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Small Business Marketing Online: The First Critical Step

Get Found on GoogleHere’s a staggering statistic: 97% of North Americans now use the Internet to shop. Couple that with the fact that 73% of all online activity is related to local content, and it begs the critical question: How visible is YOUR business in local search?There’s no two ways about it: You HAVE to make sure your company is as visible as possible in Internet search results. Particularly Google if you are a Canadian business, because 85% of Canucks site Google as their search engine of choice.There is a powerful little secret about Google that most small business owners apparently haven’t discovered yet. It’s called Google Places, also known as Google Maps or Google Local Business Center. It officially became Google Places in April of this year (2010).If your company has been listed in the Yellow Pages or any of the other best known online directories, the odds are you already have a “Place Page”. Google culls information from various sources on the Internet to create default Place pages for local businesses.Depending on how much info it finds relative to your business, your default page can be as basic as name, address and phone number, or it can include photos and even customer reviews.I saw one example of a Google Place Page for a local bookstore that had more than 30 customer reviews. Google gives a lot of weight to small businesses that have many customer reviews. But this one was buried on page 5 or 6 of the local listings even though it had 31 separate cases of customer feedback.Small Business MarketingThe reason it had no prominent position in local searches is because the business owner had not “claimed” the listing. Basically how it works is Google gives you a “gift” of a Google Place Page. All you have to do is make proper use of it and Google will reward you by giving your Place Page a higher ranking in local search results.So not claiming (i.e., optimizing and verifying) your Place Page is sort of like shooting your business in the foot: You are hobbling the high performance you stand to gain merely by accepting Google’s gift and putting some work into harnessing its power.Now I understand that this whole Internet search marketing deal can be an intimidating prospect to business owners who are stressed to the hilt with the everyday demands of taking care of business. There is just no time to start trying to learn Internet Marketing for Small Business 101.The good news is there are plenty of Internet marketing aficionados like myself who are only too willing to do it all for you. All you have to do is ask.