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Difficulties trying to promote local businesses

Published on Thursday 24 October 2019
Categories: General | Programming and Code |

Virtual Swanage

In 1996 we started a local tourism website called Virtual Swanage which over time grew to have over two thousand pages of local photos, events, business listings, local attractions and much more.

I posted about the twenty year milestone in 2016 https://www.briandorey.com/post/virtual-swanage-20-years-old with an overview of the websites history.

In the following three years since that blog post, the Virtual Swanage website has continued to evolve and adapt as online trends come and go.

One area of the website which I have been adding a lot of new content into are the photo gallery archives. I have been purchasing a lot of old photo postcards and photographs from eBay with some dating back to the late 1800s. https://www.virtual-swanage.co.uk/gallery/1800/year.aspx and https://www.virtual-swanage.co.uk/gallery/1900/year.aspx

Local Business Listings and GDPR

At the start of 2018 we had to ensure that all the data we held for local businesses, clubs and other organisations in our “Purbeck Directory” section was correct and we had confirmed permission from all the listing owners that they agree for us to continue to promote their businesses or activity.

For listings which didn’t have a contact email but a postal address we sent letters asking them to confirm if they wanted to continue or not but none of these responded. I also included a stamped addressed envelope so they wouldn’t have to spend anything to reply.

Before the GDPR email verification we had over four hundred listings for local businesses, clubs and other organisations but less than eighty replied to our request for them to confirm that they wished to continue with their free website listing and so at the start of April 2018 we deleted over three hundred and twenty of the entries.

After the GDPR Purge

In the summer months after the April purge of listings we started to receive emails and calls from businesses and clubs who had been removed asking why they had been deleted and for many, they had received our email regarding their listings but didn’t think it was important or needed to be responded to!  

We also saw a big increase in error 404 page not found errors with links to the deleted listings from other websites and blogs which resulted in a drop in visitor traffic to the directory section and pages.

New growth in the free directory listings

Over the past eighteen months we had over thirty new businesses and organisations submit their details to be included again and we are now up to 111 directory listings.

When I go to the post office every morning to post our AB Electronics UK parcels, I normally take a walk around the town to see if there are any new businesses opening or changing.

When I see a new business appear, I often go in to introduce myself and ask if they would like to be included in the free business listings on Virtual Swanage which has resulted in several new additions this year.

The most common response to me telling the owners the listings are free results in “what is the catch” and “how can you do this for free” or “do you take a cut of my sales”.

It seems that local business owners don’t understand how someone can try to promote the local area to keep other businesses and clubs going without wanting money in return!

I have considered placing a half or full-page advert in the local newspaper, but they cost over £500 for a single issue and I don’t think that many new listings would be added from this.

Other Local Business Listings on Facebook

There are several local business listing groups on Facebook which have a small number of businesses promoted but due to the way older posts are hidden on Facebook many of these are hard to find unless you know the name of the business you are trying to find.

Many of these groups are closed to non-members or private and so the 22%* internet users in the United Kingdom who are not Facebook users would not be able to view them.

I am sure that if you told a business owner who wanted to advertise that 22% of people wouldn’t be able to see their advert, they wouldn’t think it was very useful!

*Source: avocadosocial.com/latest-social-media-statistics-and-demographics-for-the-uk-in-2019/

If anyone has any ideas or suggestions for how we can get more local businesses and groups to promote themselves on Virtual Swanage please post in the comments below or send me a message.

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