You might be surprised to know that nearly half of all small businesses don’t have a website

It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of website ownership to businesses, large and small alike. The Internet gives even the smallest of startup companies a chance to connect with millions of potential customers. A well-designed small business website is your best chance of making a lasting impression on your target audience. 

Consider the importance of a website in marketing to consumers: whether it’s blogging or sharing white papers, websites provide a scalable method for getting your brand out there and establishing your business as a trusted authority if and when compared to a competitor’s website.

Knowing why a good website is important is key. So in this article, I’ll explain why a good small business website is a crucial element of marketing your small business, as well as share some of the best website building tips!

Websites are important for visibility

To a brick-and-mortar business, location is everything. Opening your store in a place where lots of potential customers see you can provide a huge boost to the success of your business as it increases traffic and exposure. That said, today many businesses offer goods and services to people who’ve never set foot in their physical location, owing to an established online presence by means of a responsive website. 

The Internet provides the potential for you to market to many millions of people by setting up an online store. However, it’s not possible to reach those customers in your desired audience if they don’t know you exist. Studies show that 70 to 80 percent of consumers research businesses online when deciding whether to buy their goods or services. If they search for your business and can’t find a website, it’s almost as if you don’t exist.

To summarize, the most important steps for the visibility of your business are:

  1. Utilizing a website builder to establish your online presence as an e-commerce store
  2. Applying SEO best practices to account for the ranking factor of your web page

Share your history and vision for the future

One of the benefits of having a website is it gives you a platform to share your story, including how you got started, what you’re doing now and what you see for the future of the company.

Discussing your history lets the user know how long you’ve been part of your chosen industry as well as what contributions you’ve made. Even if you’re just starting out, there’s still a lot you can say about the road that led you to your current position within your chosen niche.

Your website also allows you to tell customers about upcoming products. Mention long-term goals for where you want your brand to be ten years from now. This approach shows confidence and ambition, and it lets customers know that you plan to be around for a long time.

Your biggest competitors are already online

If you are attempting to establish yourself in an industry, no matter what it is, then you should assume that your biggest competitors already have a web presence. Take a moment — think of the biggest name in any given industry. Chances are, they have a website and so do their competitors.

Be sure to research your competitors online. What are they doing that you can do better in terms of web design, load time, search engine optimization? Which marketing methods are they not using? How much more attractive can you make your website compared to theirs so that your website performance will soar? 

If your business doesn’t have a website, you’re operating at the back of the pack. However, simply building a website isn’t necessarily all it takes to make you competitive. You have to proactively design it to offer better content and convince customers that what you’re selling in your e-commerce store is infinitely better than other companies.

Strictly operating on a social media platform is unwise

One of the reasons some businesses don’t bother to build a website is the assumption that social media platforms make it unnecessary. Facebook itself previously boasted that it’s home to 40 million small business pages

It’s likely that many of these Facebook page owners work very hard on their pages and developing connections to Facebook users. But the problem with not taking the time to develop your own webspace as a business is that you’re at the mercy of the platform. Rules are subject to change without your knowledge.

One recent example involves Facebook purging its site of 800 political accounts and declaring them spam. However, some page owners declared that they weren’t spamming, but sharing legitimate news stories. It really didn’t matter what their explanation was, Facebook has the final say, and their content is gone forever.

A violation, however unintended, could see your page shut down overnight. Imagine all of your content and customer access is suddenly gone, and with no guarantee that it is going to come back. 

Other possible concerns include:

  • Losing your page to hackers
  • Forgetting the password and getting locked out
  • Getting temporarily banned from Facebook due to a rules violation

As worrying as these scenarios are, there’s one more factor that’s the most probable outcome for your page: obsoletion. A social media platform’s popularity fades with time, spurring web users to move to greener social networking pastures. It’s unwise to operate your business from a platform that could see almost everyone abandon it at some point. 

It’s true that you could also move to a new platform but you would essentially be starting at square one unless you enjoyed a particularly large following. That’s usually not the case for many business pages. There’s also no guarantee that every customer is going to follow you to the new platform or that you’ll be able to build as large a following on the new social media site.

Social media can be great for businesses, but it’s a better idea to use it in conjunction with your own website. Share your content and allow it to encourage a steady stream of traffic into space that your business both owns and controls.

Attract top talent to your company

Having a good website isn’t just important to your business for the sake of drawing in customers. If you want the best possible employees to work for you, they are going to likely want to check out your website and see what you have to offer. 

Many would-be employees care about what kind of company they might be working for. A website that uses old graphics, loads very slowly, and hasn’t been updated in over a year does not instill any sense of confidence.

The brightest talent tends to want to work with businesses with a modern vision who are constantly improving their marketing capabilities. The best way to convey this is with an impressive page that takes into account as many modern and applicable website elements as possible. 

Content marketing becomes much easier

When we say “content marketing,” we are talking about all the content your brand produces across all channels. Credit: Gavin Llewellyn.

Content marketing is a very common and unobtrusive method of getting customers to trust your brand. As previously stated, it’s possible to do this from a social media account, but it’s much easier to share a wider range of items through your website. Additionally, web users are more likely to trust that your content is safe to download if they’re getting it directly from your website.

With a website, you can get personal with customers through blogs or create a space to share the latest industry news. You can embed videos or even run a podcast. Create white papers and ebooks for download, and share all sorts of infographics. As various forms of new content become an ideal avenue for marketing, you get the opportunity to establish what works best through your website. Knowing how to write great content for your website will bridge the gap between you and your target audience, as you start to realize what products they most engage with online.

Adapt to increases in website traffic

There comes a point when your business website simply outgrows the concept of shared hosting, and it needs more space. At this point, you’ll want to consider an affordable and quality dedicated private server. This is a specific type of hosting designed to accommodate high traffic (100,000+ visits per month or more). 

Not all dedicated servers are the same, though, so you’ll want to shop around. Bluehost, for example, stands out from other dedicated hosts by offering customers a free domain name with any service. A few additional things you’ll want to consider include:

  • How much of the technical side gets managed for you
  • The amount of storage that’s available, and for what price
  • If your service provider interferes with page speed                        
  • The availability to use whatever OS you want

Moving to a VPS isn’t to be taken lightly. Consider your website needs and look into the best available options before settling on any particular hosting service.

Let customers advertise for you

Companies sometimes underestimate the positive benefits of letting customers use “word of mouth” to convince others to give your business a chance. Word of mouth can be especially helpful to small businesses as it can provide a free boost to your brand. 

With a website, you can create a space strictly for testimonials. It’s best to make sure you use real reactions from actual customers. If other potential customers can see real people and authentic reactions, they’re more likely to give your product or service a try. 

Make use of affiliate marketing

Just as customers can be a great ally for getting your name out there, affiliate marketing is another potential tool. Companies from Amazon to Hilton offer an affiliate program through which individuals, usually bloggers, can earn a commission through directing traffic to their websites. Sometimes affiliates earn a bonus when one of their website visitors decides to make a purchase.                 

The beauty of affiliate marketing is that it’s a win-win. It allows ambitious website owners to earn extra income through various affiliations and it allows businesses to increase their website traffic and potential earnings by working with a team of influencers. 

Each and every affiliate, whether they’re on Instagram or a mommy blog, represents an opportunity to reach a new group of customers and subsequently impress them with your website and products.

Share content that quickly builds authority

Whether it’s white papers or buying guides, you’ll need to give your brand the opportunity to build a reputation as an authority. You want customers to buy from you so you have to earn their trust and respect. This is why brands are eager to use marketing tools to establish themselves at or near the top of their field.

But getting these materials out to customers can be hard if there’s no website from which to download or purchase them. By making these authority-building materials available through a website, your providing additional ways to find your business online.

A good website is important for customer service

Customers don’t necessarily have the means to travel to a physical location with their complaints or concerns. While phone numbers are still a common enough way for customers to communicate with a company’s customer service branch, most prefer to have an online, real-time option.

The importance of website-based communications can’t be ignored. While an active email is standard, making a chatbox available to a customer can make a huge difference. It might even affect whether they choose to make a purchase. Consider hiring a human customer service agent for your chatbox if at all possible. 

An AI chatbot assistance might not provide the answers your website visitors need. Having a real person available to talk to and help improve their buyer experience can provide a form of reassurance. No matter how dissatisfied a customer might have felt, a good customer service experience can help enhance your website and might keep them on as a buyer in the future.

Take advantage of viral content

You don’t have to jump on every meme that comes down the pipe, especially since many become stale within a few short weeks. However, keep an eye on viral trends that could benefit your brand’s visibility and popularity. Arby’s had a wonderful moment thanks to a joke shared with Pharrell Williams.

Take advantage of viral jokes and memes by piggybacking on the trend to bring attention to your website. Just be sure that you do your research and make sure your attempt is in good taste. Otherwise, you could go viral for all the wrong reasons.

Keep up with website design trends 

A good website is an on-trend website. Never assume that your site won’t need occasional updates or to get re-designed. If your website has a lot of content, it might feel inconvenient, but it is worth the trouble. There is no one specific way to implement the perfect website layout design, however, there are several basics to consider that will ensure your web page is effectively user-friendly and communicative.

Consider sites designed before mobile Internet browsing became the standard. Websites created for desktop browsing are notoriously hard to navigate on a mobile phone. Depending on the size of the phone, the text might be too small to read or the links too hard to press. 

As of 2018, roughly 70 percent of web traffic now originates from mobile phones. If you don’t adapt your website to appeal to mobile users, it negatively impacts the user experience. User experience is one of the most important aspects of a business website. Be sure to check on website trends for each coming year to know how and when you’ll need to adapt. It’s far easier to market to consumers with an on-trend website than a dated one.

Have experts guest post to your site

A simple strategy for building authority is to get experts related to your field to guest post content to your website. Doing so makes it easier to represent your business as a leader in your field when reputable figures use your platform to share important facts and information.

You’ll want to aim for guest bloggers with a proven background, not just anonymous individuals who share generic content. Plan to have a few guest posts per month. It might not be wise to rely solely on guest posters. Remember, the goal is to improve the perception of your company’s authority within the field. If you don’t add your voice to the conversation, you might ultimately undermine your efforts.

A source of additional income

In addition to free content marketing materials, it’s possible to offer paid content through your website. If you’re a smaller business that hasn’t quite established yourself, it’s probably best to wait until you’ve developed enough of a loyal following to start offering paid content. Offering free content initially is good for building the trust and authority necessary to convince others to pay for content in addition to your products.

This is an ideal method for developing a source of passive income that further generates earnings for your business. It’s also one of the most common ways in which many people – particularly millennials – have supplemented their working income in recent years, according to recent financial data.

The bottom line

The importance of websites for businesses can be understood as the difference between thriving and getting left behind. There are many ways, as you have learned, to let a website work for your marketing efforts. But hardly any of these efforts can be maximized if there’s no site available. 

Don’t make the mistake of doing everything from a social media platform. Your identity and content are ultimately in someone else’s hands, and those hands could one day vanish, taking all of your hard work with them. Use social media, but build a website from which you can advertise your presence to the whole world.

It’s possible that in the near to distant future, businesses are going to move to a new level of interaction with loyal and potential customers. Change is inevitable. For now, it’s vital to your business to make an effort to be found on the web, with a good website and an open mind.

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