SEM Options for Small Businesses – Testing the Water

Google maps, local businesses, productsWith more and more people using search engines as their primary way of locating products or services, an increasing amount of small businesses are realizing the potential that effective search engine marketing can have on their businesses.

While a lot of businesses are realizing the benefits, many are still unsure about investing in it. With search engine marketing still a relatively new practice, many of these businesses do not have any previous experience with it and rather than embrace it, they ignore it.

For these businesses however, there are a lot of benefits that can come by simply investing a bit of time and experimenting with new practices. Below are a few ideas (mainly Google focused) to help small businesses test the water without getting in too deep:

Natural Results and SEO

The main target for any business looking to increase online visibility and drive traffic is the natural search results. These account for the majority of traffic that comes from search engines and the ones that require the most work. While there are a whole range of factors that search engines consider when ranking websites, some are more important than others. To get a better understanding of SEO there’s lots of information out there to help you. Why not check out Leora’s intro to SEO which should help you get started.

As a business owner, there are small changes you can make to your website that can have a big effect on your positions in the natural search results. In my experience, the simplest and most rewarding change any business can make for SEO is optimizing title tags. These appear in the blue browser bar at the top of the page and are one of the most important on page factors search engines consider when determining the relevance of the page. Try to keep this to around 65 characters, put the most important keywords first and include the location or brand if these are keywords you want to be targeting.

For example, the current title tag for Navaro is “SEO, Search Engine Optimisation and PPC Company Warwickshire | Navaro”. After trying various layouts, we are currently using SEO and search engine optimization as the first keywords, as they are the most difficult ones to rank for, then PPC company as the second, followed by the location and then a “|” separating the company name. The company name is displayed this way at the end of every title tag.

Google Local Business Center

If your business provides services to a location specific area, Google will often return local business results when the relevant keyword is searched for. These results are displayed above the natural results and can often drive a fair amount of traffic. Submitting to Google Local Business Center (Google Local Business Centre in Great Britain) is easy and can be done through your Google account. A few things to keep in mind when creating the listing:

• User reviews will help improve your position in local search and increase trust in your listing
• Try to use keywords in your company name
• Fill in as many details as possible to help add further weight to the listing
• The closer your company is to the center of the city the better

Examples of local business results on Google:
local business centre UK

toy shops in Highland Park, NJ area

Google Base

With Google now trying to help users find what they are looking for as quickly as possible, products are often show directly in the search results. These are taken from Google Base, which again can be accessed through a Google account. By uploading the details of the products you are currently selling you can help penetrate the search results, even in some of the most competitive areas. See also Google Merchant Center, which you can get to from Google Base.

UK examples:
showers in UK

USA examples:

showers in USA

PPC Advertising

Pay per click adverts are the ones that show up to the right, above and below the natural search results (depending on the search engine). As opposed to print advertising, where you pay for the advert whether or not it reaches prospective customer, pay per click advertising only costs money when someone clicks on the advert and is delivered to your website.

This form of advertising, along with SEO is one of the most cost effective and targeted around and a simple account can be set up in around half an hour. It gives the advertiser complete control over everything from daily budget and target area, to maximum cost per click.

Testing a couple of these methods should give you an insight into the benefits that search engine marketing can have for your business.

Ben Hook


Ben Hook is the owner Navaro, a Warwickshire SEO company helping clients to grow their business by increasing their online visibility.


Thank you, Ben, for having the honor of writing the first guest post for this blog!

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3 thoughts on “SEM Options for Small Businesses – Testing the Water

  1. Good tips! I have used both local and base for customers and it helps a lot. I would also recommend using google trends to check the trend and manage the keywords accordingly… and now google adwords/ppc allows you to connect with google base/product search so you get more relevant ad impressions…

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