If you are a small business owner, you probably know in some sense that you need a website, but you may not be able to say exactly why you need a website. Sure, almost everyone is online these days, and with each passing year the world seems to get more and more digital. But there are also lots of different ways to “be” online. Why does your business need a website when it has a perfectly good Facebook page? Is an entire standalone website really necessary?
The answer, of course, is YES. Third-party platforms like Facebook and Google are important tools for visibility and discovery, but they should ultimately lead potential clients and customers to a website that you control. But before we get into that, let’s first discuss why a local business that mainly does business face-to-face needs to be online at all.
If your business isn’t online, it’s going to be much harder to find
Even if you have no plans to do business online, your business needs to be online, and the real reason why is visibility. Before you can do business with your clients or customers, they need to find you and know you exist.
The latest statistics show that 97% of people learn more about a business online, so if your business has no online information and your competitors do, you’re already at a huge disadvantage. In order to succeed, you need to convince your clientele why your product or service is the best choice for them, and to do that you need to make that information as easily-accessible as possible.
Nearly every single consumer today uses information on the internet to make a decision. There are tons of factors that can influence that decision (How close is your business? What products and services do you offer? What are your hours??), but ultimately, users expect to find those answers online. The very first step in promoting your business effectively is getting that information out there.
Getting your business seen in the right places is the key to online success
Getting your business information onto the internet is the easy part. The hard part is tailoring that information to answer the specific questions that potential visitors have and making those answers easy to find.
This is where leveraging other platforms works really well. There are lots of different places where your customers go to look for this information, and each one serves a different purpose. Trying to manage a million different social media profiles and business review accounts isn’t effective. You’ll be spreading yourself too thin. You need to find out what is important to your specific customer base, and focus on the platforms that provide the most benefit.
If you own a retail store and rely mainly on foot traffic from local customers, you’d better be on Google Maps. Why limit yourself to the customers walking down your street when you could have all of them within walking distance?
If you’re in a highly visual industry, where the most impressive / beautiful / flashiest product is the one everyone wants, you should be showing off your wares on Instagram. If you offer a professional service or business-to-business offering, you’re missing out if you’re not connecting with other professionals on LinkedIn.
There are many other examples just like these, but the point is that different platforms have different purposes, and you need to be laser-focused on the ones that will benefit you the most.
Having a website gives you control over that information in one centralized location
So if the key is knowing which platforms to use and how to use them, why even have a website? It’s unrealistic to think that your small business website will ever get more direct traffic than Facebook or Google, so why even try?
The reason why is because the platforms aren’t the end, but rather the means to the end. Social media sites and search engines are great for exposure, visibility, and discovery, but in the end, you always want to bring your clients and customers back to a platform that you control to make the final sale. That’s where a website comes in.
In the end, the bottom line for all of these third-party services is ad revenue. These platforms can provide a near-infinite supply of new clientele for your business, but at a higher and higher price. While almost all of them offer and encourage their free services, as you invest more time into building up your audience on their platform, the name of the game becomes pay-to-play.
Facebook pages started out as a fantastic way to build and interact with a large audience of like-minded users at no cost. However, over time, the Facebook algorithm changed to limit the reach of these pages, all the while introducing more options for paid advertising. In the end, the same audience you could reach for free years ago (which you built through hard work, contributing content to their platform) is now blocked behind a paywall.
To combat this phenomenon, you need to make sure that you are always bringing your audience off of these platforms and onto your own website. All of these online giants were built on the content that users provide them. Instead of putting that content directly onto their platform, you want to build it on your own website, and then link back to it. The goal is to take advantage of the exposure that these platforms can provide, without giving over control of the content that you worked hard to create.
If you do this effectively, you won’t have to worry about your business being at the mercy of a computer algorithm. Your audience from these platforms can eventually become familiar enough to bypass the third-party altogether, visiting your site directly to see what’s new, rather than waiting for your latest link to show up in their feed. If you’re really good, they might even share it themselves, bringing even more traffic to your website.
How do I get a website for my small business?
Now you see the clear picture: on the internet, the information itself is the commodity. Big third-party platforms make it easy to get that information online and in front of your potential customers, but in the long run, you’re doing more to promote them than they are doing to promote you. The real route to online success is to have a website that you control, and leveraging these platforms to grow your own audience.
Knowing all this, the natural next question is, “how do I get my own website?” And like so many other questions we’ve asked in this article, there are tons of different answers. You could try and build it yourself. One of our favorite pieces of software for building websites is WordPress, and it is completely free and incredibly popular (over 30% of all website on the internet use WordPress).
However, as a small business owner, you probably have a million things to handle, and “learning to build a website” most likely isn’t topping the list. That’s why we’re here; we’ve helped businesses of all shapes and sizes get online with unique, efficient, custom-built websites designed around their particular business needs. And we can help you too! Just fill out a form to get started and we will get in touch to help you build the perfect website for your business.