Today, over 95% of Internet users use the major search engines – Google, Yahoo! and Bing – to find the products and services they need. Internet Marketing is not just for big business anymore – the Internet is increasingly used to look for local businesses.
The Kelsey Group, a market research firm, reported that in 2008 “83% of U.S. households used the Internet as an information source when shopping locally for products and services… the Internet will soon surpass newspapers as a local shopping information resource.”
The Number 1 Challenge for Businesses Online
While the volume of Internet searches continues to increase, businesses who want to tap into this marketing opportunity face some significant challenges online. First, the web has become an increasingly competitive space. The number of websites has proliferated over the years and according to some estimates there are now over 180 million websites and about 9 billion indexed pages on Google.
In addition, web browsers have become increasing sophisticated users of the Internet. 84% do not even go beyond the first page of search engine results. Indeed, a Cornell study found that online searchers focused primarily on the top 5 results on the first page with the top 3 Google results getting 79% of all clicks. Given these two factors, the number one challenge facing all businesses today is getting found online.
Getting on Page One of Google
So how can your business be found by searchers looking for what you have to offer? In order to tap into the huge volume of local searches each month, your business website must appear ideally on the first page of the search engine results to get noticed and to get clicks.
By appearing on page one, your offerings will be placed right in front of prospective clients at exactly that key moment when they are actively searching for your service. Since Google is the dominant search engine (with 65% of the search market vs Yahoo and Bing), lets take a look at the 3 major ways in which your business can be positioned on page one of the search engine results.
1. Local Business Listings
The cheapest way to get on page one is to create your business listing using Google’s Local Business Center. This service is free and should absolutely be a ‘must do’ for all business website owners. Because Google is placing these local business listings first in the search results (i.e. before showing other web matches), it is critically important that you create your listing and position your business in the top 7.
This can be done with proper use of keywords. When setting up your Google local listing, be sure to select the right category for your business. In addition, inserting the keywords or search phrases that you want to rank for in your business listing (especially in the title) will also improve your search rankings.
2. Pay Per Click Advertising or Paid Search
Pay per click (PPC), also known as Google AdWords, is the quickest way to get on Page One of Google. Paying the search engines for top placement gets fast results and generates immediate traffic to your business. Unlike the Yellow Pages and other forms of print advertising, business owners pay only for results (when their ad is clicked), can measure the ROI on their advertising dollars, and can track results efficiently.
3. Search Engine Marketing or SEO
The 3rd way to be found on page one of Google, and the best way to generate high quality leads online, is by having your business appear in the top 10 search results. SEO or organic search is aimed at achieving the highest possible search engine results page (SERP) rank for a web site/page. SEO is an art not a science as the algorithmic elements that comprise search engine rankings are constantly being adjusted by the search engines.
Boosting Your Search Engine Rankings
Keywords and links are two of the biggest factors in terms of boosting your search rankings. “On Page” SEO refers to the optimization of your website page elements and content so the Search Engine can find your webpage for your targeted keywords.
“Off Page” SEO refers to the text and “inbound” linking from other web site pages to your web site pages. Since it takes time to build links in an organic way and to show results (usually several months depending on the competitiveness of your keyword), SEO is a longer term investment relative to PPC. Compared to traditional print advertising, SEO still offers a higher ROI especially for businesses that have high customer lifetime values.
By effectively combining these 3 lead generation strategies (local listings, paid search, and organic search) you can create a dominant presence for your business online. Your enhanced web visibility will allow you to capture active prospects, improve brand awareness, build a loyal following, and be recognized as the eminent authority and leader in your local market.