Mike Doman: What is your definition of search engine marketing?
Richard Flanagan: When someone uses a search engine like Google, they receive a list of organic results. They are typically also presented with a set of clearly marked ads that are relevant to what they are searching for (this is search engine marketing). Because people typically search when they want something specific (eg “good bookshop in Fitzroy”), it’s a great way to reach people just as they are looking to make a purchase. These days, not being on the web is like not being in the phone book.
Used well, the internet is like rocket fuel for small business.
MD: What are the best ways small businesses can market themselves online, both locally and to new, broader markets using the internet?
RF: The first step is to be found by people who are already looking for you - by ensuring you have a basic web presence and that you can be found on an online map. You can set this up for free on our new Google My Business page.
The next step is to ensure that your online assets work across the variety of ways people use the internet, especially on mobile. We’ve all been on websites that are impossible to operate on a mobile phone - and clicked away in frustration. Don’t annoy your customers by giving them a bad mobile experience.
MD: How can businesses get started marketing themselves online?
RF: For small business owners who don’t have much experience of the internet, the best place to start is Google My Business. This is a free one-stop-shop resource that helps people get set up online.
AdWords Express is a quick and easy way for people to start advertising online. Businesses can advertise their services on the Google search page - for example, you can bid for your ad to appear when someone in a specific area searches for a particular word or phrase – for example, when someone in Parramatta searches for ‘emergency plumber’. You decide who you want to target and how much you want to spend (you can set a cap). Then you’re away!
MD: Can you explain Google Adwords to us? How can it benefit small businesses?
RF: I tend to think of AdWords as a bit like a matchmaking service.
It matches local business with customers who are looking for the goods and services that the business provides. For example, if someone searches for a Korean restaurant in Adelaide, they can be served ads that relate directly to this.
The business owner can decide exactly when and where they want their ad to be shown, and if someone meets that criteria - voila, the ad is served! Businesses only pay when someone is interested enough to click on the ad, so it’s a very cost-effective way of advertising.
MD: What impact do you think the internet, and in particular search engines like Google, is having on small and medium businesses in Australia?
RF: Used well, the internet is like rocket fuel for small business. Research by Deloitte shows that SMBs that are making the most use of online tools like websites, online marketing, and social media are two times more likely to be growing revenue than those with low engagement. They’re also job creators for Australia, being four times more likely to be hiring than those with low digital engagement.
The internet gives smaller operators access to marketing tools that up until now have been the preserve of the big end of town. I was talking recently to a specialty bookshop owner in Melbourne. His customer base used to be a few nearby suburbs, but once he set up a website and started advertising, he found orders coming in not just from all over Australia, but from as far afield as Scandinavia.
He can now target his marketing to Swedish customers, and compete with global players, all from his mobile phone while waiting at the bus stop in Fitzroy. That simply wasn’t possible 10 years ago.