“Small business is the backbone of our economy”—almost no US president has gone a term without reciting this phrase.
Indeed, the US economy has always been known for its reliance on smaller enterprises:
What do people do, though, when they want to open a new business?
Right, they Google it.
So we used our keyword and more particularly search volume intel to explore some trends of interest within the realm of small business and:
- See whether Americans’ interest in small business ventures has seen some YoY shifts and whether it’s subject to any patterns;
- Understand which business types spike more curiosity;
- Explore any local (state-by-state) specifics.
Armed with data we pulled from our clients’ sites (insights taken from various Semrush tools), we also managed to track some general success patterns. We analyzed everything from their traffic growth trends to organic and social media performance over time—all to see which small business categories manage to do better online.
Exploring searches around opening a business
To pinpoint some general trends around starting a new business, we looked at search volume for various searches that feature this desire—from “how to start a business” to “open business”.
Over the past four years, the number of these searches has grown by 21%.
It seems, however, that the inclination to start a new venture is subject to strong ‘seasonality’—the majority of the searches occur in January and March.
The only exception here was in July 2020, when interest in opening up a business skyrocketed off the typical season—and this can be linked to what’s now called the pandemic effect.
But what about searches around small business specifically?
The user interest growth pattern is consistent with what we saw above, but the pace of growth is much faster.
From 2018 to 2022, the number of searches for all things related to starting a small business spiked by 76%.
As you can see, the actual growth in the number of small businesses and interest in starting them has indeed increased over the years. So Google searches often pre-empt the actual leap into the world of entrepreneurship.
What Are the Hottest Small Business Types?
While general interest in starting a small business is spiking, its distribution is not even as some businesses get more traction than others.
Search volume stats reflect this.
Almost one-fifth of all entrepreneurs-to-be want to open a boutique.
Capitalizing on hobbies is also popular—starting an Etsy business looks attractive to almost one-fifth of all the searchers.
Queries related to “starting a boutique” have always had the largest share of all small business related searches, but the rest of the top three kept changing over time:
Vending machines appear to be gaining the biggest traction, as the category broke into the second spot of most-searched small businesses.
Although impressive, this is not the biggest jump to date.
The table below shows which small business types saw the biggest growth in Google searches related to starting a new venture:
Any Local Nuances?
Up to now, we’ve been looking at the patterns on a national level.
Stats across regions, however, can vary a lot, so we took a more granular look at the most popular small business categories within each US state.
The “Etsy, cleaning, boutique” triad is present—fully or partially—across each state’s top 3. There are some exceptions, though:
- In exactly half the states, coffee shops also make it into the top 3 most searched small business categories.
- Montana and Vermont searchers also consider delivery services as a potential undertaking.
What Are Americans Concerned About When Thinking of Opening a Small Business?
Starting a business means that you’ll face a lot of challenges and concerns. And what does that imply?
Right, you’ll once again turn to Google in search of answers.
That’s why search volume stats can reveal what really matters to Americans when they are thinking of opening a small business.
Half of all the small business related searches have to do with the financial side of things—from grants to loans, people research any help they can get.
In fact, searches surrounding the financial side of running a small business saw the biggest increase in interest over the past 4 years:
- “Small business stimulus” and “small business grants Ohio” keywords saw a 2,500% and 2,000% increase in searches, respectively.
- Even such high-volume searches as “small business grants” saw triple-digit YoY growth.
The second-biggest concern for potential entrepreneurs is administration. Small business accountants or accounting software have witnessed growth in interest—we see a triple-digit increase here as well.
Is Marketing At All a Matter of Concern for Small Businesses?
We took a closer look at marketing-related searches to evaluate whether small businesses are all that interested in researching ways to promote their brands.
The “marketing ideas for small business” keyword—the most searched term within the category—gets around 1,200 monthly searches. This is much lower than all the administrative and operations-related terms.
But interest in all things small business marketing appears to be growing over the years. Keyword stats indicate that small business owners try to embrace all the up-and-coming trends:
- Searches for digital marketing services surged by 1,500% (especially fast during the pandemic).
- Interest in creating short videos for small businesses grew by 420%.
- 600% more people were looking up free text message marketing in 2022 than in 2018.
This might imply that more and more small businesses are now getting concerned about their digital presence, looking up ways to manage their online visibility.
Which Small Businesses Manage to Succeed Online?
While fewer people now want to open an online business—ever since the pandemic started to slow down, the searches have fallen—having a solid online presence is an absolute must, regardless of how small the business is.
So, if you’re one of those 34,000 (monthly search volume) folks Googling “small business ideas”, the insights below can help you make a more informed decision.
We took a look at our clients’ domains (280+ websites), making sure to only consider small businesses (<200 employees). Then, with the help of a few Semrush tools, we checked the 2018-2022 dynamics of their traffic, keyword, and social media performance—all to see which small businesses actually have what it takes to build a strong online visibility and have a successful digital strategy.
Small Business Site Categories With the Highest Traffic Growth
Most of the sites belonging to small businesses were in the positive traffic territory. The average traffic growth across the board was 2900%.
This means that over the past 4 years, most of the websites within our client list managed to expand their visitor base.
The pace of growth, however, varies across industries.
Top 10 Fastest-Growing Small Business Site Categories (2017-2022)
Average monthly values
Gambling & Casinos
Food & Beverages
Sites within the leisure and entertainment spheres have seen the biggest traffic surge.
This growth trend can either point to user interest and demand patterns, or to the fact that these sites generally invest more in their online visibility.
Any organic search strategy success?
Looking at the number of keywords small business sites rank for can reveal whether traffic growth has to do with a successful organic search strategy.
So, we’ve explored which small business site categories have the largest share of high-ranking organic keywords.
Top 10 Small Business Site Categories by Share of High-Ranking Organic Keywords
Median number of organic keywords where domain ranks in top 10
Food & Beverages
As you can see, the top 10 list here doesn’t coincide with that of the fastest-growing site categories by traffic, which means that ranking for a high number of keywords might not directly lead to traffic growth.
If we look at overall patterns across site categories, on average, small business domains we analyzed have the top organic rankings for approximately 8,000 keywords.
Which Small Business Category Gets the Biggest Social Media Traction?
Organic search might not be responsible for positive traffic dynamics, so we also wanted to unwrap how things are going for small businesses on the social media front.
While it’s individual small businesses and their teams that are behind the successes, we can still track some category-specific patterns.
Small business categories with the biggest audience growth
When analyzing social media trends for small businesses, you’d expect to see the same leisure and entertainment brands getting the biggest audience growth numbers.
From what we’ve noticed, this is not the case.
On Facebook, it’s Higher Education and Building Materials accounts that have seen whopping audience growth rates over the past 4 years—we’re talking percentage increases in the thousands.
Small Business Categories With the Fastest Facebook Audience Growth
Average Facebook audience 2018
Average Facebook audience 2022
Information Technology & Services
Food & Beverages
Apparel & Fashion
Twitter comes with similar patterns, only growth figures are more modest.
Small Business Categories With the Fastest Twitter Audience Growth
Average Twitter audience 2018
Average Twitter audience 2022
Law & Government
Food & Beverages
Small business categories with the most social media activity
Now, this could have to do with a greater social media activity across these accounts. Let’s take a look.
Small Business Categories With the Biggest Facebook Activity Growth
Average Facebook posts 2018
Average Facebook posts 2022
Marketing & Advertising
Small Business Categories With the Biggest Twitter Activity Growth Trend
Average Twitter posts 2018
Average Twitter posts 2022
As per our findings, as of 2022, Online Media accounts have the highest posting frequency on both Twitter and Facebook. However, this doesn’t seem to have given their audience growth a push.
Consumer Goods accounts have had the biggest increase in posting frequency on both Twitter and Facebook. Once again, this change hasn’t resulted in notable social media audience expansion.
In fact, in most cases, we’ve seen posting frequency decrease, and by significant margins:
- On Facebook, 60% of the categories we analyzed reduced the number of their posts by an average of 50%.
- On Twitter, these numbers are even higher: around 75% of the small business categories started publishing 65% (on average) fewer posts.
Small business categories with the biggest spikes in social media engagement
You may think that it’s all because organic strategies aren’t working so well on either Facebook or Twitter.
Insights into each channel’s engagement stats can shed some light on this.
Small Business Categories With the Fastest Facebook Engagement Growth
Average Facebook likes 2018
Average Facebook likes 2022
Information Technology & Services
Small Business Categories With the Fastest Twitter Engagement Growth
Average Twitter likes + replies + retweets 2018
Average Twitter likes + replies + retweets 2022
You can see that engagement stats are consistent with audience growth across both social media networks.
This might imply that the social media audience spike of some small business categories can’t simply be tied to their advertising efforts. Or, they manage to pull off social media campaigns that bring a very targeted and relevant audience that stays and engages with their content.
Are You Ready to Start a New Business?
If you are curious and impatient to launch a new small venture, we hope this study helped to assess the digital landscape of all things small business.
Just keep in mind that:
- The competition is ramping up as more and more people get curious about opening up a small business.
- More and more small businesses are getting savvy about online marketing—interest in marketing services is on the rise, and so is the expertise as some manage to see their traffic grow tenfold.
But the market has space for everyone, only you have to know how to go about it.
If small business is the backbone of the US economy, the right marketing strategy is the backbone of your small business’ success.