Today, the number one method Australians use to find a business is to search for it online. Is your business being found?
Duncan McGrath is Google’s Product Marketing Manager for Small and Medium Businesses. He has spent the last six months developing a free online training tool to help small and medium businesses make the most of their online presence. We talked with Duncan about how to make sure your business has a discoverable, mobile-optimised digital presence.
Consumer behaviour has fundamentally changed
Today, we don’t so much go online, we live online. Research shows that 90% of Australians not only go online to find a business, they expect to be able to call your business directly from the search results page, because they are searching on a smartphone.
Consider a busy executive who has arrived five minutes early for a meeting. Smartphones allow people to take advantage of these ‘micro-moments’ in their day to get things done – and Google helps them do that. In these brief moments, 150x a day Australians turn to their devices and search for goods and services, like gifts, groceries, music or movies, shoes or a tie, or stationery for the kids for school, or maybe they’ll start looking at accommodation for the annual family holiday.
Besides doing research these ‘moments of intent’ are also being used to take action. Imagine a working parent comes in from the supermarket run, juggling the baby and their shopping bags, goes into the kitchen and finds it flooded because the dishwasher has sprung a leak. They have a baby on their hip and a smartphone in their pocket. They are going to look up an emergency plumber in their area. People now don’t memorise numbers, use phone books or even look at that magnet on the fridge. So it’s more important than ever for you to be found in these moments of intent – when Australians turn to Google and search for exactly what you sell.
Levelling the playing field
This change in shopping and acquisition behaviour is a good thing for small and medium businesses. One of the amazing things the web has done for this end of the business community is it’s levelled the playing field you are operating in. Many traditional methods of advertising are too costly or not targeted enough to work for smaller businesses, but today there are many free and low-cost methods of making your business discoverable online.
Research from Deloitte has shown that those business who embrace these digital tools and online marketing are reaping the rewards. They’re one and a half times more likely to be growing revenue than those that don’t. They’re seven times more likely to be hiring, they’re eight times more likely to be exporting and they’re 14 times more likely to be innovating.
The impact is clear. If you want to grow your business, find new customers or even maintain the status quo in the face of increased competition, having a digital presence is vital today because it’s how people find you, research your products and services and decide if they’re going to work with you – whether they ultimately buy from you online or in-store.
Word-of-mouth is much the same; how people find you has changed
Only seven percent of word-of-mouth referral originates online, when people write a review on your business or they share a status update telling their friends about you and the great service you provided. This means ninety-three percent of people are still talking about your business the way they’ve always talked about you, however what happens after this has fundamentally changed.
The web enables you to capture the increase in demand from that word-of-mouth regardless of how it came about. At a party when someone new to the neighbourhood asks if anyone knows a good plumber or hairdresser or physio, there’ll be someone who can recommend your business. They may not remember the name of your business, but providing you have established a digital presence, you will be discoverable when that person who’s new in the area picks up their phone.
You want the critical information about your business to be able to appear in that moment of customer intent. So these prospective customers find you, instead of the competition.
The research tells us 40% of Australians will look at the location and the contact details of a competitor who is appearing if they can’t find the business they were specifically looking for.
Getting started is easy
There are some quick and easy things you can do to ensure your business has a discoverable digital presence.
The first thing is to search for your business online and find out how discoverable you already are. Go to Google and type in your business name and see what appears, using both a computer and a phone. Does your business show up?
At the top of a Google search results page you will sometimes see advertisements. Below that you might see the local business listings, from a product called Google My Business. Further down the page you see the organic website results. These are the results the Google algorithm has decided are most relevant to the query you’ve just typed in.
If you haven’t done so already the next thing to do is create a free Google My Business listing. Go to: www.google.com.au/business and sign up. Google My Business gives you a free local listing displaying your business contact details, location, description, opening hours, reviews and more to make it as easy as possible for people to get in touch with you. It takes under fifteen minutes. There’s a verification process you need to go through, but once that is completed your listing is live. When someone searches for your business name and location it will appear right in the top of the search results.
The analytics you can access from this free listing can be very informative. I recently had a customer who runs a bar in the Sydney CBD share some of their insights with me. By looking at the data the bar owner saw that despite the fact that Friday nights are their busiest times, it’s actually Thursday at lunchtime that they’re getting the most views of their listing and the most number of calls – when people were deciding where to go. So they’ve made really effective changes to their advertising strategy to now reach people when they’re deciding on a venue, not when they’re already heading out.
By using this platform and accessing the analytics, you would be able to find similar patterns and insights for your business.
Do I even need a website these days?
For most people the answer is ‘yes’. You want to have your own independent destination on the web. It’s great that from Google you can get a free business listing and you probably have social media accounts that are also free; those are all useful and I’d recommend people set them up. But they do have limitations; you have to operate within a certain framework, like not being able to select the exact category you’d like to describe your business, or restrictions on text length or content and you can’t customise it to your exact needs.
Having your own website allows you more control so it can reflect your brand from top to bottom. You can customise it to meet your customer needs and business objective – whether that’s making bookings, buying products, downloading a brochure – it’s all up to you. Your website also plays a key role in establishing your legitimacy. When customers are comparing two competitors online and one has a verified Google My Business listing, a mobile optimised website, social media and positive reviews vs. another with just a social page it’s clear which one seems more professional.
In the trades, for instance, this is critical. A customer is letting you into their house, and they might not even be there – so anything you can do to help convey legitimacy to prospective customers goes a long way.
Today websites can be incredibly cheap or even free. I know some people tried building one in the 90s and it was a very difficult process back then. Today online website builders can help you create a beautiful, robust website – for free. And eCommerce platforms can help you create a fully transaction enabled site for a fraction of the old costs.
Delivering a quality customer experience
Above all, once you’ve got a website it’s critical that it’s optimised for mobile.
Smartphones are often the first and last device a customer uses to find you and get in touch. And with 60% of Australians saying they don’t return to a website that isn’t mobile optimised – you need to ensure your site works on this smaller screen.
You can test how mobile friendly your site is by using this free tool from Google – as well as get advice on where it can be improved: https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/
Getting found by new customers
Getting online and getting found online are two quite different things. Websites or online listings are only useful to you if prospective customers can actually find them.
There are two key strategies to employ here:
1. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – This involves setting up your site so it’s as easy as possible for search engines to understand what your site is about and can match it to relevant queries. Besides understanding the content of the website, SEO looks at thousands of other signals to determine whether you’re giving people a great user experience. (For more on this visit The Digital Garage below)
2. Digital Advertising – Online ads offer tremendous advantages to small and medium businesses. With things like Search Engine Marketing you can show your ads to people in the precise moment they’re looking for what you sell and you’re only charged when they click on your ad to visit your site or call your business. Other forms of online ads like remarketing display ads can reengage customers who’ve already explored your site and encourage them to come back to buy from you, and online video ads allow you to tell your story and only pay when people actually watch the video. Generally speaking there are no lock in contracts or minimum spends and you even decide how much you’re willing to pay for a customer to click to visit your site or view your ad – it’s up to you.
Increase your digital knowledge – The Digital Garage
At Google we believe everyone should have the digital knowledge needed to grow their business or career. That’s why we recently launched The Digital Garage Australia – a one-stop shop to learn all things digital. https://digitalgarage-au.withgoogle.com/
The site contains 89 bite-sized training videos covering 23 topics on digital marketing. Not just search and analytics but also things Google has no commercial interest in such as email marketing, social media, website creation, search engine optimisation and more. You can answer a few questions about your goals and get a tailored learning path for your needs or watch all the videos to earn The Digital Garage certificate from Google, supported by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Australia.
It’s good for individual businesses, consumers and the entire Australian economy if more businesses get online and start using these tools.
If you’re too busy to learn this yourself, you can also get assistance. Google Partners are web professionals certified by Google who can give you advice and manage your online presence. Just visit http://www.google.com.au/partners to find a Google Partner near you.
Consumer behaviour has changed, and people now find and connect with businesses online. Businesses need to make sure they are discoverable when customers go looking for what they offer, or they’re giving away opportunities to their competitors. Getting online and promoting your business used to be complicated, but with the tools, technology and training available today it’s never been easier.
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