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Many small businesses are pretty cautious when it comes to investing the very limited amount of time and money they have into marketing, but a new survey shows the vast majority of small or medium businesses who use online marketing are glad they did.

BrightLocal’s annual SMB Internet Marketing Survey asked 736 businesses with 1-50 employees about their feelings and use of internet marketing, mobile marketing, and marketing services in October-November 2014.

Of those who responded to the survey, 95% were businesses located within North America (92% U.S.; 3% Canada).

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When asked how effective each respondent felt internet marketing is at attracting new customers to their business, 32% said they found online marketing to be “very effective” (compared to 27% in 2013). Combined, 75% felt internet marketing is “effective” or “very effective” at attracting new customers (compared to 68% in 2013).

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The findings of the survey also show that many small businesses are still reaping significant rewards with internet marketing on a limited budget. The report says 70% of those who responded to the survey are spending less than $500 per month on marketing (compared to 73%), and 83% are spending less than $1,000 per month.

There are several other interesting findings in the study, but the overall message is clear. Online marketing is highly effective, even for businesses who don’t have extensive resources to put towards marketing.

In the effort to get links and spread word of your business online, many people can get a bit overzealous.  Ryan Sammy put together an excellent list detailing the 7 deadly sins of content promotion.  I’ve summarized them here, with my own input on it.

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In the past, most local businesses never thought they could compete with major companies.  The marketing budget needed to really make a similar impact was usually way out of their capabilities.  However, with Google’s latest updates, it’s looking like the smaller business has a much better chance of staying within the public’s eyes.

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Nowadays the web is getting more and more attention.  People are realizing that businesses are made by being found online.  The methods of doing that are through creating good web pages, having an online presence through blogs, social media, online advertising.  And tied into almost all of this is search engine optimization.

If a business uses any of the other means (social media, blogging, site design), then it all comes down to wanting to be found online, to gain a presence.  And this ties into SEO.  Whether or not you realize it, if you have a Facebook account, you’re helping one site or another with search engine optimization.  Every link you post makes a difference.  On Twitter, any link posted can have an impact on visitors and the search engine listings.

Anything online will make a difference in SEO.  The key to doing good search engine optimization on purpose (as opposed to on accident, as a surprising number of sites have done) is to continue learning what changes impact the search engines.  As it is now, social media is starting to have an effect.  But that doesn’t mean you just need to put one post and you’ll shoot up three pages.  The trick is learning how it all ties together.

A good SEO stays educated on many aspects of the internet.  Just because you learn the basics doesn’t mean you’ll still be an expert SEO four years later (or even one year later).  The internet is a changing beast, and knowing these changes can make a big difference in your placement online.

And if you choose to hire someone else to do the search engine optimization for you, make sure that you’re happy with how educated they are on these changes.  Learning the basics of SEO is easy – but mastering it is more than just a few steps above that.

I found a very interesting article today, through NPR.  It’s talking to Bob Garfield, and references to his book The Chaos Scenario.  Essentially, the article was covering the changes in marketing we’re seeing today.

The world as all advertisers knows it is changing.  Changing drastically.  Marketing is not dying – it’s being reborn.

Most people are moving online.  Using the internet for almost everything now.  I know that I can count myself in with this – if I’m looking for an address to meet with a business, where do I look?  The internet.  If I want to find out when the next showing of the new movie I wanted to see was out is going to be at, where do I look?  The internet.  If I want to BUY a ticket to said movie without worrying about waiting in line?  The internet.

Everything is becoming available online, so it is becoming apparent that everyONE is going to move online.  Newspapers are losing customers, magazines, even TV as we’ve known it.  (Ever heard of Hulu?)

For companies who advertise in any sort of fashion to keep up, they’ll have to go where the people go.  This means moving their marketing online.  This is also going to also mean a change in the people using online advertising, and the difficulty it will be to be seen in different markets.

As Bob stated in the article, the times, they are a’changin’.  If businesses don’t start changing with the times, then it’s only a matter of time until they go extinct next to the old forms of marketing.

Yeah, it sounds spammy, but I really am putting up a free one-hour seminar.  I thought it might be good to get feedback from local businesses, see how interested they are in the information involved in full internet marketing.  So I’m going to do an hour at the Renaissance (at 71st & 169) this Wednesday at 1 PM, talk about web site design, SEO, PPC, email marketing, and social networking.

Since it’s an hour I can only cover so many details, but I’m going to try giving out good information.  Hopefully people will be able to take something good from it.  I haven’t done a seminar on my own before (only as part of group presentations, previously), so this will definitely be a learning experience.  It should be fun, and we’ll see how things go.