Small Business Saturday Blog

Do not underestimate the power of the internet

Friday, May 27 at 17:33

My girlfriend and I went to Paris for a city break in May 2016. Since I was in charge of organising the whole trip, and wanted an easy life, I booked my train tickets on the website. As I didn’t want to stay in a hotel I booked our 3 night stay in a flat which I carefully selected from after carefully reading reviews other holiday makers had posted online. The easiest way for us to travel around Paris was by taxi. My Uber app came to the rescue and within minutes drivers were waiting outside to whisk us off to our next sights. We decided to stay local when dinning out. Not knowing the area at all I simply searched for “restaurants nearby” using google maps where I could find a list of the best eateries within a mile radius.A new worldThis is the world most of us now live in which would have been inconceivable 20 years ago.The internet has shaped a new society with new behaviours and revolutionised the way we do business.  The speed at which these changes happened is unprecedented. While a lot of businesses have capitalised on the birth of the digital era most small businesses are lagging behind. But why?Education, education, educationThe key to success for you as a small, or local business owner, is through education. Understanding the true power of the internet as your most valuable marketing tool is paramount. To really realise how powerful it is however you must be familiar with, at least, basic concepts. Admittedly terms such as Keyword research, online reviews, Google My Business, Search engine optimisation and pay per click, only to mention a few, can be overwhelming at first for someone whose main activity is to sort out a leaking pipe within an hour or to blow dry their next customer’s mane.You do not have to become an online expert but It should, however, be at the core of your strategy if you are  considering to start a  business, no matter how small.  Thankfully numbers are easy to understand and that should be enough to convince anybody that not only online marketing is unavoidable if you want to achieve success but most of all your best friend. The proof is in the dataThe biggest shift in the digital world in recent years occurred in early  2014.  For the first time ever, time spent on mobile devices overtook time spent on desktops.  33% percent of internet users now view their mobile phone as the most important device for accessing the internet (source: Ofcom Media Use and attitudes 2015).  This has drastically changed the way people search online and purchase products and services.  According to a study conducted by Google in May 2014 called “Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior” 50% of consumers who do an online local search visit a store within 24 hrs and 1 in 3 searches on a mobile is done right before consumers visit a store.
This should speak volume to anyone trying to increase their customer base and spark a real interest in understanding how to make the most of the internet.  Searches have become very specific too and search engines like google have become very sophisticated at understanding user intent. Typing “pizza delivery” in the google search box will mainly return local businesses on the results page these days. A local  pizza delivery business not showing up on the first result page of google  will now miss out on a vital stream of customers and could potentially die of a short death.  But the rise of local searches is not exclusive to take aways . Looking at the “Near me” queries in google trend only highlights this further. It is interesting to notice these types of searches really started to take off in 2014, just when the use of mobile phones overtook desktop use.
With the ever increasing growth of  mobile phone use, searches have become more localized than ever before  and there is no sign of this trend slowing down any time soon. If not careful, any small business overlooking their local online marketing strategy is likely to become a digital casualty in the year if not months to come, and nobody wants that, right? So get learning.
Luc Durand is the founder of a company that provides  a range of free video tutorials to help small businesses who want to improve their online visibility in local search results. 

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