City Focused SEM vs. National Local SEM

Greg Sterling wrote a very nice article on Search Engine Land today covering SEM (search engine marketing) for SMB (small, medium business). Greg names some leading local SEM companies and defines the collective service they provide in part.

The concept is simple, they take your business information and plug it into search engines and directories. Pay per click is a central component and each has a variation on the theme. I have reviewed a few of these outfits in the past, spent time on each of the sites and have formed an opinion on most.
My objective reaction is they all provide a nice service but lack the one thing required for best practice local SEM, they are not local themselves.

When RH Donnelley purchased LocalLaunch.com last year it signalled the bureaucratization of the genre. YellowBook, SuperPages and Websitepros joined suit. Greg reasons Google, MSN and Yahoo! may take interest in one of the remaining local oriented SEM firms listed.

It's all one in the same to small business owners. Be it Yahoo!, ReachLocal, or Natpal the local business person reasons they are all the same, far away, confusing and impersonal. Greg points to Office Live, Microsoft's SMB website building product. I would love to see how many SMB's are finding their way to adCenter from the site building center. How are they learning keyword bidding management, are they following the tutorals? Most likely not to the scale the SEs need.

I've yet to meet a small business owner that understands the nuances of PPC. Those that have made their way to AdWords never got to the memo on geo-targeting. Will adding an SEM boutique help Google or Yahoo! help the small businessman? I don't know but my guess is it won't. Not because they won't offer a valuable service but because small business needs to be sold on SEM personally.

The relationship between local search marketer and client must be personal to attain the best results. Set and forget will not do, I'll argue someone in New Jersey cannot efficiently run a search marketing campaign for a florist in Sacramento California.
The best person to run a search marketing campaign for the Sacramento florist is a marketer in Sacramento. Ultimately this is where search marketing for small (local) business is headed.

Consider these facts in helping understand the scope of small business;

"Census data show there were 5.7 million firms with employees and 17.6 million without employees in 2002 (and 18.6 million without employees in 2003). Applying the sole proprietorship growth rates to the nonemployer figures and similar Department of Labor growth rates to the employer figures produces the 24.7 million figure. Small firms with fewer than 500 employees represent 99.9 percent of the 24.7 million businesses, as the most recent data show there are 17,000 large businesses.

That's a whole lot of small businesses and arguably an unlimited base of advertising clients. While it's still very early in the SEM for SMB game I suggest the future is at the ultra-local level.

What will we call them?

Mom and Pop SEM
Super Local SEM
Hyper Local SEM
Neighborhood SEM
City Focused SEM
Backyard SEM
Hip pocket SEM
Regional SEM services

An perfect expample of city-focused SEM is LocalMN.com. Owner Paul Jahn states on his FAQ page he accepts clients from outside Minneapolis I don't think he would mind being characterized and city-focused. I consider my company Sierra Web Marketing in the same category though I am more Mom and Pop at this point.
We'll soon see more Sierra Web Marketing and LocalMN.com "regional SEM" shops come online. At the moment we are a very small group.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Hey, thanks for the mention Mike!

I'm more than OK with being considered a city or regional SEM. Actually, I prefer it.

I think I'll be seeing you around. New site design and some new offerings it looks like? Looking sweet!

Actually, localMN is a mom and pop too. Just myself and a few people I'll outsource to. You're right! I don't think there are many of us around.