By Trinity Prescott -- June 25, 2008
|The introduction of computers and the Internet has radically altered the cultural and economic landscape of America more than any invention since the automobile. While the construction of roads and the purchase of vehicles allowed Americans to take advantage of increased physical freedom and mobility, the Internet allows for a different kind of freedom. With few homes in the United States lacking some kind of Internet access, consumers are free to instantly connect to a wealth of information on almost any kind of product or service. As many as 7 billion Internet searches happen each and every month. Nearly half of all search engine users take advantage of the Internet to research and locate local businesses when considering purchases. Most regular Internet users typically substitute search engines for the phone book. In short, a search query is increasingly likely to be a part of almost any purchasing activity. || |
|Inevitably, the spread of technology and the ubiquity of broadband and wireless Internet access bring about a sea change in the market. Spending allocated towards on line marketing campaigns continues to increase every year while the amount of money advertisers are willing to spend on traditional marketing campaigns steadily declines. Although marketing professionals are quick to follow the consumer onto the Internet, the arrival of a new medium has opened up a variety new advertising options. Most search engine advertising dollars go towards sponsored results, which run either above or next to the "natural" or "organic" search results, and are labeled as advertising. Additionally, this type of advertising usually incurs so-called "cost-per click fees," which can run as high as $50.00 for a single click. Furthermore, at a time when consumer skepticism and overall resistance to advertising is at an all time high, relevant natural search results are of tantamount importance to the consumer, especially at a local level.|
Traditional advertising emerged at a time when media options were relatively concentrated. Today consumers have access to hundreds of channels of digital cable, an incredibly varied amount of media offerings on the Internet, interactive video games, and a variety of other entertainment and information options. In short, today's media is more than fragmented, it has truly splintered. With all of these options available, consumers are increasingly in control of their entertainment media. More and more people actively seek to block advertising, putting pressure on advertisers to modify or abandon traditional advertising that the viewer is essentially forced to watch. In a world of interactive media, marketers must be willing to yield more control to the consumer. The United States is still a nation of people who want to spend their money, but in the years the come, the businesses that capture those dollars will be the ones with well planed and executed on line marketing campaigns.
The centerpiece of any on line marketing effort is a business's website. While many small to medium size businesses still lack websites, the next few years will almost certainly see an explosion in this sector as business owners come the realize that an on line presence is crucial to success in the 21st century. However, even the best designed website is worthless if no one can locate it. Thus, search placement and prominent links are intrinsically tied to the value of any e-Marketing effort. But site traffic is only one piece of the equation. Website page views are only valuable to the extent that the viewers have some interest in the content. This is why relevant search results are so important, because someone entering a query into a search engine already has some idea of what they want to find. Already, the average Internet user is fairly sophisticated when it comes to entering specific queries into the search engines. As the first generation to grow up with the Internet enters the job market and develops serious buying power, the importance of relevant search results will increase exponentially in importance to both consumers and advertisers.
In the initial explosion of commerce on the Internet, large, centralized online stores that shipped products through the mail ruled the day. This model made perfect sense for a new commercial medium and continues to be quite successful today. Yet today we have reached a point where Internet access is as common as subscribing to a daily paper or having a phone line. Internet searches are a part of daily life in America, and despite the fact that the Internet has made the world much smaller, people are still firmly tied to in their geographical location. Regardless of the hype surrounding virtual storefronts doing business through the mail, the vast majority of economic activity still takes place in the real world. The interaction between the Internet and day to day economic activity has far more complexity than a simple snapshot of on line purchases would suggest. In a world where even unsophisticated consumers have easy access to a wealth of information, it is only natural that consumers will be primarily interested in the city that they live, work, and play in. Perched at the intersection of the virtual world and the real one, local search is the inevitable and natural outcome of a digitally integrated society.
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| Trinity Prescott is president of Surflocal.Net, a National Business and Shopping Network that promotes hundreds of local, regional and national retail stores for a safe and convenient shopping experience.|