(Re-printed from the Courier Mail)\r\nBusinesses of every stripe are learning to live with - and love the world's largest online search engine.\r\n\r\nBut make no mistake about Google: it's cutthroat.\r\n\r\nYou may have paid for a sponsored link to your company website or you may be trying to manoeuvre your way up the "natural" search results list.\r\n\r\nBut there's only one thing that matters when a potential customer types in their chosen search term and clicks "enter". Too few small businesses know how to make the most of search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimisation (SEO).\r\n\r\n<!--more-->\r\n\r\nSEM, which determines the ranking of your advertisement, is complex enough to be the province of the professional (if not the well-versed amateur). Your ranking on the sponsored list (on the right hand side of the page) is determined partly by the amount you "bid" and pay per customer "click", and partly by the prominence of relevant keywords on your website.\r\n\r\nBut Sunshine Coast-based Silvio Ferrero - one of only about 31 qualified Adwords specialists in Australia - says a campaign that attracts non-customers is a waste of advertising money.\r\n\r\n"A campaign with keywords not optimised can be very expensive and therefore they might produce a very high click rate but might not produce conversions," he says.\r\n\r\n"My strength is research - we have the analyticals on the website so that I refine and target the advert according to what the market is telling me."\r\n\r\nIn fact, Google is an excellent form of market research for a new business, says Ferrero.\r\n\r\n"I would go out and advertise with Google Adwords and within a couple of weeks I'd a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't and if there is a market or there isn't a market, "he says. "It would probably be the cheapest way to find out."\r\n\r\nBut unless a business is prepared to spend a little on their Google Adwords account, they're not in the game.\r\n\r\n"One hundred dollars or $200 is not going to be enough and the simple reason is there's a lot of advertisers there," Ferrero says. Conversely, at 20 cent to $5 a click, you could spend your budget within three hours.\r\n\r\nFerrero says businesses that do best from Google Adwords are those with "tangible product or service" to sell to "a vast audience".\r\n\r\nIt works extremely well for products you already know and you're looking for the best deal or you're comparing," he says.\r\n\r\nIt also suits those whose clients are likely to do their research privately, such as a medical clinic that threats delicate conditions.\r\n\r\n"Instead, if you are a localised business, I still believe that people will pick up the Yellow Pages or the White Pages," Ferrero says.\r\n\r\nHowever, this may change as more people use mobile internet and Google maps for local searches.\r\n\r\n"My advice is always try because it's still much cheaper than advertising in a newspaper," Ferrero says.