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Google’s Impact in Edinburgh 2020

Key Facts

  1. In 2020, Google’s core search and advertising tools helped support an estimated £596 million in economic activity for over 5,200 businesses in Edinburgh.

  2. Over 2,400 businesses have started selling online for the first time as a result of the pandemic.

  3. 70% of Edinburgh residents under 30 have used Google Search to look for a job in the last year.

  4. By helping them find information faster and collaborate easier, Google Search and Google Workspace are saving Edinburgh workers an estimated 7.7 million hours a year.

  5. Since the start of the pandemic, over two thirds of Edinburgh residents have used Google Search to find out if local shops or businesses are open.
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In 2020, the Internet was more important than ever: keeping us connected and informed, entertained and productive. From checking whether your local shop was open to keeping up to date with changing lockdown rules, or trying out a new fitness video to discussing work plans with colleagues, we turned to Google services to keep us going.  

In this short report, Google commissioned us to quantify how their products helped British workers, businesses, content creators, and families in Edinburgh throughout 2020. 

In total, by making it easier for them to connect with customers, we estimate that Google’s core search and advertising tools helped provide an estimated £596 million in economic activity in 2020 for over 5,200 businesses in Edinburgh

Economic activity supported by Google in Edinburgh by Parliamentary constituency (£ mn)

What is your favourite Google product?1

Google Classroom because my children love it and it's so easy to use.

Woman, 39

Google Docs because it lets you share documents online, where multiple people can work on that at the same time.

Man, 33

Gmail. It's the best and most reliable email account I've ever had.

Man, 40

Google Maps - it is just better than any other maps app I have come across.

Man, 54

Google Earth. I can look at streets to see if they might be suitable for my daughter to live in.

Woman, 58

Google Maps. So handy for planning trips, researching distances/routes etc.

Woman, 52
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Helping Workers Get Things Done

Workers in Edinburgh agreed that online tools had helped keep them productive:

When we asked how hard their job would be to do without access to core online services:

A 2015 Forrester Consulting study estimated that the deployment of Google Workspace, including tools like Gmail, Drive, Calendar, Meet, Docs, Sheets and Slides had the potential to save employees between 15 minutes to two hours per week at work, in more efficient collaboration.2 

Based upon this, and other research on the time saved by Google Search, we estimate that in a given year, Google services could be saving workers in Edinburgh over 7.7 million hours. That is the equivalent of producing a £360 million improvement in productivity for the British economy.3

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Helping businesses adapt during lockdown

With Covid-19 forcing many physical stores to have to repeatedly shut, online sales and advertising became ever more important in 2020. Independent estimates suggest that the share of online retail increased from 19% to 30% as a result of the pandemic.4

Based upon our business survey, we estimate that:

At the same time, tools like Google Search, Google Maps and Google My Business helped keep Edinburgh’s residents connected with their local shops, and up to date with who was open. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic:

Other recent polling by Censuswide has found that over 70% of small businesses in Edinburgh plan to expand either nationally or internationally in 2022. Of those businesses expanding for the first time, 33% say that increased uptake of digital following lockdown is a factor in their decision to expand, and 30% the opportunities created by digital platforms.

By helping businesses shift to online sales for the first time during 2020, we estimate that Google helped support £39 million in economic activity.

In our wider business poll of Scotland, we found that:


of businesses said that online search was an important way that customers found their business, second only behind word of mouth

of businesses said that Google Docs / Workspace were useful or important in helping their business adapt to remote work

of businesses said that they had use Google Search to keep up to date with the latest government advice

of businesses said they are likely to continue selling their products or services online after the economy and society return to normal
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Helping Families in Everyday Life

Throughout 2020, Britons turned to Google services to help keep them informed, up to date, and safe. Google Search was one of the most important platforms through which Britons kept up to date with official advice and adapt to live during the pandemic:

In our polling, we found that Google products are now essential household tools - helping us around the home, learn new skills and keep learning:

Google’s model, free at the point of use, makes it possible for everyone, no matter their background, to benefit from the power of digital search and online information. This information can be incredibly valuable. The consumer surplus of a product looks at how much it is worth to a user - in other words, how much you would have to compensate somebody for them to voluntarily give it up.

In 2020, we estimate that Google’s core services are creating a consumer surplus worth a median of £45 per person per month in Edinburgh.

Case Study: Fresh Fish Daily

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Five months ago George had no online presence for his fishmongers. He started using Google tools to help him find new customers across the whole of the UK. And despite having to close his high street shop in Edinburgh, he's seen a spike in sales.

“We’ve put more focus on encouraging customers to add reviews so that potential customers can get a sense of what to expect. We’ve been seeing much greater interest in our products since the emergency began so it made sense to ask people who have already had a good experience of buying from us to let others know how they got on.”

The success of Fresh Fish Daily also helped mitigate the temporary closure of George Hughes and Son, the high-street fishmonger in Edinburgh that has been the heart of the customer-facing side of my business for more than 20 years.

“Fortunately we were able to continue supplying our regular shop customers while expanding our nationwide customer base. Although the shop is back open we are still seeing a lot of demand in our local area, mostly from older customers who are in the vulnerable category but also people who have discovered how practical and easy it is to get their fish delivered to their door.”

“The basic info featured on Google My Business will always be an important resource to a business like ours.”

George Baxter, Fresh Fish Daily

Supporting Scottish Tech

Google has a long history of supporting tech startups across the world, providing the guidance, tools and resources necessary for them to grow. Edinburgh is one of Europe’s most important tech hubs, and in 2020 was in Technation’s top 20 European cities for tech investment. Google has supported a number of Scottish start-ups over the last few years such as;

  • Neatebox - Neatebox is a disability aware customer service system which provides ways to help in-store staff provide a better customer experience for those with disabilities. Their services include WelcoMe, a disability aware Customer Service platform that makes it easy to get the personalised accessible customer service at participating venues and Button, a remote button push app, where you can use your mobile phone to press any type of button. It can be used to open doors and operate pedestrian crossings safely and confidently.
  • Codebase - A tech cluster which provides flexible and affordable office space that has all the important stuff for startups; fast internet, growth space, meeting rooms, and a curated community. Most importantly, Codebase provide access to operator led (that means people with current hands-on knowledge) mentorship from a global network, relevant events, cool partners with benefits, and access to investors at all stages of growth. It currently has 3 core sites in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen but works across 24 UK cities supporting over 400 small businesses
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How we quantified Google’s impact in Edinburgh

In this paper, we used a range of different methods to quantify the economic impact and helpfulness of Google Search, YouTube, Android and other Google products:

  • Building on the precedent of previous Google impact reports from markets including the UK, the United States, and Europe, we used traditional economic modelling built upon third-party estimates of Google market size in the UK, and standard returns on investment (ROI) to measure the economic activity driven by Google’s core products.
  • Working with independent providers Dynata and Kantar, we conducted extensive polling of a representative sample of over 5,000 individuals representing every region in the UK.
  • As part of this, we ran a decided poll of 500 adults in Edinburgh, weighting this by age and gender. 
  • At the same time, we polled 1,000 senior business leaders from small, medium and large businesses, representing a range of different industries across the UK.

All polling numbers in this report are taken directly from our Edinburgh poll, which in turn has been used to produce estimates of the consumer surplus and business productivity impact created by Google products in Edinburgh.

In order to estimate the business benefits and economic impact of Google in Edinburgh, we apportioned out our national estimate based upon:

  • Edinburgh’s business demography, taken from ONS data
  • Relative use of Google advertising services by business size
  • Relative use of Google advertising services in Scotland

To learn more about our modelling approach, please see the Methodology section in the national report’s appendix. 

Public First is a member of the Market Research Society. The full tables for all the data used in this report is available to download from our website.  

While Google commissioned this report from Public First, all economic estimates are derived from official, third party and Public First’s proprietary information. 

  1. Answers have been edited for clarity and grammar but are otherwise unchanged.
  2. The Total Economic Impact of Google Apps for Work, Forrester Consulting, 2015
  3. Public First estimate built upon Forrester Consulting (2015) and Varian (2011).
  4. ONS