How do people find your small business? Are they familiar with your business, or do they find you by doing research?
In the past, people went to the Yellow Pages to find local businesses. If you wanted someone to cut your hair, you look under “beauty shops” and call a salon. Yes, businesses still get leads from the Yellow Pages, but it’s no longer the first place they look.
A large study of behavior by Comscore, Local Search Marketing in a Multi-Tasking World, shows a fundamental shift in the way people are looking for local businesses. Today, more people who are unfamiliar with your business are going to a search engine and typing in words like, “haircut, Houston, Texas.”
Here are the top 5 ways people find local businesses according to Comscore:
- 31% Visit a search engine – most research without a specific brand or business name in mind and a specific location (i.e. a plumber in Tampa, Florida).
- 30% Look up a business in print in the Yellow Pages or White Pages.
- 19% Use Internet directories – often to find a phone number.
- 11% Look at local search sites like Google Maps or Yahoo Local (usually to get driving directions).
- 3% Get information from a newspaper or magazine.
No wonder print advertising is suffering — three out of the top five ways people find business information involve the Internet. This is why I’m always surprised how much businesses seem to value print ads, or TV as a method to drive people to their store or company. I also get lots of questions about marketing on social networking sites. The study said that just 1% of people find local businesses through social networking sites. Sure, social networking is a great way to build brand recognition, but it’s not the first place consumers go when they’re ready to buy.
From the study it appears the best way small businesses can capture new business is by improving their results in search engines. Yes, you can pay someone to build links and improve your site’s chances of ranking well in the search engines. However, there’s not a fixed cost, and it’s possible to rank well without spending any money.
After looking at hundreds of web sites for small businesses I see that most need to focus on the basics. Things like making sure your business is findable online and that your title tags are optimized. Also, make sure it’s easy to find … details such as the business name, phone number, address, hours of operation, specials, promotions, products carried, payment types accepted etc. on your site.
Online marketing may not seem as glamorous or rewarding as seeing your name in print. But who’s going to complain when sales are going up?
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About the Author: Janet Meiners Thaeler is an Evangelist for OrangeSoda Inc. and the principal blogger for their corporate blog and Twitter account. She regularly advises clients on blogging and social media strategies. Thaeler has freelanced for numerous online and offline outlets such as Podango, Marketing Pilgrim and her own blog — Newspapergrl.com (and Twitter account @newspapergrl). She is passionate about online marketing and is always looking for new insights, resources and trends to help her clients.