TL;DR – Small businesses  – update your local presence to accurately present the basics – who, what, where, when, how much.

By which I mean, the stream of ‘anyone know a plasterer, chippy, kids entertainer, fancy dress?’ shop etc. And I speak from experience as one of the administrators of a local community Facebook Group (and a popular, growing, and well run one I might add).

One could argue yes, BUT a lot of small businesses do not have up to date online information, or have conflicting online information, or hard to find online information.

Why is this?

Well, for starters I do think some of it has been compounded by Covid. Some SMEs and micro-businesses/self-employed/one-person operations don’t have control of their own websites. They may have been prompted by their web developers/designers to provide a single covid update in March 2020 (ish) and have never been back to update the site (or couldn’t afford to, depending on the cost).

Also, some businesses rely wholly or mainly on old fashioned, but highly effective word of mouth recommendations and don’t want or even need any kind of online presence.

Some local businesses have a presence in many different places – Google maps, a website, a Facebook page (or often, even now, a personal profile acting as a business page, which is dodgy as it’s against Facebook/Meta policies and runs the risk of being shut down at any time), other social media sites (Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok) or they rely mainly on review sites, such as TrustPilot or other similar sites. Food and beverage businesses spread themselves even further with a presence on all the takeaway apps and sites, and more often than not the information is inconsistent across the spread of sites.

I could give you tons of examples, but I’ll cherry-pick a few.

Me and a friend recently ordered a Thai takeaway from a new to me place nearby. We ordered (and paid) via the website and set off before getting a confirmation email, as it was a decent drive away, in rush hour, and it could have been a glitch with the site tech. Nope, the place was shut. No idea why as the order and visit were made during the stated opening hours as per its website. Thankfully the payment was refunded the following day, which came through with the cancellation email. If we’d have waited for that cancellation email…we’d have waited a heck of a long time. 

I’ve found a new to me Indian take away nearish to my new place and I’m desperate to try it based on the Google reviews but I can’t find its opening times OR a menu online. I DID drive there to pick a menu up and it was closed for Ramadan with a hand-written note on the door, which again, is very old fashioned and effective for those rocking up in person. Not for me though!

When I was moving house I was getting quotes from local removal firms. I could only find two really close by and got quotes. I booked one by email. I didn’t hear back so had to keep phoning them to confirm. When I eventually got through they’d taken another job and were no longer free. I asked them where I should go instead and thankfully they recommended the most impressive company who I was over the moon with. I would never in a million years have found them online. They had a one-page website with very little detail on, but they told me they’d been in business for 30 years and ALL their business is word of mouth. After I moved I made sure I wrote them a rave review on Google which will now help others find them even if they say they don’t need it – one day they might!

I would much prefer it if local businesses kept their sites/presence up to date and I could find them on Google. But thanks to my local FB group at least I can use the search on there to find those businesses that Google can’t find.

Online marketing is not for everyone, and you want to be busy doing your actual day job, BUT there are a ton of free resources out there to help you with your online presence. Google has free courses, as does LinkedIn, as does Facebook. Most of us want to support local businesses. Please help us find you.