Earlier this week I spent a few days in Barbados as a guest of Global Directories where, along with Randy Orth & Vince Graziano of EM4B, we ran a local online marketing seminar for about 200 Barbadian businesses. As I went through my talk about how to get ranked for searches like “Barbados car rental” it occurred to me that emerging markets like Barbados are really interesting opportunities SEO-wise. It’s basically still 2005 down there:

1. Many SMBs still don’t have websites and those that have them have pretty bad ones (ok maybe it’s like 2011 in that respect)
2. There is still confusion between SEO and SEM (ok still 2011)
3. Those that are doing SEO are using an offshore – and you can see their shores from pretty much everywhere – agency to do SEO and from the sounds of it are basically sending checks and not getting a lot of accountability in return. (damn, 2011 again)
4. For most local queries in Google, Google Places results do not show up (2005 at last!)

You may recall that a few months ago I discovered that Google misplaced Jamaica and that Google Places did not appear in a number of countries. In these cases, it is likely that Google does not have a reliable set of base data such as you can get from InfoGroup or Localeze and so they just let the organic Web results show up. And at least in Barbados, it does not appear that a lot of businesses are investing much in SEO. There are few sites creating original content and few doing what I would consider quality linkbuilding. Probably not many doing low-quality linkbuilding for that matter.

What this means is that there is a huge opportunity (in Barbadian dollars of course) for high-quality SEO practitioners to participate in this market, and likely every other emerging market like Barbados. While it sometimes feels like everybody and his brother in the US does SEO, it was great to see that there still are huge ground-floor opportunities like this one.

If anyone wants to get into a Caribbean SEO and hot sauce venture, let me know.  It will be a total dooflicky fuh-true spar.

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14 Response Comments

  • Nyagoslav  May 26, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    Sounds pretty much like the situation here in Bulgaria. The biggest problem however, is that most of the local business owners would not actually see any significant improvement or good ROI from their online efforts, as it is still not a culture here to search for a good restaurant or a nearby cafe via your mobile (moreover probably less than 5% of the population have phones with Internet), let alone for a beauty salon or a plumber. Very few to none go to Google to search for any kind of local service/product. It’s still too early for local SEO here. Well, that’s just an example.

  • Andrew Shotland  May 26, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Good points and while mobile Web was not big in Barbados, about 90% of the businesses we talked with were using Facebook, mostly for personal use, so Web usage is high.

  • Nyagoslav  May 26, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Definitely Facebook is very widely spread here as well with over 2 million users (about 65% of all people having access to Internet in the country), but as you noted – most of the business owners are just using it for personal purposes. However, there is definitely some hot market here, but I just think both the society and the business are not mature enough to start using local SEO yet. Things change fast though, a couple of years ago less than a hundred thousand Bulgarians had Facebook profiles.

  • Andrew Shotland  May 26, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    In Barbados’ case there is a strong tourism component so that tilts more towards Web use perhaps than Bulgaria’s? In many cases the SMB competition is not each other, but US/UK-based businesses targeting tourism queries.

  • Infonote  May 27, 2011 at 12:05 am

    True, it might not work for local residents but for foreign tourists who have the “culture” to search for business on the Internet, having an internet presence is a must IMHO.

  • Nyagoslav  May 27, 2011 at 1:57 am

    In fact Bulgaria is a very popular tourist destination. We’ve got over 5 million visitors a year (compared to 7.5 million population). However, most of these visitors are German retirees and ex-USSR countries children and their holidays are usually in group and organized by foreign tour operators. This trend is changing gradually, especially regarding the winter resorts, but there is still some long way to go over here.

  • Jim Rudnick  May 27, 2011 at 7:48 am

    great piece here Andrew….and I wonder…when you say SMB and Barbados are you not really just talking about the hotel/restaurant/bar/tourist biz there….

    if so, surely they must all realize what needs to be done to gain some serp traction…

    if not, then yeah, I’d love a referral cause if it’s 2005 there, it’s only 2009 here in Canuckland…ie we all follow the US when it comes to market penetration of the SMB universe…..most of our time is spent educating SMB owners….sigh…



  • Steve Liu  May 27, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Proof that Google still needs to get its act together: as of right now LocalSeoGuide.com is not ranking #1 for “dooflicky fuh-true spar”.

    Reminds me of the story of when Charlie Chaplin finished third in a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest 🙂

  • Andrew Shotland  May 27, 2011 at 9:55 am

    That is a clear case of a Panda gone crazy

  • Hashibur  May 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    wonderful post

  • Mathieu  June 1, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Not only in emerging market, I’ve seen the same here in Canada. As soon as you’re working in medium cities just few business have good website and rank well in google.

  • Javier Ferry  June 2, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I think in that place they don’t have enough knowledge on SEO only manual advertising they are using.

  • rob  June 9, 2011 at 7:59 am


    Having been born in Barbados I returned there in 2007 to work in SEO. Great post but what it fails to mention is that it is almost impossible to get anything done there in internet marketing because the Caribbean does not have a fully fledged internet culture. While there are many internet users and lots of people who are experts, the majority of businesses do not have trust in SEM. Business is done face to face as a rule. Having tried to help a lot of Caribbean companies with their SEO I have felt like I am butting my head against a wall. It may be 2011 but I think we will still have a long wait before we can see this as a fledgling market.

  • Amazing  June 9, 2011 at 8:21 am

    great .. idea… thanks a lot..