The Death of the SMB Website Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

A number of people in the local SEO community have argued that GMB (and Facebook) make the SMB website a thing of the past — except perhaps as a “data hub.” And while it’s true that Google, Facebook, Yelp and other consumer destinations are typically the first consumer point of contact with small businesses, a new survey from BrightLocal shows that SMB websites are far from irrelevant.

BrightLocal surveyed 500 consumers (not a huge sample, but directionally relevant). When asked how consumers found local business information, they answered GMB (62%). After that, however, it was the SMB site (49%), followed by Google Maps (44%) and online directories (23%).

In a majority of cases (75%) consumers visited SMB sites, regardless of where they started.

BrightLocal SMB sites

Beyond the finding that SMB sites are still widely used by a majority of consumers, there were two other very noteworthy survey results:

  • SMB sites are more trusted by consumers than GMB
  • Consumers greatly prefer calls to other communication channels to reach local business owners

When asked “which source do you expect to have the most accurate and up-to-date contact information?” nearly twice as many consumers (56%) said the SMB site would be more accurate than GMB information (32%).

Asked how they wanted to make contact with a business after it had been identified, the majority (60%) said they preferred the phone. Email was next with 16% saying it was their preferred contact method:

  1. Phone call
  2. Email
  3. Visit the business location
  4. Message via contact form
  5. Contact via social media

We don’t get any demographic insight about these respondents, so we don’t know if phone calls are preferred equally across age groups. I would expect them not to be. Nonetheless it’s a striking and surprising finding.

In fact, BrightLocal says the preference for phone calls has grown nearly 20 points since a previous survey in 2016. This may indicate poor experiences or response times with other communication channels. I would have expected messaging to be more prominent.

While we don’t know what’s behind this preference for calls, the data seem to be pretty clear. The conventional wisdom about the death of phone calls is probably wrong, just as it appears to be about the demise of SMB websites.

2 Responses to “The Death of the SMB Website Has Been Greatly Exaggerated”

  1. Jillian says:

    MAKE WEBSITES GREAT AGAIN (feel free to make hats) 😉

    Great to see some data back up what I feel is my typical consumer experience when looking into local/small businesses!

  2. Greg Sterling says:

    It’s an AND not an OR proposition.

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