Is your business too small for big data?

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Big data can feel like a desert’s oasis; integral and imperative, yet rare and unreachable. However, big data doesn’t have to be the preserve of the select few blue-chip companies – small businesses can benefit from it too. Here’s how you find out what it is, how it works and why you need to utilise it:

Hold on. What is big data?

Big data is the quantification of business life (the what?!).

To most, big data is huge volumes of data that is analysed computationally. To others, it’s just about having all the data pertinent to their particular business (regardless of quantity).  Either way, it is used to reveal trends and associations. 

Data is commonly used for businesses’ finances. We collect and collate everything we need, from profit margins to staff overheads. Weaving this data together, we can find out how profitable the business is. Big data takes this a step further and wants the ‘datification’ of everything. We’re turning qualitative descriptions, into quantitative data. Rather than saying: “Our customers are satisfied with our products” you turn this into metrics: “Our customers give our products 3/5”. Now, this is where it gets exciting.

What affects how much your clients and customers like your product or service? In my experience, often not what we first think.

Here, the ‘big’ part of big data takes hold. When reviewing product or services effectiveness we want to collect the more visible data; feedback, returned customers and lifetime value. Big data casts the net even wider, and can land big catches. The ‘big’ part is grabbing metrics of enormous volume (a ton of data), wide variety (anything from weather to geopolitics) and sheer velocity (live streaming data).

For a deeper explanation check out ‘Five things you need to know about big data‘.

Big data for large corporations v small businesses
A comparison of what ‘big data’ might mean to a large corporation and a small business

Growing your revenue with big data

Let’s use search marketing as an example. Imagine the situation: you’re running an e-commerce website and you notice your blue widgets aren’t selling as well as the previous year. Your cost per acquisition is through the roof, and unsold widgets are attracting dust in your warehouse. So what’s causing the crisis?

If you can measure it, you can manage it.

Perhaps blue widgets just aren’t that popular this year. Maybe your prices are too high. A whole host of outside influences could be negatively affecting your revenue. The best way forward to find the answer is to turn to big data. At Vertical Leap, we use our own deep data platform Apollo Insights to do this.

Scouting through Apollo Insights’ pages data we can see the click through rate and average position have stayed the same.

Using deep data with Apollo Insights pages view
As you can see, Apollo is pulling in data from five different sources.

Adding data sources begins to illuminate the issue. The blue widget page is taking a lifetime to load for users. No wonder fewer people are buying the widgets, they can barely get the page to load.

Apollo Insights pages view showing loading speed data

Does my small business need big data?

Are you completely satisfied with how your marketing and sales are going?

Every business owner I speak with answers no.  There are always more leads to get, more customers to entice and more sales to be made. Big data could be the key to unlocking the next stage of growth for your business.

Only through amassing all the data, can we (and computers) provide the analytics needed to improve your service or product.

How much time do I need to invest in big data?

Measuring big data for small business

Finding ways to use big data can feel intimidating, especially to a small business owner who is working 50 hours plus a week. There is not enough time in the day to be concerned with big data’s nerdy side of HCatalog’s, HDFS and Mahout. Working together with a big data agency will help you hold onto your precious time.

A concrete example

Last weekend I spent hours smashing to pieces the old concrete pathway in my garden. It was gruelling. In the blazing sun, I wrestled with a sledgehammer, making little progress. As my hands began to blister (I have office worker hands!), my wife hurried over with a pick axe. It was in the shed all along. Now, with the right tool, I made light work of the concrete path. If I invested more time at the start of the process (listened to my wife), I could have saved much more time.

Some marketing agencies are wasting your money collating data

Explaining big dataHere is my bet: if you’re working with digital marketing  agencies they’re spending more time than you realise  collecting and organising data. Ordinary, regular (and  avoidable) tasks include:

  • Downloading Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools) data
  • Checking mundane on-page SEO factors like canonical tags
  • Manually searching for pages light on content

My guess is you’re working with the agency for their experience and expertise, not their ability to manually carry out repetitive tasks. It is like the equivalent of getting an architect to build the house physically by hand. You’re paying someone trained in overarching strategy to complete tasks best done by bulldozers, diggers and cranes.

Big data doesn’t replace humans, it enhances them.

Working with an agency with big data at its core means it’s saving you money by getting machines to do what machines do best, and getting specialists to do what specialists do best. We use Apollo Insights to turn tons of manual tasks into automated processes. Doing this means they’re completed more regularly, and it frees up specialists for other important aspects of the search marketing campaign.

Apollo Insights auditor screen displaying technical SEO data

Getting going with big data

Big data doesn’t have to be the terrain of Tesco. Small businesses can save time, money and gain a competitive advantage with it – we promise it will make your life easier. If you have any questions about big data and how it can help your business then please get in touch. In the meantime, you might find these big data articles helpful:

Why every marketing manager needs a dashboard

Five things you need to know about big data

The digital marketer’s big data dilemma

James Lee profile picture
James Lee

James was a Digital Marketing Campaign Delivery Manager at Vertical Leap. James joined us in 2013 and managed an extensive portfolio of digital marketing campaigns.

More articles by James
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