Local SEO and SEM for SMB’s – Ten 2011 Predictions Effecting Your WOM Marketing Effort

Traditional WOM (word of mouth) is still a huge driver of new business to all small local companies. But internet WOM is already or will be the number one source of new clients in 2011. The single most important component will be Reviews, Testimonials, and Reputation Management. Whether on Yelp, Google Places or your own website or blog, folks will use the words of your existing customers to determine whether to buy from you or not.
Email Marketing will continue to be the number one ROI (return on Investment) among all marketing tools available to small businesses. Sending relevant and fun emails to your clients past, present, and future is producing fantastic returns for everyone we know. If you are not currently sending out emails to your own list, make it a priority in 2011.
Google Places will continue to baffle and befuddle with their changes and their buggy applications, but they will also continue to produce huge results for those who are highly ranked under important keywords. Our expectation is that Places will become even more dominant in 2011.
YouTube now sees 35 hours of video uploaded every minute. Nationally YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine and drives business to every kind of company. Every single pundit sees even more emphasis on this category of marketing as smart phones become the number one way to view videos.
Social Media to grow exponentially as SMB tool. Facebook will be a tool we will all need to become more familiar with. During 2010, I jumped into the social media pool with the intention of streamlining the effectiveness of Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In. Most SMB’s cannot effectively manage all four or sometimes even one. Not enough time. He who figures out how to optimize the use of these four products with the least investment wins.
Websites are, says Google, critical to your ranking on Google Places. Moreover, with Google’s new Preview tool on search, the front page of your website needs to be an attention getter in two seconds or less of viewing time. This will be a major bonanza for web developers and designers who get it! Most don’t. The ones who get that you have to weave the marketing and the local SEO into every aspect of the website will become heros to their clients.
Local Networking: WOM from your customer to their friends and neighbors is fantastic. WOM online through social networking, videos, and reviews is really great. But many small businesses fail to appreciate the importance of WOM from peers, suppliers, and community resources in traditional and non-traditional face-to-face encounters.. In 2011, we expect this type of marketing to continue to be increasingly useful and popular. Meetup.com will be an important part of this equation along with Le Tip, BNI, and similar groups.
Local businesses will need to figure out ways to get around Google Places domination under their major keywords. A plumber is going to need to create videos and articles about how to choose a plumber. Bakers are going to need to give online lessons in cake decoration. There just isn’t enough room for every company in every neighborhood to be on page one for Google Places.
Obviously, even the one man business is going to need visibility on smart phones and IPads. Look for niche players to get into the business of helping SMB’s get visible on mobile units in 2011.
The biggest unknown for 2011 will be how truly local businesses can get any kind of exposure beyond a five mile radius on Google Places). Will Google find a better way than the current service area concept?

These are the biggies for 2011. There are many other important marketing developments that will effect us all in the new year, but if you get these ten right, I suspect business will be quite good.