Local business study finds 0% of site traffic coming from email, paid media

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djbaxter

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Local business study finds 0% of site traffic coming from email, paid media
by Greg Sterling, Search Engine Land
November 15, 2019

BrightLocal has just released a “Google Analytics for Local Businesses Study.” It looked at “anonymous data of 11,016 local businesses in the USA, Canada, Australia, and the UK” in an effort to establish benchmarks across a number of categories such as traffic sources, monthly users, page views, session duration, bounce rates and others.

The data were collected between September 2017 and December 2018. The local businesses in the study were “BrightLocal users that opted in with active connections to Google Analytics.” It’s not clear if all of these are small businesses (SMB) or whether this dataset includes franchises and enterprises with multiple locations. It likely skews SMB. ....

Zero traffic from email. A striking and perhaps very surprising finding is that “the average local business receives no email, paid, or display sessions each month.” There’s no clear explanation for this other than most local businesses may not be doing paid ads or may be inept at doing them. But the absence of any email-driven traffic to websites is almost shocking.

Social media traffic is 4% of total traffic in the chart below. In addition, “referral” traffic could include visits from social media, although that’s not clear.
lytics-Study-Traffic-proportion-by-channel-800x480.png

Half of all site traffic, according to the study, is coming from organic search; 37% is from direct navigation or branded queries. That’s also a bit of a surprise, given that there’s other data in the market that argues the majority of local search queries are unbranded.

Less mobile traffic than other studies. Another surprise is that 36% of local business website sessions (U.S.) are on mobile devices. This seems to fly in the face of other data and the current conventional wisdom that most local business lookups and search are happening on mobile. However, BrightLocal found different levels of mobile access by vertical.

Restaurants saw the highest proportion of traffic coming from mobile (58%), followed by car dealers (50%), entertainment (50%) and real estate (49%). ....

Why are these 11,000 businesses not getting any traffic from paid sources or email? Are they not doing email marketing? Are they not tagging their campaigns? Are the majority not doing any paid advertising or are they doing it very badly? The head-scratcher findings raise many questions about digital marketing activities among SMBs.


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djbaxter

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Is this really a mystery? Not to me.

I focus on local small businesses in my work. I don't recommend email marketing or paid advertising to most of them. And even if I did, most would reject the advice.

Small business owners are frequently operating on tight budgets and working long hours, certainly well beyond the standard 36.25 hours one sees in the public sector in Canada. They have neither the money nor the time for email marketing or for Google paid advertising. If they run ads at all, it is far more likely to be on social media and to a lesser extent the local press or local radio.

When I am working with local small business, I advise them to put their efforts into the local community: sponsor a charity event, sponsor a children's sports team, hold a public barbecue, basically get involved in the community where they run their business. Among other things, this gets the business a lot of free advertising and goodwill.
 

SkyWriting

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Fist a local retailer need to get their act together. Hire awesome workers to man the front lines. One distracted worker, one day, can lose you 10 to 100 future transactions. Then get all the finances straightened out with the added free time. Then focus on improving their outreach though multiple channels and bring in more business. This includes monitoring every marketing dollar spent and it's results. Then spend only on marketing that is working and drop the rest. I'd say locals are operating on about 20% of capacity and the staff is on their phones the rest of the day. No wonder they are not profitable. The owners are doing all the line work and have no time for actual marketing!
 
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djbaxter

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I think you may have a distorted or overly narrow view of local small businesses. What you are suggesting is fine for larger or established ventures but many small business owners simply don't have that kind of budget.

Furthermore, many local small businesses, especially in rural areas, are doing quite well without using the strategies you suggest. Rural businesses may get a much higher ROI from community involvement and social media than from direct marketing.
 

SkyWriting

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I think you may have a distorted or overly narrow view of local small businesses. What you are suggesting is fine for larger or established ventures but many small business owners simply don't have that kind of budget. Furthermore, many local small businesses, especially in rural areas, are doing quite well without using the strategies you suggest. Rural businesses may get a much higher ROI from community involvement and social media than from direct marketing.
Being in Wisconsin, I have extensive exposure to rural towns.
 
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