The volume of small businesses is at a record high, but how will they survive in a Google-dominated world?

Amir Jirbandey
Google doesn't always seem to sweet to small businesses (Source: Getty)

The government announced that the number of private sector businesses in the UK has reached a record 5.4 million, but what’s it like for these businesses trying to compete with Goliath global organisations’ deep pockets and large support teams?

It’s become clear to us that there are common challenges faced by startups, and much of it comes from their perceived need to spend heavily on digital advertising in order to gain visibility in a world where Google search dominates.

One London-based startup, Moteefe, which helps people sell custom made clothing through social networks has experimented with Google ads. It’s achieved some reasonable click-through-rates, but found that it didn’t generate conversions, yet Moteefe still had to pay Google because organisations pay for each click.

Google’s model favours large businesses with big budgets and the cash flow to spend well over £200,000 on a Google ad campaign to building awareness. This is simply not an option for startups that need to spend frugally and see immediate return on investment from any level of payment.

The mayor has been very clear in his desire to position London as the home of European startups and see Tech City flourish. But can we expect these companies to realistically compete when a high spend on search and Google is still the biggest barrier for startups being found?

Here are a few tips for start-ups to adapt and survive in the competitive digital world, without relying on Google:

  • Establish and continue to optimise a search engine friendly digital presence. Create interesting, relevant content that adds value to customers based on specific keywords that drive quality traffic to your website.
  • Never underestimate the power of A/B testing in today’s digital world. Pretty much all elements of marketing can now be tested, from the design, content and timing of an email marketing campaign to the images and hashtags shared on social networks. Test, analyse and adapt to ensure budgets are being spent on the most effective method of communications
  • Make data-driven decisions. Short-form social video specialist company, Burst has focused on this to gain a competitive advantage; continually listening and learning from customer data collected online such as website browsing behaviour, purchase history, abandon carts
  • Small businesses should take advantage of having the agility to develop personalised, meaningful relationships with customers.
  • Use tools that offer personalised communications for email and social media channels depending on the individual to help deepen the relationship and drive sales

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