Where’d My Google & Facebook Leads Go?

Small businesses — and individuals — probably noticed somebody moved their cheese on a couple of big internet hang-outs.

If you noticed recently that your organic search position has changed, or that your business’s Facebook posts aren’t getting as much reach as you’d like, you’re not alone. Oh, and it’s probably not anything you did. But you might want to read on.

We’ve been tracking three subtle but important movements recently. All three will have an impact on the local business community. All three are important to know about for businesses looking to acquire leads through social or search media — which seems to be just about everybody today.

Did Google Penguin effect your search position?1. My Search Position Changed!
Did you happen to notice your organic search position has changed — literally overnight? Google’s Penguin release has modified the basic algorithm of search, impacting the position of countless local businesses. These changes aimed to further police “black hat” SEO technique (think smoke and mirrors), but also incorporated more emphasis on social media content. Long story short: Keep your content and social presence relevant — and current! The more you try to trick the system, the more likely you’ll pay for it.

2. My Facebook Reach Has Dropped!
New Rules for Local Biz on FacebookThose of us with Facebook pages out there may have noticed a decline in the amount of reach (impressions) our page posts have received recently. Facebook has taken measures to limit page post inclusion on users’ newsfeeds. Good news for Facebook users, who will see more pics and updates from their friends; not so great news for businesses, who’ll have a smaller presence on their fans’ Facebook experience. This maneuver by Facebook is an attempt to encourage more businesses to buy Facebook ads, which have a much higher rate of being seen by a larger audience.

3. My Adwords CPC Keeps Rising!
This is less of a dramatic change for most local businesses — but no less of a headache. As we projected years ago, competition for prime keywords in retail and service businesses has become more intense on search, placing upward price pressure on popular keyword CPCs (costs per click). For example, in some local markets, lawyers and dentists are paying $50-$100 (and more) just for a single click. This bidding war is not an easy one for locals to win — and even if they do, they’d better have a great website that is highly effective at fulfillment or converting leads. In many cases, the math doesn’t work for locals. Recently, the New York Times reported that many small businesses are searching for alternatives to paid search, noting that their lead costs and ad budgets are skyrocketing. And this trend isn’t just impacting locals — some bigs have seen their SEM budgets far outpace their expected results. The University of Phoenix, who spent $38 million on Adwords in the first half of 2012 alone, just announced that they’d be shuttering 115 US locations. Again, bad math.

The message here for local advertisers? Stop judging a book by its cover. Don’t assume that social or search solutions that appear cheap or free will generate low-cost leads. Look for efficiencies in your market — like broadcast media — to engage real shoppers precisely when you want to. You can compliment this approach with a consistent social or organic search effort that’ll save you big bucks, and a few headaches.

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Dave Eckstein, ESA & Company | Real. Local. Results: 2012Dave Eckstein is a Partner in the firm ESA & Company. He specializes in highly profitable market share growth for local businesses and gets a kick out of demonstrating a declining cost of customer acquisition. He plays baseball, but isn't that Dave Eckstein.

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