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Google urges small businesses to invest in online presence to help boost profit

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Kevin O’Kane, managing director for Google Marketing Solutions of Google Asia Pacific (APAC) gestures during a press event in Google’s Singapore headquarters on April 12.

GOOGLE, is encouraging businesses of all sizes across all industries to shift towards digital and create mobile-optimized websites in order to leverage and “reach an audience of billions worldwide.”

“Every business should be an online business. Every business needs to be online and digital,” Kevin O’Kane, managing director for Google Marketing Solutions of Google Asia Pacific (APAC) said during a press event in Google’s Singapore headquarters on April 12.

With 98% of businesses in the region considered small and medium businesses (SMBs) according to a 2014 data from the Asian Development Bank, Mr. O’Kane said that “to keep growing, SMBs need to meet consumers where they spend an increasing amount of their time, online.”

“Online, on mobile, your ‘local’ market is as big as you want it to be. It’s as big as the number of people looking for you or the products and services you provide,” he added.

And mobile is driving this online trend with the Philippines having a projected 68% mobile phone penetration in 2018 according to statistics portal, statista.com while Indonesia saw a jump in percentage of people owning a smartphone from 14% in 2013 to 60% in 2017, according to Mr. O’Kane.

Conversely, he told the press during a discussion after the event that less than 5% of businesses in less developed countries are online.

The ubiquity of mobile phones then, he explained, makes it imperative for businesses to be online as the next generation will be “mobile-only internet users” which will make the Web “become more local.”

“People are turning to their mobiles to find nearby solutions, benefitting millions of local businesses,” he said.

While going digital is the way to go, Mr. O’Kane acknowledged that the move does intimidate many small businesses — many of whom may be multi-generational and has existed for many years–as they think it might expensive to do so.

But Google, he said, provides a free and easy way to create an online presence via Google My Business a tool which puts businesses on Google Search and on Maps which they can then customize with text, photos and design themes.

Google also offers other free services including Market Finder and Google Trends which help SMBs gauge interest for their products; Google Analytics which helps businesses to understand how their site or app is performing and which activities contribute to sales or visits; YouTube, which can be used to find and engage new customers; and Test My Site which tests mobile website speed and help them improve their website performance.

To give credence to his assertions, Mr. O’Kane mentioned several businesses like Hai Sia Seafood —a family-owned seafood distributor in Singapore that used YouTube ads to triple their sales and led them to introduce a new product: tours in their factory which now has to be booked six months in advance due to its popularity—and Ishikawa Brewery, a 150-year old sake and beer-making business in Japan which used Google My Business to reach new customers.

“[The aforementioned services] are free and is better for their customers and business…The internet erases problems of geography and reach. It lowers costs,” said Mr. O’Kane.

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The simple act of having presence in the digital world is something that will help businesses grow manifold, according to Google executives, as it opens opportunities to reach new customers and expand their businesses.

Google might offer free services to jumpstart the move but those who want to kick it up a notch, Google encourages businesses to place on one or several of the company’s products including Search, YouTube and on the Play Store.

Google urges small businesses to invest in online presence to help boost profit
Melanie Silva, director of sales and product operations & strategy for Google APAC

But it needn’t be expensive as Melanie Silva, told the press in a separate roundtable on April 12 that businesses can invest on ads for as low as $1 a day.

During a presentation, Ms. Silva used The Lorry, a moving company in Malaysia, as an example as the company invested $2-$4 a day on AdWords (Google’s advertising system) and saw that it generated more bookings and introduce their business to a new generation of clientele.

“[Advertising] doesn’t need to be expensive…it depends on what business results you want to achieve,” she explained before adding that in a sense, it’s all about trial and error as businesses need to find what works for them.

Google offers a range of advertising options from the most simple — Search ads which are shown only when consumers want them and advertisers are charged only when ads are clicked on — to targeted ads like AdSense where Google matches ads to the site’s content or page and to more comprehensive ones like AdMob which are used to promote mobile applications across Google Play, Search, YouTube and “on the more than three million sites and apps in the Google Display Network.”

“Before you spend any money to advertisers, fix your website first,” Mr. O’Kane advised as advertising without having a fully-equipped website, is akin to wasting advertising money. — Zsarlene B. Chua