Do Small Businesses Need a Website in 2017?

Something I’ve come to realise is that many small businesses appear to be under the impression that social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google Plus mean that they don’t need a business website. Some small business owners think that their social media presence is enough, and that they don’t need to invest in their own website.

I can see the logic behind this of course. If your business has a FaceBook business page, and a Twitter and Instagram profile, then it’s understandable you may think that this is all you need, but from a digital marketing perspective, this just doesn’t quite work. The reason it doesn’t work, it is’t an incomplete marketing system. Social media channels are part of a digital marketing system, but they don’t make up the complete system by themselves, without a business website your marketing system isn’t quite complete.

An example

I’ll use a couple of examples of make-believe businesses to better describe what I’m getting at.

There are two salons in the same town. Salon A has a Facebook page, and a Twitter profile. Salon B has a Facebook page, a Twitter profile, and their own professional website. The website has an embedded google maps feed to make it easy for new customers to find them, some great content including text and imagery,  a mailing list sign up form using an offer to encourage signup, such as a discount off the first appointment, or a partially filled loyalty card, and follow buttons and feeds for their social media channels.

On the surface you may look at these two businesses and conclude that they both have a web presence, and they do, but the addition of a decent website with a mailing list gives salon B a complete marketing system, where as salon A has an incomplete system, and their results online are likely to be far less impressive than salon B.

Salon A are creating engagement via social media, and then leaving it there. If you rely on the potential customer taking the action of picking up the phone, or finding your address from your social media page and coming to visit, the chances are you’re going to convert far, far less visitors to customers than you would if you worked on sending social media traffic to your website, where you can then do a much better job of converting them from visitor to customer.

In addition, Salon B has a “Website” icon next to the “directions” icon in Google places, and due to this & the embedded Google maps Salon B is also likely to have a higher ranking on Google maps.

No website icon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Google My Business listing without a website, is missing the website icon and link. You can see that in the above example, a salon with a website but no reviews, is ranked above a salon which has reviews, but has no website.

Complete reliance on other companies.

Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., are all companies. They don’t exist to serve us, they exist to serve their directors and shareholders. Many businesses forget this, and take these business for granted.

The amount of hate their was for Google back in around 2004 when major algorithm changes  lead to many websites suddenly losing all of the traffic they were previously enjoying, was incredible. Businesses seemed to think that Google owed them something, that they had some kind of right to expect Google to continue providing them with free traffic, and if that traffic stopped then they had a right to complain.

The reason behind the drop in traffic was the over reliance in fake SEO by the digital marketing community up until this point. Many businesses had relied upon marketing firms & consultants who had gained a reputation for their results, and were seen as experts, but truth be known many of these firms and consultants were purely backlink selling middlemen. When Google finally found a way to completely disregard the benefit of paid backlinks, businesses who were relying on many of the digital marketing experts at the time, saw their main source of traffic grind to a halt instantly.

We have to remember that even the mighty Google is a business, and they can do what they want. If they want to bring out a new algorithm which results in many websites no longer enjoying free traffic from Google, they’re more than free to do so. They can pretty much do whatever they like, and they’re not going to think about how their decisions are going to effect a small business hundreds or thousands of miles away.

The same is true of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & so on. To put all faith in other companies is a mistake, just because they’re sending us traffic now doesn’t mean they have any obligation to carry on doing so for ever. I remember rumours years ago that Google were going to get rid of free search engine rankings and switch to 100% paid search. Obviously these rumours were fake, but still – what if? What if the sources of traffic you’re relying on just dry up overnight, for whatever reason, then what?

By having your own business website, and using the search engines and social media channels to drive traffic to your website and then using  it to build a list of potential customers that you can then communicate with outside of the referrer of that traffic, you’re using these resources in the most sensible way possible, rather than being completely reliant on third parties. Yes you’re reliant on Aweber or whatever email marketing platform you use, but as long as you keep a back up of your mailing list saved securely, you can always take your list elsewhere.

 

Are small business websites expensive?

They can be, if you pay over the odds for them, but they don’t need to be. It does depend on what kind of business you have, and what kind of website you need. Most every day businesses, such as salons, cafe’s, restaurants, engineering businesses, cleaning companies, construction companies, and so on – don’t need to invest much in a website. In my humble opinion, most businesses like this just need a good looking, fast loading, mobile friendly website with good on-page SEO, with good sales copy (compelling visitors to pick up the phone or get in their car and become a customer), an Aweber or Mailchimp mailing list sign up form with autoresponders all set up, social media buttons and / or feeds & embedded Google maps location.

I’ve created so many websites that I’ve lost count, for myself and for clients, I know what works, and I know what the costs are. You shouldn’t have to spend any more than a few hundred dollars on a really effective small business website, unless you need something in particular which requires more work.

Want me to quote you for a website? Just drop me an email – also see my Affordable SEO services.