is heading in the right direction. Lower fix rate advertising products will definitely be attractive to the SMB market as they gravitate to digital media.

  • Justin Bartlett

    It’s nice to see Google offering small and medium size businesses a chance to increase their conversion ratios through little yellow stickies! Is policy towards selling links / traffic at Google changing? I heard that if you bought Google Mini for $1995, you can post a do-follow testimonial that gets you a link from a PR7 google site. Most of the testimonials are just a name and a link…. Food for thought.

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