If your business lacks an online presence, it may as well not exist. This is true in the best of times. In 2020, many of your potential customers are not even leaving their homes, which makes it impossible to rely on a brick-and-mortar store. Setting up social media accounts is a good start, but there are several reasons why small businesses need a website as well.
If You Don’t Have a Website, You’re Missing Out
With a website, you’re able to showcase your products and services, tell customers what your brand is about, and explain how you’re different from the competition. If you only have social media profiles, you’re stuck with the layout those platforms offer. This means you’re unable to decide how to deliver your message to prospects. Plus, it will be more difficult for your business to turn up in search engine results.
Why Small Businesses Need a Website
Are you still unconvinced that a website is worth the trouble and investment? There are multiple reasons why all small businesses need a website.
1. Reach Customers
When your customers want more information about your offerings or business as a whole, they’re going to search for your website. They may want to know if you have any new products, find out if a particular service is available at the moment, or message you through a chatbot or contact form. If customers realize that you don’t have a website, they may turn to one of your competitors instead.
2. Improve Visibility
Your website can also help you reach new customers. When users run a Google search for the type of products or services you provide, it’s important that your business appears in the results. When you also have a blog, you can even gain leads who are simply searching for information related to your industry.
Visibility is particularly important for local businesses, who have limited potential customers. Over the years, Google has given greater weight to local search terms, which can help you reach clients in your area.
3. Build Credibility
If your offerings have a hefty price tag, prospects will definitely want to know more about your business before they decide to make a purchase. Businesses that don’t have a website appear unprofessional, even untrustworthy. With a website, you help demonstrate that you are a legitimate business.
4. Link Your Digital Marketing Efforts
It’s difficult to partake in some of the most fruitful kinds of digital marketing campaigns without a website. For instance, email newsletters and guest blogging are both more effective when you have links leading back to your own webpages. Other types of digital marketing are impossible without a site: think SEO, PPC, and content marketing.
Digital marketing tactics are important because they lead to greater returns on investment compared to traditional marketing practices like print, radio, and direct mail. It’s also easier to personalize digital marketing — you can segment your audience to help individuals feel like you’re talking to them directly.
Furthermore, it’s easier to nurture leads into customers when you have a website. For instance, you can encourage people to sign up for an email newsletter on your site. Alternatively, you can gain contact information by offering downloads of premium content. You can even nurture leads who don’t want to hand over their contact details yet by constantly updating your site with fresh blog content, video tutorials, and more.
5. Create an Ecommerce Store
If you only sell out of a physical store, it’s likely that your sales are taking a hit right now. Moving to online sales could save your business. Plus, it will help your company grow in the future. After all, when you’re no longer restricted to selling to local clients, you can expand to selling to the entire country or even start shipping internationally.
Some small businesses decide to sell on Amazon or other third-party platforms instead of creating an e-commerce store. This is great for reaching a wider range of buyers, but you’ll always need to pay commission and other fees. Having your own online store will both allow customers to buy straight from you and make it easy for them to check out everything else you have for sale. This can lead to cross-sells and upsells.
6. Develop Brand Image
A website is a blank slate that you can use to shape the impression of your brand. Everything from the color scheme and choice of font to wording and navigation will impact how users perceive your brand. Your website also gives you the chance to express your values and tell your story in detail.
7. Learn About Your Audience
You know some things about your customers from interacting with them, but there’s a wealth of data out there you could be utilizing. A website gives you access to this data. When you learn about your audience, you’re able to offer better products and services. You’re also able to take the appropriate action to drive more prospects to your site. Finally, you can use the data to learn who are unqualified leads and stop wasting your time trying to convert them.
With a tool like Google Analytics, you can find out who is visiting your website, what they’re looking at, and how they’re moving from one page to another. You can also find out what search terms they used to reach you. With the right data, there’s no need for guesswork.
How Much Should a Website for a Small Business Cost?
The cost of a website for a small business simply depends on how much you’re willing to invest. It’s possible to create a cheap DIY website, but if your website will be your main source of income, you’re better off opting for a high-end option.
The amount you spend will also depend what type of business you have. If you’re in the tech industry or you want to look modern and forward-thinking, you need to have a cutting-edge site. However, if you’re a family-run business, a more basic website may be fine. In any case, a user-friendly design and pleasant layout is essential. The last thing you want is an old-fashioned style, clashing colors, errors in the coding, or spelling mistakes in the content.
Lastly, you’ll need to decide what kind of site functionality you need. A simple website can have a few pages about who you are, what you offer, and what makes you different from everyone else. Your site will be more complex if you need to take bookings, sell products, or include interactive features.
Once you’ve figured out the above, it will be easier to calculate how much building a website will cost. You can expect it to be anywhere from free to several thousand dollars.
To start, you need to pick a domain name and a hosting service. You may be able to register a domain name with the hosting service in the same package.
A popular choice for web hosting is WordPress. It’s simple to use even for people who have no experience, but it’s also suitable for expert developers. Hosting costs between $4 and $45 per month, although there is a free version with very limited features. The paid versions come with a domain for a year, but they will have “.wordpress.com” as part of the website name, which does look unprofessional.
Another way to get a free domain name is by using a top-level domain “.tk” or “.cf” rather than the more common “.com.” However, this is equally problematic, as there’s a good chance your website will be flagged as spam. A better option is to pay for the domain. This typically costs $10 to $20 a year, although the first year is often heavily discounted.
Last comes the design process. Although many web hosting platforms say they make it easy enough for anyone to build a site, it is always better to find a professional web designer. Check out designers’ portfolios to be sure they have experience in your industry before hiring.
Just Having a Website Isn’t Enough
After setting up a website, you need to make sure people will find it. There are two main ways to do this: search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
To appear in organic search results, you need SEO. Whereas most SEO tactics sound relatively easy (using the right keywords, optimizing content with headers and meta tags, employing a link building strategy), they are actually quite complicated to put into practice. It’s worthwhile investing the support of an SEO expert — otherwise few people will ever see your website.
With PPC, you can also appear in paid results — the ads above the organic results. This allows you to dominate search for certain terms, increasing the odds that users click links to your site rather than for a competing website.
Whatever your industry, and no matter how small your company is, you need a website. Without one, you’re putting your business at a disadvantage, and you’ll likely end up losing some potential customers to competitors. With a website, however, you’ll improve visibility and increase opportunities for your business to grow.