Several years ago, I was on a panel that included a representative from Facebook. He told the audience small business owners didn’t really need a website—they could run their online presence from their Facebook page. I, of course, challenged this assumption, but sadly, even today far too many small business owners believe having a website is not necessary—all they need is a presence on social media.
I cannot stress this enough—this is not true!
A website is an essential tool for any (and every) small business—and is a necessary part of your marketing plans.
According to this survey from the Local Search Association, 62 percent of business owners turned to social media for marketing their businesses, while 56 percent had a website. This is just all sorts of wrong.
Why? The Local Search Association reports that, when searching for a local business, 63 percent of consumers look at business websites. Plus, and perhaps most important, the LSA study shows when consumers are ready to buy—most of them go to a business’s website.
This is not to say all you need is a website. You need to keep up with the changing online marketing environment. Voice search is new—and making an impact, as consumers increasing turn to Alexa, Siri and Google Home when they search for businesses. Getting online reviews from customers and clients and being listed in local directories are vital to helping your business get noticed. But, these are all supplementary to having a business website.
One of the main reasons a website is so important is that it gives you control.
You own your website. The social media platforms own theirs. Their algorithms are proprietary—and that’s how they determine what content people see.
You control your site. You decide what information you want to present—and how to present it. You control the image you want to project. You need to use other tools to drive people to your site, such as social media, search engine optimization, content marketing, local SEO and online advertising.
Here are some tips to make sure your website is as good as it can be:
- Keep your site updated. An old cluttered design gives users the impression your business is behind the times. In order to be competitive, you need to incorporate current design trends. (This doesn’t mean change your site monthly. An annual refresh should suffice.)
- Site functionality matters. You should take a look at your navigation features. Most important—your site design needs to be mobile-friendly. If it’s not—talk to your web designer immediately.
- Content marketing is more important than ever. When you create content, make sure you include keywords consumers use when they search for businesses like yours. The more content you offer your customers (outside of trying to sell them something,) the more they’ll consider you a prime resource for industry information.
- Make sure your marketing, advertising and other peripherals include links to your website. This includes things like: business cards; social media posts; print, radio or cable TV ads TV ads; local search listings; and listings on ratings and review sites. And make sure you include your website URL in your email signature.
- Consumers expect your site to provide customer service. You can do this by adding FAQs, chat tools, “bots” that answer simple customer questions, or the ability for customers to schedule their appointments on your site.
If you want your marketing to succeed, you have to integrate your multiple channels. While it can get confusing, remember, your goal is to send consumers to your website so you can convert them into customers.
Need help figuring this out? A SCORE mentor can help you. Find one today and get started on the path to success.