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No. 1624
November 8th, 2008

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What I “Learned About Web” on Friday

I was among about 80 small business owners to attend the brilliant Learn About Web conference this Friday in Tri-Cities, Washington. Craig Sutton of Bright Web Marketing arranged an amazing lineup of speakers which included Matt McGee, Jennifer Laycock, and Stoney DeGeyter.

Although Craig did a terrific job at getting the word out (several attendees mentioned to me they’d heard about it on the radio, seen it on TV, etc.) I was pretty surprised there weren’t more in attendance.  At $129 for a full-day session with some of the top small business web marketing experts in the world, it was an absolute screaming deal.

As the title probably implies, the conference was aimed predominantly at small business owners, so personally I didn’t gain a whole lot of earth-shattering knowledge but there were a couple of great reminders on best practices from the speakers above, and it was a pleasure to hear Mack Collier speak for the first time.

But it was incredibly refreshing to be among small business owners for whom this was the first time they were hearing this information.  It was also eye-opening, and a great wake-up call, for where we are as an industry among this very important contingent of prospective customers.

Matt McGee and I estimated the following anecdotal statistics, based on questions asked of the audience by presenters:

  • Several attendees hadn’t heard of LinkedIn.  One specifically asked Jennifer how to spell it.
  • No more than two out of ~80 attendees were currently doing any kind of linkbuilding for their websites.
  • Only ~15% of attendees had heard of Yelp.
  • Less than 50% had heard of Twitter.
  • and the kicker: barely 50% of the audience even knew what SEO meant

By no means am I trying to mock the ignorance of these small business owners.  In fact, quite the opposite. Keep in mind that this was a motivated audience interested in web marketing, giving up an entire day to learn more about it!  Most of them would probably make great clients.

While it’s true that Tri-Cities isn’t as tech-savvy as many towns across the country, this level of ignorance of the SEO industry dramatically underscores the need for more proactive outreach by us as an industry, as well as more basic training blog posts and training sessions aimed at this important audience.

  • I’ve been having exactly that same realization lately. So much of our blogging, social networking, etc. is with our own industry, and even those of us who are used to dealing with small businesses as clients still spend most of our time preaching to the choir. There are still thousands of business owners who don’t understand the basics of the web, and we’re not reaching them well enough yet.

  • Kevin Ames

    It is a shame more people didn’t come to the Learn About Web conference. I too was surprised, especially about the yelp percentage. Only about 3 people in the entire hall raised their hands when asked if they had heard of Yelp. On the topic of meeting potential clients…Seems like attending a beginners session at SMX or Learn About Web would be a great place to get talking with potential clients and answer their questions to build relationships.

  • David:

    The statistics are fascinating. What kinds of businesses did they represent. Why did they come to the meeting.

    It should give you some great ideas about the businesses that can use the web, the best potential customers, and the dearth of knowledge about the industry from the perspective of users.

    In light of the lack of knowledge…..I can only start thinking about the problems with spamming google maps, and other local versions of SE’s and the ability to hijack local listings. Mike should see this information.

    Oi, Oi, Oi.


  • Our website serves the Australian rural small business. I agree with this. Most businesses don’t know much about the Internet and many don’t care. We all have a long way to go.

  • David,

    What fascinating statistics you have provided. I have recently started a independent consultancy helping small businesses to use the web and I find the information you gathered from the conference very inspiring. I have long been amused by how removed us “web geeks” are from the realities of online business. To assume that a business owner who’s expertise is in say, photography, would also hold the same knowledge as someone who lives and breathes new media is just downright wrong. We need a better understanding of how inaccessible we are making web technology seem to the average person. Most small business owners don’t even know where to start with their websites let alone know that they need them to be Search Engine Optimized or have the option to monetize. We need to start with the basics, help them to understand the value of a website and then build up from there. Throwing terms like social networking and content management systems at them only confuses and alienates.

    There is so much opportunity for us to help the great small businesses of the world to grow, we just need to understand how to connect and speak with them on an accessible level.

    Thank you for sharing your findings. I found them fascinating and encouraging. There is so much potential for education and growth.

    Tara Joyce

  • Good points, and easy to forget when you swim in the web-savvy world. Thanks!