10/08/2013 08:51 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

4 Things You Need to Know for SMB Search Marketing Success (That We Bet You Know Already)

As a small business owner, diving into search marketing can seem pretty daunting. Truth is you already know a lot more about search marketing than you think. You have the answers to the hardest questions, the ones that can make your search marketing a total success. Search marketing is not difficult but it is essential if you want to grow your business. This is because more than 80 percent of all people on the web use search engines, and you need to be where they are.

The Free Stuff

Before you jump into search marketing that you have to pay for, make sure you're covered for free in the two most important areas for every small business:
1. Sign up for local listing with Bing and Google. This puts your business in search results.
2. Via Webmaster Tools on Bing and Google, get a code to put on your site that tells them you exist. This bit of code calls Bing and Google to come check out your site.

PPC Gives You Total Control

Now let's talk about the easiest way to get into search marketing: Pay-per click (PPC). It's easy because you can control everything about it: Where the ads will show up, what time of day they'll run, your message and how much you'll pay for each click. Turns out these are also the hard questions that lead to successful search ads, and you already have the answers to them:

1. You know what you're selling. Dan, who owns "Garage Door Opener", knows that his biggest profits come from people whose garage doors won't open - not from new door installations. So while his company does install garage doors, he knows that his customers place a higher value on repairs to broken garage door openers. So what are you selling?


2. You know what makes you different, and better than your competitors. For Dan, this is his fast service. He can be at a customer's house within an hour of their call. He knows this because he limits his service area geographically to those within 30 miles of his hub. Competitors can't match his speed, because they are keeping their service area too large.


3. You know when most of your sales happen. Your business might be seasonal, or it might track to the weekend shopping habits of teen girls. Garage Door Opener sees most of their sales between 6 and 9 a.m. on weekdays. People get into their car and get ready to head out for school or work and find themselves trapped inside a garage with a broken door that won't open.

4. You know how much you'll make from each sale. This will help you determine how much you're willing to spend for each click that brings you a customer. At $300 per visit to fix a broken garage door, Dan was willing to put a high bid on his ad running between 6 and 9am on weekdays -- because he knew his actual sales would pay for the expense.

Turn Your Answers Into Successful Search Ads

Take some time to think through these things, and let surprising answers come to life. Until he thought about it, Dan didn't realize how much more he made on repairs than on installations, because the time required for each was wildly different but the invoices are the same. In thinking about when most of your sales happen, think more broadly than in a 24-hour timeframe; think in terms of weeks, months, specific events and holidays. Dan's repair services are in higher demand when temperatures rise, for example, because it's heat that causes the springs on the garage door openers to fail.

Now that you've done the hardest part (and admit it -- it wasn't that hard), you're ready to commit to a PPC search marketing plan with a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo!

But Wait. There's One More Thing.

One last piece of advice: Don't set and forget. Revisit your campaign settings at least once a week to see which keywords are working for you, which word combinations are getting the most clicks and to make sure your bids are set right. You can monitor everything in real time. Make adjustments immediately to constantly make your ad work for you.

What are your questions about search marketing? Let's talk about it!

John Gagnon is the SMB Evangelist for Bing Ads. You can follow him on Twitter to learn more tips about PPC and using Excel for digital marketing.