A small business that isn’t accessible to its customers, for example, a hardware store that keeps its location a secret, won’t last long.
Yet, that’s exactly the situation in which many small businesses find themselves today.
Their existing and potential customers search for them on the Internet, but hundreds of thousands of small businesses are nowhere to be found.
An estimated 47 percent of America’s small businesses — nearly half — don’t have a Web site at all. In fact, a popular search engine found that only 37 percent of small firms have claimed or updated their business information.
Owners of small businesses have a crushing amount of work to do. They’re at their desks early in the morning, working with suppliers. They spend their days meeting the needs of customers, training their employees and making sales calls. And the lights often burn late as owners complete paperwork in the evening.
So it’s easy to understand why creation of a Web site, or even the simple act of claiming and updating a listing on a search engine, never seems to get done.
But that one single lapse may prove fatal to a small business.
Four in five consumers today say they rely on search engines to find information about local businesses. A small business that can’t be found through an Internet search simply doesn’t exist to 80 percent of its potential clients. No business can be expected to survive — let alone thrive — by selling to only 20 percent of the people who are actively searching for a company just like it.
While the prospect of going digital may seem daunting, there are several key ways you can begin to develop an online footprint for your business –– that invites new and existing clients to start finding you.
● Run a quick audit on your existing online presence. Are customers talking about you on Yelp or TripAdvisor? Does your business have forgotten social media accounts? Is there a partially made Google+ account in existence?
● Create a basic website or landing page that can orient itself to mobile screens. Wix and WordPress are among several platforms that make website creation incredibly easy. You don’t even need to know code! Just drag and drop to design. Work with the available tools to optimize keywords so the website can be searched and discovered by locals.
● Create a Facebook business profile. Facebook is the number one social media platform with a wide audience variety that accesses it. Focus on Facebook first. Once you’ve harnessed your basic online presence, it may make sense to explore other social platforms, like Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
● Google is the number one search engine –– ensure your Google presence is up to date! Ensure all information regarding your business’s name, location and hours is accurate on Google+ and setup a Google My Business profile.
● Encourage customers to write reviews for your business on websites like Google+, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook and anything else relevent to your business.
Healthy small businesses keep communities strong. They provide jobs. They bring new business into local economies. Perhaps most important, small businesses generate exciting new ideas and deliver a healthy dollop of zest into our daily lives.
Visible presence for our small businesses in search engines is so important, in fact, that U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Google have joined forces to offer a free workshop in Reno on Friday teaching small business owners how to use online tools to grow their businesses. The workshop is at The Museum of Art on Friday, June 16, 2017 from 9-11:30 am. More info at www.gybo.com/events/reno.
Liane O’Neill is an account executive with The Abbi Agency (www.theabbiagency.com) where she works with technology and trade clients on media outreach and content development.