Why a lack of online visibility is costing small businesses

The UK’s smaller firms are missing out on business as online search engine results favour larger chain stores, according to new research.

Domain registrar 123 Reg found that three in five people said that searching for shops and services in their region presented more big retailers than smaller independent shops.

Nearly half of respondents said that finding a balance between small and large firms was difficult, as the smaller companies were tougher to find.

According to 123 Reg, having greater visibility on Google Maps is a particular area that needs attention for smaller firms if they are to compete effectively.

As larger firms are outperforming the independent stores when it comes to SEO (search engine optimisation) it means the search results for any location are similar.

In order to see better results, firms need to focus on their online rankings and ensure they appear in the right local directories.

Should they do that, they should appear in more search results which will put their website in front of consumers on a more consistent basis.

The same research found that half of people who search for stores via their mobile will visit that store the same day, meaning a positive online presence can provide a huge boost to footfall.

When it came to favouring big brands, Birmingham and Manchester came out on top as just one fifth of the shops and services featured in search results were small firms.

That compares to four in ten firms in Glasgow and Sheffield which were independent stores in major search results.

Positive search results can help build turnover and profitability for small businesses, which can make it worth the initial investment.

However, for those operating on tight budgets, it can be hard to justify the outlay, despite the impact that failing to have a strong online presence could have on sales.

Ultimately, if a business fails to compete with its competition, both on the high street and online, it will struggle to make sales and will find itself in financial difficulty.

While alternative finance options do exist to help businesses that are in difficulty, those that are not doing business effectively will likely a battle to stay trading or even insolvency.

By Phil Smith

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