Why Local Businesses Need Websites More than Ever in 2019

Google has stopped bearing gifts to those without websites. Long long ago, in a far away land… a user could put in a search for a good or service and maybe even a zip code and poof… a couple of local businesses with those credentials would pop up in the top 10 search results. In the last couple of years, however, Google is no longer your fairy godfather and there is a price to pay – and they are collecting the toll.

Now we are all thrown into a mobile sea consisting of layers and layers of Google-owned interfaces instead of direct-to-website links. Consider these five key developments:

1) Zero-click mobile SERPs

This slide by Rand Fishkin summarizes his findings regarding the growth of no-click SERPs between 2016–2018. Basically, it identifies what we’ve all been doing with our mobile phones: using them more! Mobile users have experienced a 20% increase in delivery of search engine results and this is pretty much saying that if mobile users are searching via Google, they don’t have to go any deeper than Google’s own interface. Having your own website that is AMP ready only aids mobile users searching for you in finding you.

2) The invasion of paid ads upon local packs

In a survey of 11,000 SERPs in 2018, it was found that 35% of competitive local packs feature ads. The competition is stiff… paid adds will pop up before your lack of website result return does – for sure. Having a website at least gives the user searching the option of clicking an actual company website rather than an ad.

3) Google is now a lead gen agency

If you’re paying close attention, Google’s Local Service Ads program to which they have juxtaposed themselves as the paid lead gen agent between businesses and consumers has taken over 23 business categories in 77 US cities. Just let that sink in while you don’t have a website and someone is searching for boats in west Houston and you have a company in west Houston that sells boats. Google is going to help sell that person a boat…to some other company.

4) Your branded SERPs can still work against you

When users specifically enter searches for your brand and your Google Knowledge Panel pops up, you will see, “People Also Search For,” and then the aggravating set of competitors at the bottom of it. What’s worse is Google allowing Groupon to advertise at the top of your KP, or placing lead gens from Doordash and GrubHub front and center to rob you from your own customers’ orders. But if users see your website… and it’s awesome…with great pics…and graphics… well put together… they might prefer your product as opposed to the Grub-a-dub or DashandBash they normally order. But they won’t know that if you don’t have a website.

5) Google is being called the new “homepage” for local businesses

Sixty-four percent of marketers agree that Google is becoming the new so-called “homepage” for local businesses. By this marketers and many business owners with websites know that a user looking at a Google Knowledge Panel can retrieve basic business info, make a phone call, find directions, book reservations, ask a question, go through a virtual tour, read microblog posts, find hours of operation, scroll through photos, find out busy times, read and leave reviews. Just like that, without ever having to click through to a brand’s domain, the user could have fully satisfied their entire search goals – without hitting your website. So, if you do not have a website, you better hope that what’s there is actual, factual and complimentary.

Your website should be your bedrock

Learn about how to develop content that speaks to what your customers want to hear and what they are searching to consume. Learn how to rank high organically. It is clear that right now, websites will be anything but obsolete in 2019. Rather, they are the building blocks of local rankings, precious free leads and loyal revenue. Don’t let Google determine how hundreds and possibly thousands find you (or don’t) and either become customers or get lost in incorrect details or the competition.