How AI Will Benefit Small Businesses

Small Business AI

Quick, what’s the primary way for businesses to get traffic online? Is it social media marketing or search engine marketing? According to marketing guru Neil Patel, “More people look for businesses on search” than they do social media. Patel cites a report by Econsultancy claiming that about 61 percent of people do product research on search engines before they buy something. While people might connect with a business on a social network to ask them a question, the search engine is still the primary place to get website traffic.

Intuitively speaking, this just makes sense. If you want to learn about a type of product or service, you’re going to type it into the search bar. You expect to find lists that give you the top such-and-such for any given year, you expect to see reviews, and you expect to see business sites that give you the skinny on the product or service.

If you’re looking for a product, you also expect to see the A-word: Amazon. Yes plenty of small businesses sell their products on Amazon, but their websites aren’t necessarily seeing traffic as a result. That means consumers are going to see Amazon’s offering first and click on it instead of surfing to a small business.

If you’re a small business and you want to be up there in the search engine results with Amazon, you have to do a lot of work. You have to build a seed list, which, according to SEO guru Andrew Dennis, is “the baseline keywords and phrases most relevant to your business.” A seed list includes terms associated with your product, terms your audience uses, related terms in Google, and competitor keywords. Then, you have to keep doing keyword research to really zone in on the right keywords, after which you have to build content and optimize your entire site around your seed list and your other keywords.

You have to do all of this just to try and compete with Amazon or Walmart, which are both selling a product similar to yours at a cheaper price anyhow.

There’s one big difference, though: while Amazon is simply a marketplace, small businesses can leverage informative content to increase their chances of capturing a sale. And in 2019, Google is unveiling a new AI-powered strategy that will benefit small businesses.

Google plans to connect customers to small businesses that do not necessarily have a heavy Web presence,” says Larissa Douglass. To do this, Google will incorporate Maps as part of voice-activated search. This will take searches off of the world wide web and give people results to their voice queries based on data about local businesses on Google Maps, which resides solely on the cloud.

Through this feature, which comes via Google Duplex, you’ll be able to get in touch with local businesses, find out more about them, make appointments, and group local businesses according to your interests as well as personal search history. The assistant can even place orders and make appointments for you.

By 2020, about 50 percent of searches will be voice searches. People tend to speak in complete sentences when they conduct voice searches, which is forcing search engines to start looking at keywords differently. Any web page can offer the answer to a naturally phrased question, but so can an app, a video, a social media post, a Reddit forum, or a podcast. Search engines — including Google, Bing, and Yandex — are working to tailor results to a searcher’s exact intent. They’re using AI to analyze past searches as well as data on the cloud, and that means a small business can get traffic simply by being the answer to a user’s very specific question.

Monolithic programs and concepts are out. Compartmentalized operations, micro-services are in – as are unexpected, niche search results driven by increasingly autonomous AI analytics and operations,” says Douglass.

In 2019, small, local businesses will start to see more traffic — physical and online — because of voice search and AI. It might be miniscule and incremental, but just watch — the change is coming.

By Daniel Matthews

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