Not long ago, if someone needed a plumber, an electrician or a landscaper, he would pick up the Yellow Pages and let his "fingers to do the walking." But that's old millennium thinking.
Today, savvy small businesses know that search engines are a key to Internet success. Yellow Pages are still an important advertising vehicle, but customers are just as likely to turn to the Internet and Google, Yahoo! or one of the other popular search engines to find you.
Does that mean you must add search engine optimization expertise to your list of skills? While it doesn't hurt to understand how search engines work, you don't need to be an expert. There are plenty of consultants who can help you optimize your site to attract customers. And now hosting providers are also getting into the act.
Interland Offers One-Stop Shop
Interland, one of the largest Web site hosting and site-building service providers, today announced a managed service that's designed to handle your keyword-advertising from concept to tracking. Interland's EzClicks are sold in three packages that guarantee different levels of qualified traffic (or clicks) over the course of 12 months.
Interland reports that its pay-per-click program reaches 30 search engines and directories and that your ads will appear on Google, Overture, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, FindWhat, Ask Jeeves and others. The company also will help you choose the best keywords for your business to advertise and, if you choose, will write the ad copy for you. As part of the service, Interland will also place bids for keywords; monitor and optimize campaigns; and send monthly reports that detail keywords used and traffic generated.
At the basic level, you pay $40 a month and Interland guarantees that it will deliver 240 sales leads a year to your Web site. This package, according to John Lally, area vice president of marketing for Interland, is designed to give a small business a way to test pay-per-click advertising without having to learn how to use multiple paid search programs. "Small businesses don't have the time or expertise to manage keyword advertising. However, the demand is there. This allows them to outsource everything," Lally said.
If the keyword advertising program generates more than 240 clicks, you don't pay for the additional clicks. And, if after 12 months, Interland hasn't delivered the guaranteed responses, it will continue to run the ads until the number is reached.
The mid-level package, EzClicks 600, costs $100 a month and delivers a minimum of 600 visitors over 12 months. And for small businesses looking to test different keywords and promotions, EzClicks 1200 delivers 1,200 clicks for $200 a month. This package is better-suited to power users who, Lally said, need to develop a consistent online revenue stream.
Taking the Local Approach
Lally also pointed out that the benefits of search-engine optimization aren't strictly the domain of companies that conduct transactions over the Web. Search engines are becoming an increasingly important vehicle to help people find your physical store or telephone number. That is, whether you deliver pizza, furniture or babies, chances are good that potential customers are using search engines to find you.
"Small businesses are aware of search. They understand that it is now part of consumer behavior. Search engines have catapulted into the mainstream. But businesses can change with the times," he said.
Research from The Kelsey Group supports that view. In a survey released earlier this year, the Princeton, N.J.-based research firm reported that of all searches performed by online buyers, 25 percent involved looking for merchants near their home or place of work. And 44 percent of survey respondents said they are performing more local commercial searches than a year ago.
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