Step 1: Go to your website.
Step 2: If you don’t have one, get one.
Step 3: Return to Step 1
It’s 2012. Everything is online. Everyone is online. The Internet is where we all go for information about everything. If you’re not online, you don’t exist. Even if you’ve done OK without a website, times change. Just because it’s worked so far, doesn’t mean it will continue to work for you.
There. I just made some broad sweeping generalizations of the sort that I usually hate. But it’s pretty close to the truth. I don’t know about you, but if I search for a business and I don’t find a website, there’s a good chance I won’t be doing business with them.
Previously, the biggest barriers to building a web presence were the high cost of entry, and the technological knowledge needed to build and maintain a site. But honestly, those are no longer barriers. Yes, you can still spend a lot of money on a really nice website, and I can direct you to some web designers who can do that for you. For those who can afford that option, it’s a great way to go, and relatively speaking, the costs are far less than they would have been years ago.
But that’s not for everyone. Many small business can’t afford an expensive website, but that’s OK. With platforms like WordPress (my preferred platform) the cost of entry can be incredibly low. And it’s easy to learn, easy to use, and nearly idiot proof.
So, besides that fact that everyone is online, why is a website so important?
1. It’s the one online property that you own – Many businesses have decided that their online presence will consist of a Facebook page, and perhaps some other social properties. There are many reasons why a Facebook page is not a substitute for a website, but the most important is that you don’t own Facebook. I doubt it will happen, but Facebook could disappear tomorrow. Or, they could just make the determination to delete your page tomorrow. A website is yours; you own it.
2. It’s your digital storefront – You might have a brick and mortar presence in “the real world”, but most people aren’t going to find out about you as a result of your physical presence. As we spend more time online researching products and businesses, your website is very likely the first impression we’ll get of you and your business. Additionally, a properly implemented e-commerce solution can allow you to sell your products online and reach a greater audience.
3. It’s your online traffic hub – As you build a strong online presence, your social properties and links should all be pointed to your website. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and any other properties you have should be driving traffic to your site. And conversely, your site is great for pointing people to your various social sites. Think of it as Grand Central Station, the place where all trains begin and ends.
4. It’s your primary avenue for providing information about your business – One of my biggest pet peeves is that many restaurants still don’t have websites. When I’m looking for a restaurant, I go right to the web. I want to know their hours and location, as well as get information on their menu and pricing. I’d rather not have to pick up the phone and call them, so if I can’t find their website, I’ll most likely go elsewhere. Even a simple site with basic information can be a big help in providing people with the information they need to make informed decisions.
5. It’s the place where you can explain what sets you apart – You have competitors. We all do. But there are probably some things that set you apart from those competitors and give people a reason to choose you. This could be price, quality, excellent customer service, or some other combination of factors. Your website is a great place to exhibit the areas where you excel so that your prospective customers can make an informed decision.
6. It’s how Google knows you exist – Sure, your Facebook business page and some social properties are indexable by Google and the other search engines, but the best way to make sure you show up in search results is to have a website. Without a website, the only things that might show up for you are review sites and directory sites, and those just might be filled with bad reviews. If you don’t show up on Google, and your competitors do, guess who will get the business.
7. It’s where you host your blog – I firmly believe that one of the most important things any business can do is blog. And if you’re going to blog, it should reside on your website. Sure, you can set up a blog at WordPress.com or Blogger, but remember, just like Facebook, you don’t own those. And if you’re blogging, why not draw that traffic to your website and reap the SEO benefits
8. It can move you from local to global – You might be a small local business, and with most traditional marketing, you will still be limited to your local area. But a website can bring you customers from around the world, particularly if you have an online store as mentioned previously. With minimal expense, you can increase the size of your potential market greatly.
Don’t get fooled into thinking that you can get by without a website. The business world is more competitive than ever, and especially as more of us begin using mobile devices, we’re also spending more time online looking for businesses and their websites. If you don’t have a website, now is the time to seriously consider what it takes to get one. And if you already have one, now’s a good time to look it over and make sure you’re getting the most out of it.
Is your website an important part of your online presence? How has having a website changed the way you do business?