Local Search Engine Marketing Guide

, of , as assembled a guide for small businesses wanting to replace costly yellow pages ads with local search engine marketing:

Just as many small business owners want to stop spending so much money on the yellow pages and move their marketing dollars to the web, I also believe shoppers and information seekers will choose the web over the yellow pages in greater frequency in coming years. With that in mind, I believe local search offers a great opportunity for small businesses (especially) to reach customers on the web. And those of you who take advantage of this opportunity sooner, rather than later, have the best chance to win in the end.

The purpose of this guide is to introduce small business owners to the different Local Search products and marketing opportunities offered by each of thee main search engines. I’ll do my best to keep the material up-to-date, and I invite you to help me stay informed by emailing matt [at] smallbusinesssem.com with any new discoveries or corrections you find appropriate. You can also use that email for questions you may have!

Full article at http://www.smallbusinesssem.com/local-search-marketing-guide/.


The Bloomery’s Blog Gets Some Press

We received some nice press in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently.  We were interviewd for an article titled “Blogs offer new avenue for businesses”:

Brides-to-be love to read anything pertaining to weddings. That’s why the owners of a Butler floral shop reach out to them through a blog, or Web log, that invites their comments.

Richard and Kathy Dudley of The Bloomery post messages and pictures with wedding ideas: Mini bouquets can be made with a deep purple calla lily that looks almost black, for example.


Well, one thing has changed.  In response to the article, we have had new customers check out our blog and website.  They found our prom gallery, and came in to order their prom flowers.  Progress!

You can find our blog at www.floristblogs.com and our regular site at www.bloomery.com; our wedding website is www.bloomeryweddings.com, and our wedding blog is www.bloomeryweddings.com/blog.

Technorati: | | |

Free Online HTML Validator

I’ve used CSE HTML Validator for quite some time.  I started with ther free version, and upgraded to the full version after using it for a while.  They’ve recently released a free online HTML validator, based on their Lite version engine.  Find it at http://onlinewebcheck.com/.  You can submit the URL of a page, upload a page, or paste in a snippet.  Very cool, and you can’t beat the price.

What is a Blog?

I get asked this question a lot, and I’ve never really liked the answer “a weblog is an on-line diary”.  I’ve never kept an off-line diary, so that answer just never reached me.  I prefer to think of a blog in a different way.

Have you ever run into someone you haven’t seen in a while, and asked them what they were up to?  Have you ever met someone new and asked them what they do?  To me, a blog is a pre-emptive answer to either of those questions.  If you’re reading my blog for the first time, welcome!  Look around, and you’ll get an idea of what I do, what I like, and a little of how I think.  If you’re an old friend, great to see you again, and here’s what I’ve been up to.  Sorry I haven’t kept in touch better, I’ve been really busy.  Drop me a line and I’ll try to do better.

Whether or not a blog is good depends on how much the reader cares about the question you’re answering.  Not being lame is critical though.  If you’re interested in blogging but are concerned about being lame, check out Naked Conversations and learn both good and lame by example.  You can find my review at http://www.rjdudley.com/blog/Review+Of+Naked+Conversations.aspx, or use the link below to get the book from Amazon.

If you read the blog for Naked Conversations, you’ll hear Shel Israel talk about his friend Ernie the Attorney, whom Shel met researching the book.  By the time they actually met in person, Shel considered Ernie one of his best friends; that Shel had come to know Ernie just by reading his blog.  That’s exactly what I’m talking about.  Ernie had already answered the question “Here’s who I am, and what I do.”

As far as small businesses are concerned, think about some of your long-time customers.  You know them and their preferences, and they know you.  You probably have some inside jokes, and they’ve seen some of the amazing stuff you’ve done.  These are your best customers, and your fan club, too.  They’re your brand evangelists–the folks who don’t work for you, but bring you new customers through their word of mouth.  Turning new customers into long-time customers can be a lengthy process (duh!), but your blog can help.  Introduce your staff (like they do at Aldo Coffee), show off some of your cool work (like at The Wedding Blog or Lincoln Sign Company), share something funny, but not one of those “you had to be there” moments.  People who just find you will be “in the loop” in no time, and your business will be so much the better.

More Reasons Why Blogs Are Important For Florists

Let’s take a look at FTD over the past few months for some guidance.  In December, FTD reported a decrease in orders because they decided not to play in areas like Google’s AdWords, since keyword bidding is becomming so expensive  (http://www.internetretailer.com/dailyNews.asp?id=17140 and http://www.internetretailer.com/dailyNews.asp?id=17389).  Granted, FTD was part of the problem in inflating keyword prices, but they’d rather we didn’t consider that.  Total revenue was up slightly for the last quarter, and recently, FTD announced its 2006 Valentine’s Day orders were up 14% year-to-year (http://www.internetretailer.com/dailyNews.asp?id=17691).  What are we to take from FTD’s experiences?

  • Keyword bidding for floral-related search terms is expensive, with the big players pushing each other around
  • Reducing online marketing efforts will probably reduce online orders
  • Customers are buying more and more everyday flowers online
  • More and more customers are buying on-line at the holidays
  • Customers are using search engines to research for floral purchases

Now, here’s a very interesting study that came out recently:

A new study says that though a majority of shoppers use the internet to research products, nearly half still prefer to make their purchases through bricks and mortar retailers.

This is outstanding news for us local florists, especially the ones with a good website.  Probably the #1 facing local florists is simply getting found in the search engines.  Aside from the big players bidding keywords way up, and the skimmer sites, it’s tough to be found.  And that’s where a blog comes in. 

Blogs are quickly and happily indexed by search engines.  Your posts themselves will become pages in the search index promoting you.  If you’re a member of a site such as floristblogs.com, links in your blog posts to your site will count as inbound links to your site.  Blogs also help build your brand.  People know about FTD, and familiarity builds confidence.  Your blog will give your customers a good idea of what you’re about.  You want to try to write your blog posts as if you were conversing with your customers face-to-face.

Here are today’s reasons to blog:

  • Blogs are cheap.  Even FloristBlogs.com works out to $5/month.
  • Writing a blog will increase your on-line marketing efforts
  • Your customers will find you easier, and get a feel for your brand

Five Surefire Content Ideas (When Your Blog Is Drawing Blanks)

Business blogging is exploding this year, but content ideas are always in short supply.  Small businesses can benefit from blogging, but ideas may be even more difficult to come by, especially in small towns.  There was a good article this week from Marketing Profs with “Five Surefire Content Ideas (When Your Blog Is Drawing Blanks)” (http://www.marketingprofs.com/6/kranz9.asp).  Here’s the intro:

If you’re like me (and many others building a business), you may have created a Web log to communicate more intimately and more frequently with your audience. It’s supposed to be easy. After all, the technology is simple, the style casual and the content brief.

But after the initial wave of enthusiasm, you may find it increasingly difficult to generate ideas for the blog that began with so many thoughts—and so many posts—just a few months ago. Worse, you might be guiding a boss or colleague who may not be a fluent writer, but is the appropriate representative whose voice must be present in the blogosphere.

This is free content, so definately check it out when you get a minute, and keep working on the content for your blog!  For more insight into business blogging, I do recommend reading Naked Conversations.  I was fortunate enough to be a galley reviewer, and you can read my review at http://www.rjdudley.com/blog/Review+Of+Naked+Conversations.aspx.

If you’re interested in adding a blog to your website, drop me a line through the contacts page and I’ll be glad to help you get started.