- Google is rolling out a website that helps small businesses decide where they should spend their marketing dollars with the search giant.
- Google’s move comes as Facebook, Amazon, and GoDaddy and Wix are clamoring for the same kinds of businesses.
- One of Google’s challenges is that people don’t find small businesses as easily as they do on Facebook and Amazon, said Mike Duda, managing partner at Bullish, an agency that invests in upstarts.
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Google is cozying up to small businesses as Amazon, Facebook, GoDaddy and others chase the same market.
Google today launched a website called Google for Small Business to help small businesses prioritize which tools they should use and determine if they should run ad campaigns. The site might recommend a bricks-and-mortar retailer focus on making sure its map listing data is accurate, while an e-commerce brand looking to acquire new customers might be encouraged to prioritize advertising.
"Small businesses don’t have a lot of time, and we want to step them through all the growth that’s available on the web," said Kim Spalding, global product director of small business ads at Google. "We felt like the opportunity was to put together a step plan tailored to each business."
The website is part of a broader Google initiative to equip small businesses with digital tools and hands-on workshops. Google claims to have helped power $335 billion in revenue in 2018 for 1.3 billion businesses, web publishers and nonprofits.
Of course, Google has a financial incentive to aim for small businesses, especially ones that are just beginning to build up a digital presence.
"Google has been decent about bringing category-level insights to different players," said Mike Duda, managing partner at Bullish, an agency that creates advertising and invests in direct-to-consumer brands and startups. "If they teach you how to fish, you’ll probably come fish in their lake."
With the website, Google asks business owners about their company and marketing goals, then recommends the three tools that they should prioritize. The tools include ads as well as Google’s free products like Gmail, Calendar and an app called Google My Business that is used by companies to manage their business profiles and respond to messages from customers.
The website also lists in-person trainings and events to help business owners with digital marketing.
Google is pitching its website as a one-stop shop for small businesses, but Matt Rednor, founder and CEO of Decoded Advertising, an agency that works with direct-to-consumer brands, said Google still lacks a strong e-commerce platform for marketers.
"If Google had Shopify, then they could be the one-stop shop for setting up a DTC brand," he said. "You would have internal business tools with Gmail, Calendar, search advertising, programatic, and YouTube [and it] becomes a pretty compelling offering."
Google has tough competition in winning over small businesses
Google’s relationships with small and mid-sized businesses is far different than it is with big Fortune 500 companies. While big marketers complain about YouTube’s brand-safety problems or Google’s clampdown on third-party data, small businesses grapple with more basic digital problems, like setting up websites, map listings and search listings.
Google cited a study that it conducted with Ipsos last year that found that 47% of US businesses don’t have a website.
That said, Google also faces tight competition for small businesses from the likes of Facebook, Amazon and a growing number of companies like Wix and GoDaddy that specialize in website design and marketing campaigns for small marketers.
Duda said people find small businesses from friends and family on Facebook and they buy products on Amazon but that it’s harder for small businesses to stand out on Google because people don’t typically search for them. They might type "pizza" but not the name of an actual local pizza restaurant, for example.
One area he’s seen Google ramp up its work with small businesses is with teams that specialize in helping early-stage companies get off the ground.
"Google is the middleman where people aren’t necessarily Googling a business," he said. "You can’t say Google is playing catch-up, but Google has a lot to keep innovating on because they could lose out to Amazon, Facebook and Instagram."
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