Online Ads a Must-Have for Businesses

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When it comes to advertising, small-business owners should take a leap into the digital age and consider leaving the local newspaper behind.

According to the latest Census data, Internet publishing and broadcasting saw a 9.8% increase in revenue from 2008-09, according to the Service Annual Survey released Wednesday. Newspaper revenue dropped 17.3% over the same period. Revenue at periodical publishers fell by 13.2%.

"Newspaper reading tends to be an older audience," says Glynns Thomas, owner of Advertising Spark, a San Francisco-based consulting firm catering to sole proprietors.

Small businesses should present themselves in places where their customers search for information -- for instance, online, via social media and via mobile applications, experts say.

"In the end you want to go back and say 'What did I get from this?'" Thomas says. "If you're not getting sales or leads, I don't think that's a smart buy for a small business."

Ten and 20 years ago, the first thing small businesses did when launching was get a business registration, a phone number and a Yellow Pages advertisement. "Today that is just not the case," says Ron Burr, CEO of Web Visible, an Irvine, Calif. based provider of online marketing for small businesses.

Still, becoming an expert in the digital industry can be time consuming and intimidating for a business owner.

According to BIA/Kelsey, a local media consulting firm, digital offerings such as online ads, video, search engine management and optimization, mobile, social media and reputation management will account for 39% of global Yellow Pages revenues by 2014, it said it forecast in July.

Web Visible helps boost small businesses' presence on search engines such as Google (Stock Quote: GOOG) and Yahoo (Stock Quote: YHOO). The firm creates tailored ad campaigns that include advertisements, Web and mobile landing pages and Facebook management, all for roughly the same price as a Yellow Pages ad, Burr says.

"This is where all the consumers are. This is where customers are looking for the small businesses they need," Burr says. "If you're not there, your competitor is, and so it's just the only place to be right now."

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