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The New Phone Book

Getting the word out about your company can be tough. Really tough.

It is easy to pay for advertising, but advertising costs can quickly skyrocket without an equivalent boost in sales.

For local businesses it used to be easy enough to get business by placing an ad in the phone book. Those days are over. There is a new phone book in town.

The Old Days

When we first started Picnic Table Rental in the mid-2000’s it was simple enough to put a small ad in the local phone book announcing that our business existed. It drummed up enough business to get us started, and word of mouth really carried us from there.

These days, most people do not look at a phone book when they want to find a local business. They pull out their phone or sit down at the computer and do a Google search for the right business.

Why Google Stinks

Almost everybody searches via Google today. Google owns the search market by a wide margin. If we want our business to be found online, Google is where we need to focus.

The way that the Google search results are structured there can be some major disadvantages for your business, especially if you are in a crowded market.

  1. You have to be found for the right keywords. For your business to get found it needs to appear in the search results when a customer is looking for your type of business. To appear in these results your site needs to be relevant to the phrase that is searched.

As an example, your company may provide tent rental in Chicago. Your company website may mention “tent rental” and “Chicago” many times, which makes it more likely to rank high in the Google search results for the search phrase “tent rental in Chicago.”

The trouble is, your customers could be searching with a completely different phrase to find your service. If they are typing in “canopy rental in Chicago” it is less likely that your company will show up.

There are ways to research what terms are being searched in Google using the Google Keyword Planner, but it can still be tricky to find the best phrases.

  1. The top ranking search results get all of the traffic. We know that on average the #1 search result in a Google search is going to get clicked by about 40% of the searchers. The #2 result is going to get about 20%. The rest of the results on the first page of search results will get less than 10% of the search traffic each. The second page of results gets virtually zero traffic.

If your website does not rank at the top for relevant keywords you will not be found by most customers. In the phone book it was easy to open to the page with the service that you were looking for and scan all of the companies offering that service. This does not happen online.

  1. It takes time and effort to rank at the top. Even if your website is set up well and is optimized to show up in the relevant Google searches, it takes time for Google to find your site. It could be weeks or months before Google picks up your site and adds it to search results naturally, meaning you will have to buy ad space to get your business seen.
  2. It is difficult to stand out. In the phone book it was possible to buy color ads with logos and designs to make your ad stand out on the page. Google search results do not allow this. You can alter the wording that shows up for your site, but you cannot make it jump off the page when the customer looks at it.

Why Google Rocks

  1. You can easily target the exact customers that are ideal for your company. Somebody who types in “tent rental in Chicago” has a very specific need, and they are ready to make a purchase. You do not need to educate them on the necessity of tent rental. They are already looking for it. You can get your business directly in front of these “hot” leads.
  2. If you do a great job on your website Google will make sure you are found. Google rewards well-built sites that offer a lot of value in their field. If you put effort into making a great resource for your customers you will probably get rewarded for it.
  3. If you get to the top of the rankings you can get a lot of natural traffic without paying for ads. When Google determines that you are the #1 resource on tent rental in Chicago you are automatically seen as the local expert on that topic, and you will naturally get most of the search traffic for that topic. This all leads to more customers.
  4. If you buy ads you can quickly get targeted customer leads. Even if your website does not rank at the top it is easy to spend a few dollars a day on Google ads and get your business seen (and your website visited) by customers quickly.

Get Familiar with Google

It is worth your time to become familiar with the way Google does business and filters search results and ads. Google is a vital tool for customers, so it has become a vital tool for businesses.

In the coming weeks we will dig deeper into the ways we can leverage Google and other online tools to advertise our businesses.

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