Why do Small Businesses Neglect their own Website in Favour of Directories, Marketplaces and Portals
When portals, directories and marketplaces such as Rightmove, Yell and now Uber first launched, they had a disruptive and game changing impact on the industries they verticalised and commoditised. Essentially this allowed these companies to use the aggregate buying power of the small businesses they provide leads towards to scale and grow their own profits.
Now these aggregators of verticalised services are moving away from listings, as in the case of Rightmove and migrating towards the ‘on demand’ Uber model and connecting users or consumers directly with ‘contractors’.
Image: Spitalfields Market as a visual metaphor of the search and lead generation landscape for most small businesses
The influence of these aggregator platforms has been undeniable. However, have small businesses developed an overdependence on them and instead of using their marketing budget to ensure they’re listed on these sites, should they invest in optimising their own website (or both)?
For over a decade now Google have prioritised small local businesses within its search results underneath or alongside map results and since the Venice update in 2012, Google has understood generic queries such as ‘Lawyers’ or ‘Childcare’ to be deserving of localised results based on the user location.
Google’s ‘Pigeon update’ then came along in July 2014 to see more traditional SEO signals (primarily links) give more sensible weighting to the local results as opposed to distance from centre of the user's location.
A further update was implemented in August 2015 which saw Google’s “Local Pack” change from showing seven results at a time to just three; suggesting to the user that the top results were the most trustworthy and increasing competition for these highly prized placements. This required businesses to more aggressively focus their SEO efforts in order to stand a chance of being featured.
Nevertheless, Google is giving local businesses a huge advantage over these aggregator or portal sites and they could be wasting this opportunity by not investing in their own websites and improving their SEO presence.
Image: The pin marker we most associate with business listings in search results hovering above a smartphone
There are some simple, self-service steps that small businesses can do to ensure they’re not so wholly reliant on portals or aggregator sites and instead drive organic traffic to their own websites.
1. Optimise your ‘My Google Business’ page
Google determines a business’ local ranking through using the information provided on the company’s ‘Google My Business Page’ and the website attached to the listing.
2. Localise Landing Pages
Another way a small business can improve their localised search rankings is through optimising all of their landing pages with relevant, geographical keywords.
These companies should not just be optimising their landing pages with name, address and phone details, but they also need to be localising their content. For example, an estate agent in Chelsea should be ensuring that they are incorporating local keyword elements into both new and existing content. Content such as what makes the area so attractive to buyers and demographic data should offer genuinely utility to the reader as opposed to content written just for search engines.
3. Stay Mobile
Localised updates from Google and other search engines are continually being created and changed to coincide with mobile search, which now makes up for more than 50% of device queries.
Further, Mobile search uses localised results where the searchers location is clear and the intent is for local results. It’s critical to know that all searches on Google Mobile are now deemed by their search engine to be of local intent.
Business need to ensure they have a mobile-friendly website and an SEO strategy that suits both their desktop website and mobile version. A key here is to keep up to date with how users are utilising mobile search and the keywords they’re using.
Whilst platforms such as Uber and Rightmove have revolutionised their respective industries, small businesses should not be overlooking their own websites. With Google giving priority to smaller businesses, now is the time to revisit or look for the first time at your own website to see how you might be able to increase its Google ranking. Making just a few changes could increase organic traffic to your website and generate leads without the sole dependency on aggregators, marketplaces, directories and portals SEO efforts.
Simon Schnieders, Founder of Blue Array