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9/20/2012
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3 Ways SMBs Can Capitalize On Google's Dominance

Google is poised to overtake Facebook as the largest seller of display ads in the U.S., adding to its existing search and mobile dominance. Here's how small and midsize businesses can cash in.

10 Pinterest Pointers For Businesses
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Google's slice of the online advertising pie is getting downright gluttonous.

The search giant soon will surpass Facebook as the largest seller of online display advertising in the U.S., according to research firm eMarketer. That means Google now will occupy the top slot in each of online advertising's three major categories: search, display, and mobile.

"There are several factors underpinning Google’s ascent to market leader, including the continued strength of its ad network, video advertising on YouTube, and mobile display advertising on AdMob," eMarketer said in its research summary.

The firm expects Google to pad its display-ad lead in the coming years, too; it projects Google will own more than 21% of a $20 billion display advertising market in 2014. Facebook is the only other horse keeping pace; Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL are expected fall farther and farther behind the online advertising pack.

That's something that small and midsize business (SMB) professionals, especially those overwhelmed by the massive menu of social, mobile, and online advertising platforms, can use to their advantage.

[ Google stumbles. Read Google Pays $500 Million Over Illegal Drug Ads. ]

"If you find yourself struggling to keep up with all of the crazy marketing tasks across so many venues, then you kind of need to think about consolidating a bit," said Larry Kim, chief technology officer at the online marketing firm WordStream, via email interview. "The idea here is to pick fewer venues, ideally the ones with the broadest reach so that you can continue to drive the leads your business needs to survive, without taking forever."

Now more than ever, that means prioritizing Google, and Kim shared three strategies for SMBs that want to place their biggest marketing and advertising bets there. "This is the cheapest (you only pay for clicks), fastest (it's all in one system), and most scalable (you can step on the gas easily if you need more leads) way to get significant reach for your SMB," Kim said.

1. Get a Google+ for Business page. Here's the free and relatively easy one: Stake your claim on a Google+ page if you haven't already. Google's social network wasn't very welcoming of businesses at first, but that's changing. The main reason you should take advantage of that, Kim says, is that Google+ pages are likely to rank high in organic search results for keywords related to your business, particularly your company name. Kim predicts that Google will start charging for Google+ for Business pages at some point; whether that pans out, he advises getting one now to get in on the proverbial ground floor. SEO experts agree, because Google might very well favor early Google+ adopters in search results as the network's usage grows.

2. Add remarketing to your rotation. Google's new position atop the display ad market is a reminder that search isn't all it does. Remarketing essentially allows you to follow your website visitors around the Internet--or at least the large portion of it included in the Google Display Network--after the leave. "Most people don't realize how big the Google Display Network is, because it's just a quarter of the Google business--most people think of Google as being for search ads only," Kim said. Remarketing allows you to continue messaging online prospects as they, say, check their Gmail or watch videos on YouTube.

"There are tons of tiny ad networks out there, [but] it doesn't make any sense for an SMB to be splitting up a small budget across numerous ad networks," Kim said. "Google Display Network is the 800-pound gorilla."

3. Run small, strategic search campaigns. Google continues to be synonymous with search; it accounts for two-thirds of all Internet searches in the U.S., according to comScore. You don't need a particularly large budget to do some strategic keyword buys. Stick with highly relevant keywords for your business, and consider very narrow targeting--doing so can help keep costs in check while attracting more valuable, motivated leads, according to Kim. "Try to take advantage of all of the ad extensions like location extensions, so that your address can show up in the ads and your ads show up in Google Maps," Kim said. He also recommended the click-to-call extensions, so that mobile users can easily contact you by phone.

Of course, betting big on Google's continued dominance isn't without its downsides. "There are some risks associated with being dependent on one lead source," Kim said. "For example, Google could change their business and your company might be better or worse off than before."

In an ideal environment, you'd be better served pursuing a more diversified marketing and advertising strategy. But plenty of SMBs operate in less-than-ideal conditions, especially these days. If time and money are in short supply, Google's a good place to focus until you're ready and able to branch out.

"As your business grows, expand to adjacent marketing venues," Kim said. Until then: "It doesn't make sense to be doing a bunch of small ad venues, such as small ad networks or individual websites, before you have the low-hanging fruit covered."

Even small IT shops can now afford thin provisioning, performance acceleration, replication, and other features to boost utilization and improve disaster recovery. Also in the new, all-digital Store More special issue of InformationWeek SMB: Don't be fooled by the Oracle's recent Xsigo buy. (Free registration required.)

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