The missing link for small businesses

Massive shifts in consumer behaviour has meant that businesses are fighting for their customers’ attention online.

April 7, 2014

By Claire Cobbledick, Head of Marketing, Gumtree 

Where is the best place to hide a dead body? Most marketers will tell you it’s “the second page of Google”. No one ever looks there.

Massive shifts in consumer behaviour has meant that businesses are fighting for their customers’ attention online. Users are becoming more sophisticated in the keywords they use, and big businesses are pouring resources into search engine optimisation and high-authority link building. Unfortunately, that leaves many small businesses out of the running – unless they can piggy-back off someone else’s traffic.

Ten years ago, the local carpenter or garden service may have opted for a print ad in the community paper, or a flyer drop in their area of operation. Unfortunately, these offline tools simply do not offer the same functionality that an online site can – the ability to search for an exact product or service where you want it, when you want it. There is of course the option to create a website or blog to generate that content, but with Google’s algorithm changes, and the importance of constantly updating and reworking a site to keep traffic consistent is a fulltime job that many one-man operations simply cannot maintain.

It’s interesting to see how many businesses in South Africa have turned to online classifieds to promote their companies, mainly as they offer vast amounts of visitors (national and community-specific) that they would not otherwise be able to access.

Classifieds may seem like etailing’s clunky cousin, but the reality is that the sites worth their salt is incredibly intuitive, adjusting to trends as they emerge, and closely observing the community’s behaviour. They act as aggregators for businesses, where the smallest home operation can reach individuals in their area – or across the country – without paying a cent. Shoppers can ask for dozens of quotes, and narrow the search down to their exact post code if they wish. Most classifieds are equipped with AdSense, banner ads and promoted advertising options for added impact.

If you have to make an offline association, online classifieds isn’t just one big second hand store – it’s the entire high street and it’s crowded with every business, service and item under the sun. Which is why it draws such unprecedented numbers. It helps consumers find what they want on a granular level – with a product, a price, a picture, and in the place they want to purchase it.

The fact is that even the highest-ranking news portal on the web can’t claim to do what classifieds do on a daily basis – persuade one quarter of the entire country to click on the site. That is the kind of traffic that simply can’t be ignored.

If businesses are serious about building an online following, they have to use every tool at their disposal – and no other platform can offer it as quickly and easily as the classifieds space.