The image above should look familiar - it's what you see if you 'Google' a product, service or business nearby. In this instance it would be useful to note that the Yellow Pages results for these 'local searches' appear BELOW the Google Places results yet Google's listings are FREE and Yellow Pages are charging a wide array of rates to be included in their 'SEO' package.
As a self-employed Nova Scotian and web marketing consultant I feel it's my duty to highlight these big opportunities and savings for small businesses. You would not believe the potential increase in leads from the web to your local business if you take advantage of these free tools. It's just the tip of the iceberg. It doesn't matter what type of business you have or how you've marketed in the past. You need to find a way to do the basics in search for your business to remain competitive even on a modest level.
An important fact to point out is that investing in your internet presence should be based on real data. Experienced professionals in the web marketing world consult their clients based on measurable and historical parameters. Web marketing is more transparent than radio, TV or print. Let's say for example that you are a general contractor servicing Nova Scotia. You have no website or a sad website and no idea how to measure the ROI of investing in a better one. First of all you need to figure out how many Nova Scotians are Googling for your services. Take a look at these search counts from the Google SK Tool:
This excercise should bring you round to the realisation that your website and it's performance in search is a very powerful and important element of marketing your business. Also keep in mind that if your website is performing as it should in search then you don't have to continue paying Yellow Pages and other expensive business directories a hefty monthly payment - you could reduce it to the bare minimum. Your website is not something to be cheap about. Like all things you get what you pay for. Make the investment scalable to the size of your business but before you spend the budget on a new website - pay for some consultation. Before you build anything you should have a keyword strategy already worked out.
While prospecting for new business in our lovely province we target businesses that clearly require our services. As conversations evolve with prospective clients I consistently point out the disconnect between our natural behaviours and how we view the importance of 'the website'. Let's face it. Today we Google instead of check the Yellow Pages, we hardly ever click to Page 2 of search results, we check out the website of a business before we call, we choose to do business with one provider over another based on the information we can get off the internet before we make the decision to contact them. We are satisfied by websites with current information, big pictures, prices. We want most of our questions answered right away while not having to reveal who we are during the decision process. All these behaviours are relatively new - the transition has happened without us noticing. A small-medium business owner is frankly overwhelmed and can't afford the luxury of this retrospective revelation - let alone have time to do something about it.