Operating an online business has a lot of advantages over brick and mortar shops. But, contrary to what many believe, being online is not the holy grail of business success. Brick and mortar stores have been successful, to varying degrees, for millennia. Comparatively, the web is barely a twinkly in Al Gore's eye.

Unfortunately, many would-be business owners plunge ahead in this new marketplace as if it were some magic beans that will suddenly grow into a giant money tree. To be fair... for some, it has. But, for the most part, these online business successes are rooted in the old-school business brick and mortar business philosophies. What has changed are the methods of marketing and advertising used to generate new and repeat business.

Location, Location, Location

Achieving top search engine placement is the B&M (brick and mortar) equivalent of choosing your store's physical location. When deciding where to open up your B&M shop, location is everything. You want to be where your target audience is most likely to find you, not hidden in some back alley where the only foot traffic you see is a wino curling up in front of your door each night.

Unfortunately, online businesses can't just pick the most convenient space for lease. Sure, you can rent advertising space on websites, blogs, and even in the search results, but that's just advertising. The online equivalent to leasing your space is organic search search engine rankings. But, you can't buy or rent those either--they have to be earned.

Get a first page ranking for your keyword, and you've earned some prime real estate for your site. But, this isn't anything new in the world of SEO. People come to us because they want rankings. Top search engine rankings, they believe, are all that is needed for them to be successful. But, how many B&M stores in prime locations have failed? If you've lived or shopped in one area for any length of time, you could probably recall the turnover of many businesses that have come and gone over the years.

While location certainly matters, there is much more to it than just picking any location with a nice facility. And, search engine rankings mean nothing if you're not ranking for the right keywords.

Research Demographics

B&Ms can choose their location based on any demographic research they have performed. This research can tell them who their target audience is, what type of selling points work, and what city or area of town they should be in.

When it comes to finding the right demographics for your online business, the very same research can, and should, be done. But, there is an added component of demographic research when doing business online: Keyword Research.

Keyword research is the backbone of all your online marketing efforts. Whether you are advertising, building copy, or optimizing your site pages for top search engine rankings, your keywords matter.

All too often a business owner chooses their keywords on one or two factors: search volume, and/or what a competitor is doing. While this is good information to have, neither is a sole reason to select a keyword to invest in for top positions.

Selecting a keyword based on search volume is like looking at your demographic data and deciding that, since there are far more humans than women, you want to target all humans for your women's clothing store. That's not really using your demographic data to your advantage.

Such a business owner looks at a keyword and says "I want to rank #1 for that." But, without having done proper analysis, this "selected" keyword is really not much more than a pet keyword based on whatever whims the business owner feels important. The more these types of keywords are selected, the further away the site gets from bringing in it's target audience and achieving any meaningful conversions.

Tune Your Marketing Message

The keywords you select will help you plan your marketing message for your customers. Just as B&Ms produce marketing content as a means to speak their audience's language, websites must do the same.

Search engines have given us far more insider information about our customers than any other source. This information can help us build a marketing message that doesn't simply use the words we feel are important, but the words the customer uses when looking for your product or services.

Searchers type in phrases based on terminology they use. This is how they think of the products or services you offer. These words are the qualifying words that help them narrow down their search. These are the key words that need to be used in the content of your site to ensure you are speaking the language of your customers.


Advertising is an important part of business growth and sustainability. Those that don't advertise can easily find themselves falling behind their competitors. Even businesses with a prime location are seen advertising on the TV, radio, billboards, and newspapers. You might even notice that some businesses advertise in other stores, with coupons and discount fliers. All this is aimed for the goal of bringing in even more traffic than the location itself allows. And, it's good business sense that many online business owners forget about.

Technically, SEO can be considered a form of advertising and marketing, but it's not a perfect science. Advertising lets you get specific placement in front of specific people. SEO can move you to the first page and even #1 spot, but nothing is permanent or guaranteed.

When building or growing your business online, there are avenues other than SEO that should not be ignored. One of the most common is the use of Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing campaigns. When SEO struggles to deliver top rankings for competitive phrases, PPC can fill in the gap. With PPC, you can also implement image and text based advertising on other related websites that are looking to make additional money from Google.

PPC shouldn't be an afterthought, but should be considered an important part of your total business growth strategy.

Other areas of online advertising can include: referral deals, affiliate partnerships, and other strategic partnerships between your company and another. These all lead to the continued growth and strengthening of your online business.

Growing Your Online Business the Brick and Mortar Way

The web has done wonders in helping people break free from the confines of brick and mortar business ownership or workforce. Unfortunately, though, too many don't take the lessons of brick and mortar business into account when building their online business.

Business growth depends on more than just setting up shop, opening your doors, and crossing your fingers hoping for success. In fact, "old school" B&M strategies are ineffective by themselves, but compliment each other when used together.

Building your online business is no different. You can't just rely on a good website, good rankings, good advertising, or good marketing alone. You have to put these together to create a total marketing campaign that be able to generate success and wealth.

November 5, 2010

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Hi Stoney,

This is a very good reminder of things that every small business should be doing with its website.

I especially like this article because it demystifies Web marketing for brick and mortar businesses that may be making the jump to online, by putting it in the same frame of reference. No sense making SEO and PPC sound like exotic techniques -- it just scares away business owners and managers who should be taking the leap. Nice job.

- Anita

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