Are people searching for my business online?

The knee-jerk answer to this is, “Yes, people are looking for everything online.” To an extent this is a pretty fair answer; active consumers are connected to the internet with phones, tablets, computers… and have internet access just about all the time – from their phone, at McDonald’s, with portable devices, etc.

Marketing has changed, and is continuing to do so, as more devices gain access to the Internet and more locations become practical places from which to connect. These days, people have a vast amount of information at their fingertips, a number of convenient ways to access it, and search engines act as gateways for finding what they need.

This move has caused a shift in advertising as companies scramble to get to where the people are – the yellow pages has moved online (and to a large extent is integrated into search engines); television shows, music, social activity has moved online.

All of this alters the format of display advertising and creates a struggle for companies to monetize from advertising because traditional methods are not suitable; magazines and newspapers have moved online (to the consternation of publishers because of the general “free-ness” of content on the internet).

Google continues to benefit from all of this, as it fuels the transition and answers people’s queries. If you check Google’s stock, you’ll probably see that a lot of the transition has already happened, as almost all of their revenue comes from advertisements that people click on (online).

But are people really searching for my business online?

The easiest way to check whether people are searching for your particular business services or products is to use the Google Keyword Tool. From this tool you can see “Local Monthly Searches” which is how many times people search for a business like yours from the location you have selected (probably the United States if you left the default setting).

If you are logged into a Google account you can even change the columns to see the average cost per click advertisers pay when they bid on the term. Unless your product is very new, or if your product is not particularly well-defined in the market, you will probably see search volume for terms that are specifically for your product.

Search advertising is good at answering existing demand. Even if you have a particular niche that can be covered by a group of salespeople, you might supplement those efforts with search advertising. Answering inquiries for your products when they occur is probably going to work better than an unsolicited contact. Search advertising might also reveal unexpected or peripheral markets where you wouldn’t have a sales team assigned.

Probably a better question than “Are people searching for my business” would be “is it cost effective and practical for me to target search engine users?”

Is it cost effective and practical for me to target search engine users?

If you are just now asking whether people are searching for your business online, you might already be late to the game. But asking whether it makes sense to get involved with paid search/search advertising/AdWords/SEO/social media, is different than asking if people actually search online for your products.

I think I established that they most likely do, and it takes about five minutes to find out. But whether it is cost effective and practical to make an online marketing effort is a completely different topic. Obviously the answer varies by the type of business you have.

Are you a local business that wouldn’t typically advertise? Are you a franchise? Are you thinking of starting an e-commerce site? Is your business international? Is your business a branded household name? Is your business so large that it is more concerned with reputation management than acquiring customers through marketing?

For any business, here are a couple of easier questions to start with:

  • Are your competitors advertising on search engines?
  • Based on search query data, what kind of market share are you losing by not actively marketing with search engines?

Hopefully you’ve gained a little insight here on how to start thinking about your online marketing efforts.