By Rieva Lesonsky
Do you think your social media presence or your word-of-mouth is so strong that you don’t need a website for your business? Maybe you have amazing online reviews or a stellar reputation in the community. That doesn’t mean your business can survive without a website of its own. Unfortunately, a surprising number of small business owners seem to view a business website as an “extra” rather than what they really are: an essential foundation for their marketing efforts.
In a survey last year, more business owners used social media to market their businesses than had a business website (62 percent versus 56 percent). Why is this a mistake? Well, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of consumers look at business websites when they’re searching for local businesses, according to a study by the Local Search Association. What’s more, the LSA reports, business websites are the number-one place shoppers go when they’re ready to buy something.
The world of online marketing is changing as smartphones and voice search technology such as Alexa and Google Home transform the way people search for businesses. It’s true, your online reviews and local directory listings are increasingly important to helping customers find your local business. But in the end, all roads lead to your business website (or should lead there).
Why is a business website so important? It’s all about control. As a small business owner, you can’t control the algorithms that social media sites use to determine what posts people see. You can’t control whether a crazy customer writes a negative review that stirs up controversy and attracts unwanted attention. You can’t control whether a newspaper subscriber actually reads the ad you placed.
On your business website however, you’re in complete control of the way you present your business, the image you create and the information you share. And if you use social media marketing, search engine optimization, content marketing, local SEO and online advertising wisely, you’ll have a great deal of control over whether people searching for what you sell end up on your website.
Here are some keys to making the most of your business website:
- Regularly update your website so it always looks contemporary and fresh. Outdated design elements will make your business look less competitive.
- Don’t forget about functionality. If your website isn’t working as well as it used to, perhaps you need to revamp some navigation features. For example, your website should be designed to not only look great but also function smoothly on a mobile device.
- Create high-quality content that uses keywords your customers search for and answers questions they’re likely to have. Providing useful content will turn you into a valuable resource for your customers and get them to visit your website more frequently.
- Link all your marketing and advertising back to your business website: business cards; social media posts; print, radio or cable TV ads TV ads; local search listings; and listings on ratings and review sites. Don’t forget to include your business website in your email signature.
- Use your business website to provide customer service. Even if you don’t actually sell products on your website, you can turn it into a customer service tool by adding FAQs, chat tools, “bots” that answer simple customer questions, or the ability for customers to schedule their appointments on your site.
In order for your marketing efforts to be most effective, you’ve got to combine multiple marketing channels. Each marketing method has its own strengths, and only by tapping into all of them will you discover their full potential. But with so many elements to keep on top of, it’s easy to get caught up in tunnel vision. Never lose sight of the fact that your ultimate goal is getting people to your riwebsite so you can convert them into customers.