I teach college writing in my spare time, and that includes research skills. Here’s the basic method of research used by incoming college freshmen:
- Go to Google.
- Type in question.
- Accept first answer received.
In an attempt to find a question for which this won’t work, I thought of having my class look for the answer to this question: Given that 96% of consumers use internet search as the first step in purchasing decisions, why do nearly half of all small businesses have no website?
It’s a mystery to me, and I found that no clear answer was available online, so my students set out to determine the answer. They interviewed about 100 local businesses and found a number of interesting things. The most surprising to me was that a number of businesses explained that they didn’t need a website because they were local.
“If we go international, we’ll get a website,” one business owner said.
Studies consistently show that 85-96% of consumers use the internet as part of their shopping, even when they plan to go to a local store or office. Here are some of the questions consumers have when they’re choosing a local company:
- Where can I find the goods or services I want locally?
- Which goods or services are the best fit for me?
- What are my local options for this product or service?
- Which local company has the best price?
- Where is the local company located, exactly?
- What are the hours of the local company?
- Do they have the product or service I want?
- Is the product in stock or can I get it quickly locally?
- Are they trustworthy, according to reviews and testimonials?
- Can I get this from a locally-owned company?
If your company is not showing up in the search engines results pages when they do this research, they are very likely to go to your competitor who does show up.
And these are just the people who are ready to buy. Before they even get to that point, most consumers will go online to research their options. Usually, they’ll look for solutions to their problems, examine various options, narrow their search down to specific products, and check reviews of those products. If your website shows up in the SERPs, it will increase their trust in you and make it more likely that they will choose you.
Haden Interactive has an international clientele, so of course we don’t think everyone who will ever need our services already knows us. But the internet really isn’t primarily used for international trade. In fact, one thing we do for businesses that have a local market is to help them work toward gaining more targeted local traffic. Appealing to people in your specific service area is important for local companies.
Overlooking the value of the internet is not a good choice.