How the Internet Is Becoming Less Friendly to Small Businesses and Start up Companies
The Big, Bad Internet
What happened to the internet?
The internet was supposed to level the playing field for all companies to provide unique and valuable products and services, so what is happening? In a nutshell:
- Search engines are getting far more picky and difficult to work with, making it extremely unlikely for small companies to get decent listing.
- Large corporations are taking over search listing with their huge marketing and advertising budgets.
- The competition and number of companies online all selling the same thing has become overwhelming and making searches ever more difficult.
- A few companies now dominate the internet such as Amazon and Ebay, making it hard to compete along with consumers being more concerned about fraud and security with small companies.
Search Engine Blues
As a long time small business owner and website developer, I can attest to the incredibly changes in search engine technology. In the 1990's, you could throw just about any website up, add the required keywords, have good information on it and not too many website errors, and expect decent page ranking withing a few months, maybe sooner. Everything has changed. You now have to have mobile friendly sites, extensive social media link, multiple links from other sites, much stricter text and page guidelines, blogs, daily updates to the site and hope that will eventually get you listed somewhere on the 3rd or 4th page for most key words. In other words, just marketing a website to be found can be a full time job and cost serious money to contract out the work. Before, most any business owner with a little tech savy could do the same thing. Sod suddenly, the cost to be on line jumped dramatically.
Putting up a website is no longer enough, without being listed on at least the first few pages for your major key words, you might as well be invisible and not even bother. Of course the search engines are happy to offer paid advertising options to help you along, but that can easily run thousands of dollars a month! Highly contest key words such as real estate, lawyers or lights will cost up to 10 dollars every time you click on an add. Not to mention the complex methodology the search engines like Google use that require classes just to figure out.
Large Companies Rule
As with local business, the bigger the company, the greater their resources. That holds true on line just as well as locally. Walmart is known to put local small stores out of business and Amazon or a host of other large companies are doing the same online. The enormous websites and complex link of back links from other sites and blogs practically guarantees them to listing on most all key words and good luck fighting it. Do they have the variety and expertise that a smaller company may provide? Probably not. But the search engines are robots and cannot measure that in any accurate way. Bigger is usually better for them. A company that employs hundreds of programmers and online marketing people is far more likely to be found than a small business on their own.
But there is an option. An estimated 80% of people never get past the first page when doing searches. There are many other options once you go to the 2nd, 3rd and even 4th page so keep looking and be patient. Bigger is not always better.
With the proliferation of online companies and services, it is getting harder and harder to figure out the best places to buy. Even worse are the "blogs" and "infomercial pages" created solely by marketing and SEO companies to push specific sites and increase search engine ranking. They fill search engine results with back links to other sites but rarely offer any real services or products. I call them spam and there are lots out there.
The internet can be a very confusing place to shop with so many choices. It does not help that many websites are outdated, have old information and untrustworthy. Instead of being on a "super highway" many searches start feeling like "back alleys". It takes a lot of patience, persistence and care to really do a thorough search and never believe everything you read or see on line. Common sense is the key and as long as "robots" are used to rank sites, there will always be problems.
Big Company Monopolies
It was inevitable that a few companies would totally dominate online sales. Amazon with Walmart on it's heels and a few others, are the big current players. They overwhelming size, fast delivery and ease of use make it hard to compete. People inherently love convenience and simplicity, attributes they provide in spades. Do they carry the depth of specialized products or services that small companies may, of course not. But for the average consumer, cheap and easy are the key words. My company used to offer a small selection of products on Amazon along with our website name in hopes people would search it to find more variety and options. We are not the only ones doing that either so there are ways to sort of get around this issue.
The reason this is important is that these mega companies offer very little in the way of custom, hand made and unique products. Their sites are not set up for the wide variety of options and creative choices needed to sell custom products. It is hard for US small companies to compete with China on price, so they must rely on these low volume, custom made products which do not work well on mainstream websites, a major problem. You can help by again looking for search engine results on more than the first page and be more specific on your key word searches. Instead of say "lighting" do a search for "lighting with fish" or "American made lighting" if you are looking for lights with fish made in the US. The more specific you are, the less "trash" you have to look though to find what you want.
Fraud and Scams
As online sales grow, they become a tempting target for scammers and even hackers that try to corrupt sites to "inject" viruses and malware on your computer. Even large companies can be hacked as the continuous news of credit card number thefts hits the news. Like anything in life, being diligent and using common sense are the best guidelines. If a site looks strange or has many misspellings, beware. If the prices are too good to be true, they probably are. If there is no address or phone number, you should wonder why. Do online review searches or BBB searches for a company if you feel uncomfortable. It all makes perfect sense so think before you give out a credit card, it will save you a lot of grief.