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Why I Don’t Do Social Media Marketing or Websites for My Business & Rely Only on Google My Business

Google search engine app on iPad

Google search engine app on iPad

Raise a hand if you have never been warned against the ‘risks’ of not having a social presence when doing business. Most web agencies and marketing gurus often state that having a website is essential for a company and growing social media presence is another very important task to achieve, eventually at the cost of paying several bucks to some web agencies handling everything professionally (which is the most appropriate thing to do if one wants to truly do social media marketing). There are some statements that are like a mantra for those who encourage business owners to do social media marketing and have a website:


Is there something true in these statements? Of course it is never bad to have a website or to maintain social media pages, but what is the cost to pay in exchange? Paying several hundreds dollars per month in order to keep someone curating all of this? Putting everything in your website and forgetting other essential tools? How many shops out there post everything on their website and post everyday on their Instagram profile, then don’t even care to keep updated their opening time on Google Maps when, for example, there is a variation for a holiday?

Where Do You Look for Shops?

As always, the best thing to better understand the real utility of a website and of expensive social media management for a small shop, is to think like a customer. When you want to look for bakeries in the nearby and want to find one which is open at the moment, are you going to randomly search for them on Google and then open all their websites in the hope to find opening hours and indications? Are you going to open your Instagram app and then search for “bakeries” in the search engine? Surely you aren’t doing any of these: you will instead look at the local search results in Google or open Google Maps, then you are going to look at the opening time directly inside the app. If a bakery does not have a website but carefully achieves to keep opening time updated and always manages their local Google presence, that bakery is going to succeed more in terms of online visibility than a competitor in the nearby that has a website, makes posts every day on social media but then forget about the most important thing, the one most people are effectively using to look for what they need in the nearby.

People Love to Find Everything in One Place

The fact is that Google is currently the most used online service people rely on when it comes to search for what they need. People love to comfortably look for what they need in short time and Google knows it so well that it has done a lot in order to make search results interactive: knowledge panels, local results shown directly in the main search page and video previews are examples of how Google is accommodating users who want to get information with very short effort, even when the effort in question is just doing an additional click in order to land on a web page.

With this in mind, a user who is going to discover your shop in Google Maps, see the correct opening times in the same app, look at the menu - again - without exiting the app, chat with you directly inside the app, is going to have a much more comfortable experience than the same user who looks at a shop on Google Maps on the Easter Day, sees the shop is actually open but with the alert ’Opening time may change due to Easter Day’ written near the opening time, decides to visit the website or make a phone call in order to discover the shop is closed or has a special opening time that has not been updated on Google Maps accordingly. It never matters how cool may be the website of this second shop: people are not going to bookmark websites of their local bakeries and are not going to take an extra effort in order to keep updated about your business, when services like Google Maps are instead meant to provide them quickly with information about local businesses.

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A Google My Business menu directly integrated with Google search results allows users to see the dishes and their prices without the need of opening the website. This is an example of information provided directly to the user who is searching for it.

A Google My Business menu directly integrated with Google search results allows users to see the dishes and their prices without the need of opening the website. This is an example of information provided directly to the user who is searching for it.

What Do You Do on Social Media?

Let’s be honest: what do you mostly do when wandering around Instagram app? You are looking at your friends‘ pictures, posting pictures yourself and going to have some entertainment while looking at some funny videos. The same with TikTok. Facebook has maybe more options for companies, as it allows to create business pages but, again, what is the main use people generally make of social network places? To connect with other people and to have some funny time watching random amusing content (unless you are using LinkedIn), not really to look for local bakeries, barber shops or restaurants.

So Are Websites and Social Media Profiles Useless?

This may be an unpopular opinion, still, websites as intended by most of the small businesses actually owning them, are completely useless. The same, their social media profiles. Websites may be still good for having a general presence in the search engine, still when it comes to a small business operating strictly in a specific area, local SEO is much more relevant. Static websites containing the classic ‘About Us’, ‘Contact Us’, ‘Menu/Services’ are not giving any additional value than the Google My Business profile with good pictures, the built-in messaging system, a short but incisive description, the built-in menu and the opening time always updated. With the difference provided that the Google My Business profile is completely free, safe (provided you are protecting your Google Account adequately) and hosted on one of the best hosting services in the world (you are directly relying on Google to have an online presence). At least here in Italy, many business owners tend not to have an online presence at all or to focus everything on expensive websites and social media campaigns without thinking at all at the potentialities offered by Google My Business, which allows business owners to even post updates like they may do on a mainstream social network website.

This is not meant to conclude that a website and a social media page are always useless for a small business shop. It is meant to remember shop owners that web agencies, like every business, have a product or service to sell: in order to do this, it is perfectly normal that they will always try to convince you having a website is a vital part of your online presence (next time you are going to read an article stating that ‘without a website you do not look professional’ and ‘everyone has a website’, have a look if the article is posted on the website of a web agency or someone else working in the sector and having surely all the interest in enforcing the idea that everyone has to have a website at all cost).

With this in mind, a website may be very useful if:

  • it gives an additional value to a Google My Business page and to the business itself: while a website merely repeating the same information one can directly show in a Google profile is mainly useless (even if still many small local businesses have websites of this kind), an e-commerce website is an example of something that may be incredibly useful;
  • it is meant for a chain of shops and not for a single small business: a chain has multiple Google My Business profiles and a general website, in this case, is more than recommended as online presence only managed through Google’s own products is always crafted for a single shop and not for a chain;
  • it is meant to provide advanced services (a hotel wanting to manage their own online booking system should surely have a website in addition to a Google My Business page).

Talking about social media marketing, it may be good to enforce brand perception among customers, still, social media are not the places where people mostly connect with businesses: unless you are a famous chain owning a brand which has a strong appeal among customers (still, few of them are going to actively interact with social media channels), maybe you should not invest much time - and especially money - in this, as it may not be perceived by potential customers the idea that they may use their favorite social media in order to see posts of a local barber shop or of a bakery (this, again, because social networks are mostly perceived in the common culture as places where to connect with friends and have some entertainment, not as replacements of Google Maps enriched with pictures and posts). If you try to look at even most of the famous brands in the world, you may realize they have far less followers on social media than effective customers (Starbucks, for example, has around 18 million followers on Instagram at the time this article is being written, still, they have surely many more real customers going to their shops). Social media marketing may still be an additional tool that is not going to harm your business, still, it shouldn’t be seen as something vital and, especially, as an alternative to a good management of Google My Business profile.

Facebook app on an iPhone. Facebook is one of the most relevant social media platforms.

Facebook app on an iPhone. Facebook is one of the most relevant social media platforms.

Conclusions

A website may be very useful if it gives an effective additional value to a business or it is part of a specific marketing strategy that may apply well, for example, for chains of shops and other realities that have a brand to develop in a wide area and not just to provide local services in a specific area. Still, this article is not about these specific realities, but about many individually-owned restaurants, barber shops, cafes and other independent small businesses around us that may have poorly managed Google My Business profiles, but astonishing websites showing just opening time, ‘About Us’, ‘Menu’ & ‘Contact Us’ pages, without giving additional value to a well made Google My Business profile. These businesses have wasted money in the fear of not being accepted in a society dominated by the idea that a website is always required, without considering the fact that, in most cases, a well managed Google local presence is much more better, still, often undervalued. By sharing my experience, I have developed some websites in the past and am good at making several kinds of business pages and online shops too. I know there is much work in order to have not only a beautiful website, but also something which is searchable on Google, reliable (many small businesses are paying hundreds of dollars to have astonishing websites made for them, but then hosted in the majority of cases at the cheapest shared hosting service of the moment), safe (yes, also WordPress websites get hacked if there is not someone who regularly keeps them updated, if web server is not safe at the beginning and if the business owner uses ‘1234’ as the admin password) and - let’s not forget it - compliant in terms of privacy (especially Europe has strong privacy regulations that may make it very challenging to stay fully compliant, if one even thinks at the complexity of cookie banners and of preliminary cookies analysis in order to block them before the user gives consent). Making a good website requires time, making a fully perfect website, so not only beautiful, searchable, safe and reliable, but also 100% privacy compliant is something that even some web agencies don’t manage to do fully. Despite my experience in making websites and in using cloud hosting services too (something which may be an added value to just knowing and using shared hosting services), I have chosen to put everything into Google My Business for a small shop I manage (no chains, no online reservations, no products sold online, just a business place that needs to get discovered locally) and my same customers often congratulate with me for the fact they can look my shop on Google and trust they will always see the correct opening time without the need of contacting me and for the fact I provide them with immediate information about my products without making them do extra steps. If I wanted to build a website for this shop, I could do it without the need of paying an external web agency, still I have realized it worked better for me to have one channel and keep it stellar in terms of reliability: no website, no social media marketing, just a very well managed Google My Business profile with opening hours updated even for the holidays, multilingual menu with the built-in editor, posts and carefully made photos with descriptions too. A Google profile made in this way provides the same information any business website can do, it does it directly inside Google (without making the customers do extra steps in order to get what they need) and it is surely not less professional than one may believe. The feedback of my customers is more valuable to me than any repetitive sentence condemning businesses without a website (or, to better say, condemning businesses that refuse to pay for something they may not even need at all). If there will be a day in which I will need to sell products online or expand myself, maybe by opening additional stores, I will create a website on my own (still, without undervaluing Google My Business), in the meantime, as long as the only need for online presence is to show business information and keep customers updated, I think Google My Business is the real essential and vital tool most small businesses should actively use. It can even automatically sync with Bing (Bing Places for Business can connect with a Google Account) so that one can also automatically keep Bing users updated, at the end, it has only a big flaw: it does not make web agencies earn money.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2022 Alessio Ganci

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