Why should local businesses rely on just Google and Facebook?

It’s 2017. The internet has been around for quite a long time and, I’ll freely admit, so have I.

I’ve seen web pages go from simple blocky creations to Flash-heavy monstrosities. I’ve seen us go from huge CRT monitors and PC’s to tablets and mobiles. Here’s how our very own site used to look on your mobile phone a decade ago..

The world is truly mobile now, and we won’t wait to get home to check something out on the internet. This weekend I’ve used Google Maps to plot a cycle route and then checked the reviews for a local pub on the way back (for energy drinks and a light snack of course).

At the pub I they were keen to highlight their new website, but it occurred to me that during my search it had never popped up. Google and the Facebook page for this particular pub had popped up first, so I’d naturally followed that. To be honest, it’s a bit of a shame. The website itself was a much better place to get information and was more up-to-date than their Facebook page.

This is where a small business can struggle. To get an online presence they may depend on the Google reviews or the Tripadvisor comments. They may just generate a Facebook page and hope that’s enough.

Trouble is, although we’re all using our mobile phones to answer every question under the sun, there’s lots of potential answers that are being missed.

Let me give you another example. This weekend I’ve also been on the lookout for hamster food, some bedding and some downlights for our lounge. If I got onto the internet it’ll naturally take me to one of those big out-of-town sheds. Pets At Home for the hamster stuff and either B&Q, Wickes or Screwfix for the lights. Those companies will naturally have more money for the Google Ads which appear at the top of your search, and they’ll have regularly-updated websites with bags of keywords and SEO cleverness to get your attention.

What you will probably miss is the local store. That small shop which has been trading for years just a mile from your front door. Traditionally these local traders haven’t pushed hard with their online presence. The ultra-expensive web design companies have tended to leave most small shops with a potentially large cost which they’re just unable to justify. So, with us “phone zombies” strolling past their own windows and driving to the large DIY store, some may think that the world has changed too quickly for them to keep up.

It doesn’t have to be this way though, and if those web designers are really honest with people, they’d admit that a few templates and a good chunk of descriptive text is all a business needs to get a professional website appearing on our phones. The likes of 1&1 and Wix will let you buy a domain and create your own website easily. Sitebuilder will also help even the biggest technophobe create a mobile-friendly website quickly and easily. No experience is necessary and there’s thousands of pre-built templates, images and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tools too. There’s a Sitebuilder review here if you need it.

Now, I say all this because, whilst searching for those downlights, I ended up on sites with that nice image zooming technology and lots of descriptive text for each item. However, what I didn’t get was some down-to-earth and knowledgable advice from someone in the trade. I also didn’t get to see the downlights or ask my many random and strange questions about them. That was, until I found my local electrical supplies shop. The lights were well priced and I got lots of good advice about fire safety, hole dimensions and how to install. Oh, and guess what was right next door? Yep, a pet shop. Jackdaws Pet Shop to be precise. No website for them yet, but if it had popped up on my phone then I would’ve gone their first. Luckily I just stumbled across it.

So, next time you’re looking for something, don’t default to the first search result. Take a look on Google Maps to find that trusted local business, then see if your local business has a website. If they don’t, tell them that it only takes minutes, and it would really help their business.