Small businesses across the country could be missing out on a major opportunity to reach new customers, with recent research from Telstra revealing only 50% of small businesses have their own website.
The 2018 Telstra Small Business Intelligence Report researched the marketing strategies of more than 1000 SMEs and more than 1000 consumers across Australia and found, on average, only half of small businesses have a website. This is found to be an issue, as data from the research suggests 62% of customers will stop considering a small business if they can’t find information about it online.
The report found 83% of customers believe using search engines is ‘important’ or ‘very important’ when finding a business, and 47% of customers under the age of 40 report using a search engine to find or research a small business at least once a day.
However, only 26% of small business owners say they are using SEO tactics to reach more customers on platforms such as Google and Bing.
More than half of the businesses surveyed said they do not intend to use SEO tactics, while 72% said search engine marketing (SEM) does not currently form part of their plans.
The report said SMEs may object to SEO techniques because they can be a time consuming activity, despite building up an SEO strategy over time and using free software such as Google Analytics to track search data having the potential to be highly rewarding.
“Every increase in rank can potentially impact the amount of traffic your website receives from the search results – sometimes dramatically, which is why many businesses devote a little
time to ongoing optimisation,” Telstra said in the report.
While 76% of the business owners surveyed say word-of-mouth is responsible for driving the most new sales, 48% of consumers surveyed said they would stop considering buying from a business if it did not have a website.
Meanwhile, the survey also highlighted mobile responsiveness of e-commerce websites as an important factor for consumers; of those surveyed, 48% say they shop on a mobile device at least once a week. A third of the e-commerce businesses surveyed reported not having a mobile-friendly website.
Consumers were also more likely to be interested with chatting online with businesses, (28% compared to 9% of businesses interested in the practice), while small business owners overwhelmingly favoured talking to their customers face-to-face (74%).
Cover your SEO bases
For those small businesses that are interested in using SEO techniques, the fast-changing digital marketing landscape can be confusing. And with search engine algorithms somewhat opaque, some SEO firms have been called out for not delivering what they offer or using outdated techniques to improve rankings.
Morris Bryant, partner of independent digital marketing agency Sparro, says that if SMEs are shopping around for an SEO firm, they need to hold them to account and make sure it’s clear what they are promising.
“You’d be looking for a proven track record and transparency in the way they work, what they promise, and in what they target. Many of the less-honest, ‘pay on performance’ services will promise rankings for an obscure term with no volume — which offers no value,” Bryant tells SmartCompany.
Bryant says there are three components of SEO: technical, content and linking. Technical aspects such as website infrastructure would be the first priority to tackle, as well as understanding where your business already sits in terms of search rankings.
“The most important is crating a benchmark understanding of where you do rank and what traffic you’re receiving, that can help you identify you need to improve,” he says.
Content can include producing blog posts or websites that easily demonstrate the services you can offer. Linking involves connecting to other websites and social media. But Bryant says its important to select keywords to market that will actually turn clicks into action.
“You can rank for a term but unless it has volume and converts you’re nothing from it,” he says.
“One thing to ensure is they’re searching for keywords with intent — there’s no point trying to sell something customers don’t know they need because there’s no intent.”