I met a plumber in the area here and he asked, do i really need a website? He was thinking of a website appearing on Google.
It depends, was the rather woolly answer I gave.
A plumber who's a sole trader and small busiiness, for example, could get away without a site just by using all the local facilities available: A Facebook Page, Instagram, Pinterest, a twitter account, offline advertising in the locality, his name on his van, business cards, leaflets to drop through doors, his reputation by word-of-mouth, etc., and not one of those things requires a traditional search engine. Of course, they could use Google My Business to get on the Maps, Google+ for a page and reviews, and that wouldn't be a bad thing. Still no website needed.
A plumbing company, on the other hand, could do all those things I mentioned, and use a website as the centre-piece of all that to bring it all together. But, could they get away with just using social media, and a Page on Facebook?
How would you find a plumber? You'd probably ask a friend, either by phone, text, or face-to-face to see if they can recommend anyone. You might ask friends on Facebook for recommendations, too. There are Facebook ads for plumbers, too, and they appear to be just Facebook Pages.
After any of those recommendations, you may want to find that plumber online to familiarise yourself with them. Anyone still use online directories for local business? I know many people that do. They go straight to the local directory, bypassing a search engine, and look for the local listings.
I also did a search and found plumbers on Facebook - and not a website in sight!
It all pointed back to Facebook as an ecosystem that surely must be a concern for any search engine. Once people and businesses are locked in to a site, such as Facebook, need they go anywhere else? Do they even need to worry about having a website?
Once Facebook sorts out its search I think it's going to become a more significant player than it is right now.
Also, and interestingly, I did a quick search on google for a plumber: Google's maps 7-pack seemed to be placed beneath the ads, and three organic results, with lots and lots of ads, some badly targeted. The bad targeting is down to the advertisers, or course. Lots and lots of competition vying for the top spot on Google. Facebook, on the other hand, relatively, an untapped opportunity.
Once again, is it getting closer to the point where we can get away without a website, and using Google, too?