Many small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) focus heavily on their organic search rankings. After all, it’s “free,” and if you enjoy a high ranking, you can derive excellent business from it. But, even if your business ranks well in local search (and especially if you don’t), there are great reasons to consider some paid search advertising, aka “PPC.”
While I have a reputation as a local search optimization specialist, but I consider myself to be broader in that I am a marketer, period. As such, my philosophy is that companies should promote themselves within as many channels as they reasonably can afford, and they should also go with what works.
Local SEO definitely works and works well, but my back-of-the-napkin math indicates that targeting local search results rankings has its limits for a great many of the SMBs out there.
In larger metro areas and for more popular business categories, there can be hundreds and thousands of businesses that vie for the same customers. If you’re a hotelier, florist, attorney, accountant, plumber, or contractor for instance, you may be trying to capture consumers’ attention along with hundreds of others in your field.
For instance, there are around 600 florists in Miami, 1700 accountants in New York City, 390 Web designers in Seattle, 475 plastic surgeons and dermatologists in Los Angeles, and a whopping 6,000 attorneys in Dallas! (Estimates of numbers of companies in various category/market combinations vary by business directories.)
However, there’s only a limited amount of exposure available in search engines. In Google, most users see the default of up to seventeen organic/non-paid listings per page, including a few choices from the Map Search results.
If consumers click through to view more map results, they might see three more results in addition to the up-to-seven local results they already saw embedded in the regular keyword search. Since most consumers don’t click to view beyond the first page of search results, that’s just about twenty local businesses they might see out of the hundreds available!
Okay, so your business might have more chances to be seen via other search engines as well — even if you’re not first in Google, you could be on the first page via Bing/Yahoo. (Although, the majority of users are searching from Google.)
Still, that means that only a few dozen businesses may have exposure in the first page of search engine results from industries that have many hundreds of providers — mathematically, this means only a handful of companies for any given type of business have sufficiently beneficial exposure in search engines.
If you’re not on the first page of results for various of your top keyword combinations, it’s possible that a paid search campaign could give you more business referrals and make up the difference.
Top Reasons Why Pay-Per-Click Could Benefit Your Local Business
Even for businesses that do have top rankings, there are a few reasons why paid search could be beneficial.
It can make up for those many companies that don’t have top rankings.
Paid Search can provide increased revenue stream while you begin to up your SEO game. Even if you implement changes to help your natural search rankings, it may take some time to establish significant gains. PPC could increase your income until the SEO has a chance to take effect. Even for sites with great rankings, PPC could provide additional revenue — and more money is always good, right? Even with a #1 ranking in organic, PPC can increase your clicks/referrals.
Studies have shown that PPC can augment SEO. It appears that using both paid and organic search marketing simultaneously may have a synergetic effect in that doing both can result in more combined referrals than the total of both separately. Just on the basis of probability, the more “real estate” you can occupy on the first page of search results, the more likely that a user’s click will land upon your content versus another’s.
There are occasional hints that paid search might help bolster a site’s natural search rankings. I don’t believe there’s a direct correlation, but I can see a few ways that clicks and exposure from PPC might help improve rankings over time, as nearly any promotional activities around a business help to raise its overall profile and associated prominence factors.
Paid search is often less costly and faster to implement than SEO. So, the risks are pretty low and controllable.
PPC ads can get you on page one of popular keyword search results! So, it provides a sort of second chance at rankings if your SEO game lags behind competitors.
You may not realize that you can set up PPC ads to just appear for people in your city. When someone searches for “plumbing,” it’s possible to geographically target or “geotarget” your ads to only appear for your area locals. It can be done to allow targeting state-wide, or by city and ZIP.
For all these reasons, consider doing some PPC advertising, if you are not doing so already. Pay-per-click can be set with small budgets initially if you want to get your feet wet, and smaller campaigns can be run do-it-yourself, although there are enough options involved to consider hiring a professional to at least set up a program efficiently for you.
So, what are you waiting for?