The "localguide" project.
One of the major problems with internet based sites is the issue of attracting suitable
visitors - potential customers. It's been said many times before that the "Internet"
offers a level playing field. Unfortunately, many small businesses have found this
not to be the case. Large corporations have huge advertising budgets and resources
which they can use to drive traffic to their respective web sites. Therefore, those
people saying the internet offers a level playing field for "ALL" businesses
and individuals really need to look at the facts first.
In an attempt to pool resources, a unique project has been initiated by AAA Publishing
Group Pty Ltd which aims to overcome this "unlevel" playing field and to
generate traffic which would normally be out of reach for the majority of small businesses.
This particular project has been under development since late 1996 (it's been a long
and tedious process) . In that time, the original concept has remained unchanged.
However, the process of implementation has changed many times to keep pace with the
ever changing internet and also to take full advantage of new technology developments.
While the concept itself is very simple, the implementation has presented some extremely
technical and logistical challenges. In fact it has required the development and
deployment of some very customised software to initialise and organise both the data
and data structure around which the project is built and maintained. Without this
specialised software, it would have been impossible to even consider such an ambitious
What is it?
The singular purpose of the "localguide" project is to provide a directory
structure that allows an individual to use a direct URL (web address) to access a
community directory from which they can find associated small business sites for
a specific town/suburb/place. It needs to be stressed that the "localguide"
project is not designed to provide content as such. This is best left to the local
content providers. Existing and future "community" sites will actually
add more value to the "localguide". What the project aims to do is to make
such "local" sites more accessible by using the direct URL (web address)
approach. Once a visitor becomes familiar with how the direct URL's (web address)
work, they will no longer need to waste time in Search Engines or Large Directories
trying to sift through the fragmented links just to find a specific site that "might"
fulfill their needs. Let's face it, why on earth would someone want to use a major
search engine or directory to locate a business within their own community. Technically,
each community "should" have a site which draws all the local links into
a single place. It's from there that a user would typically locate a "local"
small business site which they could then visit. At this point in time, there are
some excellent community sites spread throughout Australia. In most cases, they are
operated by dedicated individuals who are "locals" themselves. The problem
they face, which is typical of most small businesses, is the gaining of widespread,
continuing cost effective exposure to the wider community. As part of the 'localguide'
network, we aim to over come this issue by promoting on a single front.
How it works!
OK, let's go through a simple example. Say you wish to visit Ulladulla on the South
Coast of New South Wales. Until now, the only real options available would be to
either do a search in one of the major search engines or visit a major directory
to find potential links that would provide the information you seek. Now, with the
'localguide' approach you can use a direct URL. So in the case of Ulladulla all you
have to do is type in
www.ulladulla.localguide.com.au. This will take you directly
to a page containing "local" links which may or may not include a "community"
Now, you might think we've only done this for major cities and towns. Well, we have
in fact included every destination in Australia (within reason). A few issues have
arisen that required some slight modifications. For example, if you type in www.milton.localguide.com.au did you actually wish to
visit Milton in NSW or Milton in QLD. Obviously, you can't visit both at the same
time so we have an intercept page that allows a visitor to pick precisely where they
wish to visit.
it all mean?
Sites within the 'localguide' network will have more potential for attracting visitors
than if they relied on their own promotional efforts. The only way to compete with
the corporate heavy weights is to combine the efforts of many. In fact, the corporate
type entities give little regard for those communities outside major metropolitan
areas. This should not be the case. If a locality within Australia has a small business
site, it should be accessible from within that localities community site or at the
very least from within the regions community site.
For the "localguide" to have any real value, visitors must be confident
that by using the site they will be able to access "local" content. For
local content to be available, we will be reliant on web site submissions from individuals
such as yourself. The more small businesses that have some sort of web presence,
the more value a visitor will gain by visiting such a community site. In effect,
it's a 'snow ball' effect. As a community site grows in popularity, so will the benefits
of having your small business site listed there.
There are many other
features to be associated with the "localguide" project but these can only
be fully outlined once the "localguide" site is fully active. At this stage,
we aim to have the full implementation of the "localguide" up by late 2000.
In the mean time, we've implemented a temporary site to both capture community site
information and seek out ideas.
The 'localguide' project is in fact the reason we have set up The Small Business
Network (that's this site). As we approached the final stages of implementing the
localguide (all the software and data is finalised), it became painfully obvious
that many existing community sites (directories) contained very few listings for
local small businesses. That's when the penny dropped. While the internet has enjoyed
enormous coverage in the media, one of the most important aspects has been completely
overlooked - the specific needs of small business. Our researched clearly showed
that all the so called "e-commerce" solutions for small business where
not only over-priced but completely overkill. The reason for this is very simple.
The people behind much of the internets development have never operated a small business,
so their only dealings have been with corporate entities. They've made the incorrect
assumptions that what works for large businesses must also work for small business.
As we know, they are totally WRONG. On top of all this, we have some internet technology
companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars, But what are these valuations based
on. My personal view is that they're based on the ability to charge outrageous prices
for using their technology with little regard as to whether they deliver a cost effective
solution. I consider this the very reason that so few small businesses have actually
taken advantage of this truly amazing technology and as a consequence, most community
directories are lacking. To rectify this situation, we have taken on the challenge
of showing small businesses that there are cost effective alternatives. I have absolutely
no doubts that ALL small businesses will benefit by establishing a web site which
compliments their existing business (marketing) activities.
Due to all our resources
being temporarily diverted into putting The Small Business Network web site together,
we had to delay the final deployment date for the localguide web site. Ultimately,
the more small businesses which are shown the alternatives and value in establishing
a web site, the more value local community directories will have and this increases
even further the value of what we wish to achieve with the localguide. I'd like to
see this as a WIN, WIN, WIN, WIN where the visitors gets extra value, the small business
gets extra value, the local community directories get extra value and finally, the
localguide gets extra value. I do hope we've been able to convey what we aim to achieve
for the benefit or many.