Local searches and online shopping are the leading online consumer behaviors.

I get asked all the time, “How can I compete online and not break the bank?” I’m sure you’re wondering this as well. I also hear, “If I’m a small-business plumber advertising locally, why do I need to be online anyway?” Logical thinking, perhaps, but one misses the bigger picture.

The Internet certainly has changed the way plumbers do business. According to the Kelsey Group, search engines have changed consumer expectations for shopping andfinding local businesses. And in 2004, a study found that local search and online shopping were the leading online consumer behaviors. Specifically,Internet mapping sites, followed closely by search engines, were the top-ranked uses.

With research showing more and more consumers looking to their computers to help them make decisions "