There are 22 million small businesses in America today. Surprisingly, only 35 to 42 percent of these entities have a Web site, according to research from the Kelsey Group and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). An estimated 14 million businesses are looking for an effective online marketing solution. For many, marketing programs must be local as well.
Searching for a Practical Solution
SMBs (define) represent the essence of American entrepreneurship. Their success is far from guaranteed. This year, nearly 600,000 new small businesses will emerge and another 600,000 will fold.
Surely, online marketing could help many of these firms survive and even to thrive. But the complexities of Web site development, site maintenance, and online marketing present an overwhelming hurdle for most SMBs.
Enter Google and Intuit
Plenty has been written about the new Google/Intuit alliance. The companies recently announced Google tools will be integrated into U.S. versions of QuickBooks 2007 products, available this fall.
Results could be significant, as the world's most popular search engine is partnering with the world's most popular accounting software: two powerful companies, two hugely popular consumer brands. But these firms' size and strength aren't what makes the deal significant.
This partnership is particularly meaningful because it has the potential to fundamentally change the way small and local businesses market themselves online. Have Google and Intuit cracked the code to the local online marketing vault? Perhaps. If executed properly, businesses will now be able to engage in search marketing in a way that's fast, easy, and familiar. This means they may actually do it!
Today 3.7 million small businesses already use QuickBooks. They use it daily, weekly, or monthly. They already know how to navigate the interface and get stuff done. Very soon, tools such as Google's Desktop, Maps, Base, and AdWords will be integrated directly into QuickBooks via an icon on the home page.
Fast, Easy, and Integrated
One of the simplest, yet most significant, features of the deal is how local businesses can now get a listing in Google's index quickly, easily, and for free. How? Data already contained within QuickBooks (such as business name, address, and phone number) will pre-populate a basic business listing. The listing will then be uploaded into Google's local search solution, Google Maps. Businesses can add such information as hours of operation, a description of products or services sold, and forms of payment accepted. For companies without a Web presence, this business listing can serve as a very basic Web site.
Today, about half of QuickBooks' customers also use the software for inventory management. Those users can now post products for sale through Google Base, Google's free product listing service. This new QuickBooks feature is powered by StepUp Commerce, a firm recently acquired by Intuit. It will be in beta for the new Google-enabled release.
Finally, QuickBooks users will be able to launch and manage a Google AdWords PPC (define) advertising campaign directly from the QuickBooks environment. Businesses will be instructed to select search terms, create ads, set bids and budgets, and, if appropriate, locally geotarget their ads. As an incentive to get started, users will be offered a $50 AdWords discount.
The Benefits Abound
The integration of Google search marketing tools with the QuickBooks program represents a major opportunity for smaller and local business owners. Now, they can:
Google wins by offering fast, easy access to nearly 4 million businesses via a trusted interface. The submitted business data will make Google's local search and mapping functions more accurate and comprehensive. Intuit wins by providing a much needed, easy-to-use search marketing service to current customers, thus improving loyalty and retention.
Definitely Worth a Look
Many of us will be watching to see to what extent SMBs and local businesses embrace this new opportunity and how easy it is to implement. Clearly, the upside potential for businesses, Google, and Intuit is huge. This landmark alliance could very well bring about a fundamental shift and dramatic growth in search marketing programs.
Fast. Easy. Familiar. And don't forget affordable. All local businesses should take a look.
Meet Patricia at Search Engine Strategies Local in Denver, CO, September28, at the Adam's Mark Hotel.
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Patricia Hursh is president and founder of SmartSearch Marketing, a Boulder, CO, based SEM agency established in 1999. The company specializes in interactive solutions designed to generate leads, acquire customers, and build brands online.
A true pioneer of digital marketing, Patricia has been using technology to improve marketing and communications for over 13 years. She's worked with a variety of companies, including Qwest, Microsoft, and Time Warner Cable. As a recognized search marketing expert, Patricia regularly serves as a subject matter expert for industry publications and is a frequent speaker at such conferences as Search Engine Strategies, ad:tech, and DMA.
March 19, 2014