Out with the old, in with the new for local businesses

Some small business owners who cut their teeth before the internet was even an idea in Al Gore's head still believe that word-of-mouth marketing and an ad in the Yellow Pages is enough to get noticed.

Many older managers have yet to grasp that this is an outdated notion. Ely Dahan, professor of marketing at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, tells Search Engine Watch that nearly 50 percent of small businesses still don't have an online presence.

He cites skepticism as a main reason for not jumping on the bandwagon.

"We are in a period of great transition," Dahan told the media outlet. "There used to be this thing called the Yellow Pages, and if you had the right spot and the right-sized ad, you'd get calls. But if you're not online today, no matter how big or small your business is, you're likely going to get hurt."

Gary Harter, who sells countertop laminates in California's San Fernando Valley, can attest to being skeptical at first.

"I'm not particularly tech savvy, and besides, we built our business by word of mouth, so I never thought we needed something like the Internet," said Harter, as quoted by the news source. "That all changed."

Upon learning how being prominently featured on local searches could increase traffic for his business, Harter admitted to being "enlightened." A number of small firms like Columbus, Ohio based RevLocal have forged partnerships with small businesses to optimize them for local search.

Another way to create buzz online is via customer reviews on Yelp. Positive results have made 55-year-old Bob Little of Culver City's Ed Little Auto Service a believer. His business has garnered 256 reviews and boasts a perfect five-star rating. His previous marketing technique? A local cable commercial that didn't run until midnight.

"I have so much business coming in that I'm making appointments weeks in advance and referring people to other shops," Little told the media outlet.

Another company, Brooklyn, New York-based art gallery Prints Charming, also has a perfect five-star rating. According to Business Insider author Gus Lubin, the store's owner told him that "every other person who walks into his shop came there because of the rating on Yelp."

Yelp and optimizing for local search are two ways companies can reach a younger generation of customers who are more tech-savvy, and will respond positively if a business is ranked highly or is visible on the internet.