In this article:
- Why a website is still vital for small businesses
- How a website improves credibility with customers
- How a business website improves local SEO
- Exploit your website to improve sales
- Low-cost options for website layout and hosting
Don’t think your small business needs a website in this social-media-saturated era of FaceGram and InstaTweet? Prepare to be schooled, peeps. Though a crusty GeoCities website may be totally ‘90s, a properly built and regularly updated website still provides tons of value for any business, including small, local, one-person concerns. Here’s why.
A website builds credibility for your small business
The fact is, even though many consumers now engage businesses primarily via social media and review platforms, people still expect every business to have a website.
The more, ahem, seasoned among us may remember excitedly asking people, “You have a website??” when it was a novelty. Now, an incredulous potential customer might ask a small business owner, “You don’t have a website??”
A website provides validation to customers that you take your business seriously, and that your business is legitimate. After all, anyone can set up a Facebook or Instagram or Twitter page for free. Websites, while not expensive, cost time and money to build, run, and host.
If you don’t have a business website, or if—heaven forbid—someone else has parked a generic (yourbusinessname).com domain in your place—you may come off as an amateur or not in it for the long haul.
Furthermore, you’re not just trying to build credibility with potential customers. Which brings us to the next point.
A properly built website improves local SEO and search rankings
Not only does a website show potential customers that you’re an established, credible business, but it makes you more visible and legitimate to Google and other search engines as well.
It may seem self-evident when talking about websites that it is vital for your small business to show up, and show up well, in local searches. After all, 9 out of 10 people conduct online searches for local businesses, and your website can be an important factor in how you rank.
The more touchpoints your business has online—via social media accounts, claiming your pages on review sites like Yelp, Google My Business, and TripAdvisor, free business listings, and your website—the more important and relevant you appear to search engines, and the higher you will be ranked when people search online for businesses like yours in your area.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is somewhat of a dark art and very few people truly understand how it works (Google changes its algorithm pretty much monthly and will not tell anyone exactly what they prioritize when ranking search results), but it’s safe to say that maintaining a properly built website with relevant tags, keywords, and correct business info will help improve your local SEO.
Try this: type your favorite local business into Google or another search engine, and look at the results. It’s likely that the first, or among the first results listed will be their website (if they have one). Don’t forego the potential customer engagement and SEO benefits of having a business website.
A website is a great small business sales and marketing tool
Obviously, if you have the capability, ecommerce (online sales) is a huge benefit of a small business website. Most of today’s small-business-friendly web-hosting service providers (such as Wix and Squarespace) also offer shopping cart/ecommerce options for businesses who want to sell online.
However, even if you don’t want to sell your goods and services online, or aren’t ready yet, your website can still be a valuable sales tool, and not only because it can drive more customers to your store via improved SEO.
You can use your website to feature weekly sales, coupons, offers, and web-only specials to drive traffic to your store. You should blast these out on your social media channels as well, but don’t forget to link them back to your website. (You should also include your website in your business profiles on Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and every other relevant review platform and business listing.)
Add icing to this marketing cake by adding a simple email capture form-fill to your website to collect contact information from your most enthusiastic customers. Even better, you can use a popular promotion as incentive for people to provide their contact info. After all, actually having correct customer contact information is 90% of the battle when talking about effective customer loyalty programs.
Go deeper: The 6 elements of an effective loyalty program
Control your messaging and aesthetics
Yet another advantage of a website is it’s 100% controlled by you. In other words, unlike review sites or social media accounts, random people can’t just post whatever they want on your website. You control the message, the look, the images, the font… everything. You can really craft the feeling and messaging you want to convey on your website.
Even basic websites have real business value
It’s cheaper and easier than ever to create a website, thanks to the aforementioned website building and hosting companies like Squarespace and Wix. For around 20 bucks a month you can have a clean, professional-looking website that shows your business in its best light. For a little more money you can add email campaigns, offers, apps, shopping carts, and other useful features.
(Pro tip: if you haven’t submitted your brand/s for trademark registration, be sure to buy all the related website domains on somewhere like GoDaddy or Register.com before you submit your paperwork. There are people who watch the lists of approved trademarks and will automatically buy those domains if you haven’t already… and it may end up costing you a pretty penny to buy them back.)
Even if all you have the resources and time for is a clean, simple web page listing your correct business hours, location, email, phone, and a quick description of your company vision, products, and services, that will still be valuable to many customers, can drive potential buyers to your location, and, as discussed earlier, it gives search engines one more reason to rank you higher in results.
Bottom line? Yes, you need a website for your small business. As part of any small business marketing plan, a website is invaluable and provides benefits on multiple levels.
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