Last year, I explained Why Your Small Business Needs a Web Site and responded to people who think that a website isn’t necessary for your business. In conjunction with the launch of our newest How-To guide (How to Build a Website), I’m going to reiterate a few points about all the great things a website can do for your small business.
According to a joint Nielsen Online and Webvisible survey taken last year, 44% of small businesses don’t have a website. Furthermore, the survey found that 82% of consumers and small businesses find information primarily through search engines, as opposed to Yellow Pages and other sources. You would think that the latter statistic would have affected the former, but the fact is that not enough small businesses are putting effort into marketing their brands online.
By now, it’s conventional wisdom that if you have a business, you need a website. Any arguments against this rule are simply excuses; there are so many benefits to having a website that outweigh any potential costs. Here are the main ones:
Benefits of a Website
- A website makes you visible to people who are searching for you. If eight out of every 10 people are using search engines instead of Yellow Pages, doesn’t it make sense for you to put yourself online? If you had a website, you could create multiple pages and target keywords (or search terms) that are relevant to your business. This lets people find you in the search results when they are searching for a specific term. For example, if you had a cookie delivery service in Austin, TX, you might want to target “cookie delivery Austin” and other similar terms. You could also submit your site to the local listings on the top search engines where the people in your community (i.e. your potential customers) could find you.
- A professional website makes customers think professional service. Even if you aren’t selling things online, your website exists to promote your product or service. A brochure, or informational, website serves as a snapshot of your business that can attract potential customers. A professional website takes a bit of thought and effort to create, and customers will appreciate the time and effort spent on a functional resource. They will likely equate your customer service with the professionalism displayed on the page.
- The web is your oyster! The web often levels the playing field for both small and large businesses. Many times, I have seen small business websites that rival or surpass those created by big businesses or national chains. Your website can help you build your brand image and create a buzz online. These days, things go “viral” in a matter of seconds, and with a few clicks you can market yourself to an audience of thousands. Website = cheap, effective marketing.
- A website lets you control your message. Sometimes I’ll type a name into Google, and the first thing I see is a Yelp page. If I don’t see a website owned and operated by the actual business I’m searching for on the first page, I shake my head and go “tsk tsk tsk.” It’s such a TRAGEDY! Although Yelp can be a great resource, it isn’t the definitive, authoritative one. If I had a question about the correct usage of an obscure word, would I poll the students of a high school English class, or would I consult the Oxford English Dictionary? I’m pretty sure I’d go with the latter. If you own a restaurant, I want you to tell me how late you’re open. I want you to tell me exactly what’s on your menu. I want to know exactly what I’m getting, and your website should be able to do that.
- A Facebook or Myspace page doesn’t cut it. (I realize that this is not the actual benefit. The benefit is actually that a website can support growth and expansion.) I hate it when people throw up a Myspace page or Facebook page in place of a website. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Facebook pages and Myspace pages are meant for Facebook users and Myspace users. If that’s all you’ve got, then you are excluding a large chunk of the population who don’t use and aren’t familiar with social networking sites. Unlike web pages, a website can be accessible to all user-types. Your site can simplify the process of finding information with easy navigation and multiple pages. You can also give customers a place to contact you or provide feedback. As your business grows, your website can too. You could include e-commerce features like order forms and shopping carts; you could create forums and help pages. The sky’s the limit. Facebook is great, but it can’t give you that functionality. It’s not a website.
OK, so you’re convinced that you need to build a website to promote your business. What else do you need to know? Head over to our How to Build a Website guide to find out.