In the face of Google My Business growth small business websites are increasingly irrelevant — argue some local SEOs. However, a new consumer survey from BrightLocal contradicts that thinking and makes the case that SMB websites are still a critical part of small business marketing.
GMB top source for basic local information. The survey of 500 consumers asked about sources used to find a local business phone number or address. Google My Business listings was the top answer, but websites came in at number two:
- 62% GMB listing/profile (in search results).
- 49% The business website.
- 44% GMB listing/profile (in Google Maps).
- 23% Online directory.
- 13% None of the above.
The survey allowed for multiple responses, which is why the numbers exceed 100 percent.
BrightLocal also found that 75 percent of respondents visited small business websites at least half the time, after a local search.
Consumers think SMB websites more accurate. Almost twice as many respondents (56%) said they expected the website to have more accurate content than Google My Business (32%). This is an interesting finding. It’s not clear whether this is simply an assumption that the local business site will have more accurate data as a matter of course or whether this reflects uncertainty about the quality and accuracy of GMB content.
Dominant preference for calls vs. email, messaging. After identifying the target business, 60% of consumers said they overwhelmingly would prefer to contact that business over the phone compared to other methods:
- 60% Call on phone.
- 16% Send email.
- 15% Visit the physical location.
- 4% Message through online form.
- 3% Contact on social media.
- 2% Request callback.
- 1% Other.
This is another big findings. However, the survey doesn’t expose demographic information so we don’t know whether and how these contact preferences might change by age group. I suspect there would be some differences when comparing Millennials to Baby Boomers, for example.
BrightLocal also asked about the most used features of Google My Business. Opening hours (69%), directions (50%) and “read reviews” (44%) are the top three use cases. Most booking scenarios (other than restaurants) were used by less than 15% of consumers. Q&A was not widely used either.
Why we should care. The industry has generally been downplaying the importance of local business websites for several years in favor of GMB and social media presence management. They’re obviously critical, but this survey and other data show that websites remain an essential piece of the overall digital marketing pie for SMBs. This survey data is likely to now show up in the slide decks of lots of companies selling websites to local business owners.
Another really striking data point is the consumer preference for phone calls. Some people reading this may be skeptical of the finding. However, it’s the immediacy and confidence that a phone contact brings that consumers are seeking. Yet large numbers of SMBs don’t answer the phone for one reason or another. This is partly why Google is introducing virtual assistant CallJoy.