Do you own a local business? If you do, then your business absolutely must have a website if you're hoping to remain competitive in your marketplace. Many business owners don't realize this. They think, “sure, if you're doing business online like Amazon or eBay then obviously you need a website. But I'm not selling my products or services online, just locally, so I don't have any need for a website.” That sounds sensible at first glance, but they couldn't be more wrong.
Because times have changed, and the way people get information has changed, too. Radically. Ten years ago, a local company could get by without a website. Back then, the Internet was new, and not every family had a computer hooked up to the worldwide web. And, for many of those people who were online, the Internet was sort of exotic – it was something of a hobby. They would spend their online time in chat rooms talking to new friends all over the world, or looking for Beanie Babies on eBay, or downloading the latest cool game.
But somewhere along the way, three things happened –
- High Speed Internet Access got cheaper, and replaced dial up for the majority of users.
- Almost every home in America is now connected to the Internet.
- Google became THE dominant search engine.
What does a High Speed Internet connection have to do with anything? A lot. Ten years ago, most people had dial up connections over a standard phone line. That meant that most of the time they weren't hooked up to the Internet, and connecting usually took several minutes. And surfing was slow.
In other words, if they needed to look up the phone number of a local company, it was much easier and faster to just grab the Yellow Pages. Besides, back then, few local companies had their own website. But these days, in most homes, there are several computers hooked up to the Internet 24/7, with a high speed DSL connection. Tens of millions of people in America spend several hours a day in front of their computer, using the Internet Almost every home in America is now online, and the vast majority of them are using high speed Internet connections. That's the first two radical changes.
So what does Google have to do with anything? Well, in a word, everything. Ten years ago, there were lots of search engines – Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, Netscape, AOL, and scores of others. And there still are dozens of search engines. But hardly anyone uses them.
Google came along around 1999, and they just completely took over the search engine business, practically overnight, because they were so much better than the others. Probably 85-90 percent of all searches these days are Google searches. And Google lists everything, including local businesses.
Are you starting to see the big picture? Ten years ago, most people still weren't on the Internet, and now they are. And today, instead of being an expensive, slow moving toy, the Internet has become an integral part of their lives. Now, with a click of their mouse and a few keystrokes, they can find any information they need in about 5 seconds. Why get up, hunt down the Yellow Pages, dig through its hundreds of pages until they find “muffler shop”, when they can just type in “their city muffler shop” and have all the information they need without leaving their chair?
Well, most people won't leave their chair. They'll just go to Google. Which means that the Yellow Pages are yesterday's news, and if you don't have a website for your business online, you are missing out on huge numbers of leads and customers.
Any local business that doesn't have a website has got two choices – get a website, and get one soon, or plan to eventually go out of business. It's just that simple. What's next? Check out part two of our report.