Small Business Websites Series Part 1
There are a lot of reasons why a self-employed person or a small business should have a website. Some of them will make sense and others may have no relevance at all. But the bottom line is that for almost all businesses a website is a minimum requirement.
Most companies get this, but where we still see some large gaps are with small businesses and self-employed people. According to a survey by Clutch, 46% of small businesses do not have a website. When asked “why not” the top reasons were:
- Its not relative to their business
- Can’t afford
- Use social media instead
- Can’t handle the ongoing maintenance
- Lack of technical knowledge
While we can appreciate the reasons given by small businesses for not having a website, in today’s online-centric world those above represent short-term thinking. Here are some counterpoints to each “reason” as to to why a self-employed person or a small business should have a website.
1. It’s Not Relevant To My Business
Here are four simple reasons why a website is relevant to your business:
- Credibility: While the presence of a website has no bearing on how good, honest, or trustworthy a person or small business is, it still effects how people perceive you and your business. And perceptions matter. If you don’t have a website it sends up a red flag to prospects.
- Presence: Without a website how will people find your business? Maybe they drive by it. Maybe they hear about you from word-of-mouth. Maybe you’re still in the yellow pages (good luck with that). Maybe that’s all true, but why limit yourself to such a confined audience. A website opens your business to exposure beyond your geographic foot print.
- Opportunity: Opportunity knocks at strange times and a website ensures that someone is always home. This ties back into both having a presence (a place where people can discover and find you) and having credibility. Providing a well positioned contact phone number, address, and contact form makes it easy for people to reach out to you. Add in a compelling call-to-action tied to your phone number or a CTA contact form and you provide an option for your visitor to take a conversion action.
- Buying Behavior Has Changed: The number one thing that people and businesses do when thinking about making a purchase is to go online and search. If you look at the buyers journey they go through three key stages:
- Awareness: understand the problem
- Consideration: search for a solution
- Decision: choose who to purchase from.
In the awareness stage they are searching online to better understand their problem and identify solutions. In the consideration stage they are looking online to evaluate solutions to get to a point to make a purchase decision. A website, and the content on your site, allow you to get on the buyers radar as they are starting their search and while they are looking for a solution. If you don’t have a website you have no chance at being an option.
2. Can’t Afford
30% of small businesses that don’t have a website cite cost as the reason. While you can definitely over spend on a website if you don’t do your due diligence, there are some affordable options out there. Your cost will be dependent upon a number of factors including the the type of site (static, dynamic or ecommerce), the size of your site, the functional requirements, whether you need help with creating your site content, the platform you choose to build your site on (some are complicated than others) and more. You’ll also need to decide if you can handle the ongoing maintenance or if you need your developer to manage that.
Inc.com in there post titled “How Much Does it Really Cost to Build a Website?“, laid out the following cost range for a small business website: “The typical range to hire a Web developer to create a custom small-business website today is $2,000 to $25,000. It’s possible to pay less — or more, if you have really complex needs. Add to that your ongoing hosting costs, which can add another $5 to $50 per month.”
While I’m sure that Inc did research to determine their price range, I think that what they are talking about in terms of small business is a company with 5-50 employees. What about the “real” small businesses that are really just a self employed person or a small partnership? For them I know there is a better option because we provide a small business website solution where you can choose to:
- Pay a monthly fee that includes Design, Development, Hosting and Maintenance (it even includes a free update or redesign every 36 months); or
- Pay up front and handle the hosting and ongoing maintenance yourself
3. Use Social Media Instead
I remember reading several articles a couple of years ago that advocated getting rid of your website and replacing it with Facebook or Twitter. Doing this definitely is less expensive than building a website since the only cost to having a Facebook page or Twitter account is the time that you spend to create your account. Financially it seemed to make sense. But there are several problems with this approach:
- You don’t own your own accounts: Facebook and Twitter own the accounts, they are simply letting you manage them. At any point for any reason they deem sufficient they could cancel your account in effect erasing your online presence.
- More people are online than are on Twitter or Facebook: Do you really want to exclude a percentage of possible prospects or clients because they don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account?
- You’re not building value: With a website over time your site gains credibility based on the age of the domain. Plus if you’re building content over time you have the ability to build up keyword rankings for your website. You really can’t build up keyword ranking with Facebook and Twitter like you can with your own domain and website. Facebook and Twitter should be part of your online marketing strategy, not the center of it.
4. and 5.: Can’t Handle The Ongoing Maintenance/Lack of Technical Knowledge
Websites do require maintenance and you will need to understand the technology if you are going to build it on your own. Wordpress, one of the many CRM’s available, makes it simple to update content, add or delete pages, and maintain your site. If you can use a word editor then you can update WordPress.
There are also affordable options to outsource your website development and maintenance.
But I Already Have A Website
There are three top website mistakes we find with self-employed and small businesses. The first top mistake is not having a website, which we covered above.
The second major mistake is to have a website that is not mobile responsive or adaptive. The Clutch Survey identified that 54% of small businesses have a website. There is a second part of the survey that is important to consider: 32% of small business websites are not mobile responsive or the owner doesn’t know if it’s mobile responsive.
A recent report by comScore, 2016 U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus, found that 65% of the time spent consuming digital media happened on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). That is a 12% increase since 2013. Clearly more people are accessing websites and online content on mobile devices.
If your have a website and its not mobile responsive or adaptive you are at a competitive disadvantage to competitors who do.
The third top mistake is having a website that isn’t up-to-date in design or is seriously outdated. In our infographic, The Science of Choice, we took a light-hearted look at how people make decisions. Included in the infographic are some serious statistics that should catch the eye of every self-employed or small business that has a website:
- 94% of website visitors first impression of you or your business are design related.
- 75% of website visitors judge you or your businesses credibility based on your website design.
- It only takes 1/20 of a second before visitors to your website star forming lasting impressions.
If you don’t have a website, if your site is not mobile responsive, or if it is outdated and doesn’t look professional then it will have some degree of a negative impact on your business. The case for a website (that looks professional and is mobile responsive) being a “must have” grows stronger each year as more people use online research to identify solutions, to compare their options, and make purchasing decisions.
If you don’t have a website, or your website needs to be updated, we have created two small business website options that are affordable and can have your new site up in less than two weeks. Click the banner below or click here to view the details.