Holiday shopping season can be a major outlet for small companies to cement their growth, but having a non-working or non-existent Website can be a huge roadblock to getting there.
Americans searching the web are overwhelmingly looking for local goods and services, according to Google’s Andrea Faville, who says 97% of searches fall into this category. But nearly half of all small businesses don’t even have a working Website.
“It’s just not a priority for them to get it started,” Faville says. “I think it comes down to small business owners having so much to be responsible, that building a website isn’t at the top of their list. But at the same time, a Website is basically today’s ‘Open for Business’ sign. If businesses want to be found, they need to be online.”
Google has a site, GYBO.com, where small businesses can go and get started with Website building tools, domain name registration and Web hosting, all free for up to a year. Faville says GYBO is just the beginning of what the Web giant has to offer for smaller companies looking to grow. Here are five other options available:
Google apps: This feature allows businesses to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations for $5 per month to begin with. “These things can be very expensive,” she says. “And one of the great things is that it’s all in the cloud—so it doesn’t take up space on your server. People can access them anywhere they have a laptop and Internet connection.”
Users can make edits in real time and work together from wherever they are, she says.
Hangouts for small business: Google’s hangouts tool is a host for live video chats that small companies can leverage to communicate no matter where they are. “You can actually have a conversation just by logging into the Internet,” Faville says. “Imagine being able to have meetings in a remote office, or answering customers’ questions face-to-face, and being able to do it for free.”
Make consumer surveys:“Market research is incredibly powerful… but it can also be very expensive,” Faville says. “Google consumer surveys start at 10 cents per response. You get to run surveys across the Web, so if people are looking for stuff to read, they may see this an answer one or two quick questions.”
And businesses in return will receive a scientifically-analyzed report with the answers to their survey questions, and meaningful intelligence for their business.
Analyze trends: Faville says Google trends lets users see how search terms trend over time, and apply them toward their marketing strategies.
“If you want to see if people are searching more for dog toys or cat toys this year, or when people are beginning to search for holiday decorations this year,” she says.
Become a trusted store: This is a feature on Google for small companies to prove their quality to potential customers, says Faville.
“If you are a small business and you have invested a lot of time creating a great customer experience… someone coming to your business for the first time has to way of know that,” she says. “We have created a site called ‘Trusted Stores’ where businesses can apply.”
Google analyses the customer service and shipping ratings and reviews for companies and depending on their scores, the site will give them a badge to put up on their Website.
“So if a customer is looking around and wants to support a local goods maker, and they see they have it on their site, you know you will get a good experience when you shop there,” Faville says.