Local business owners and managers often have to face the question:
Should we have a website?
Starting around the year 2000, businesses started launching websites. For about 10 years there was a general consensus that any local business could benefit from having a website.
Then social media came around and some businesses figured they could use social instead of having a website.
New businesses today often wonder if they are big enough to need a website.
Here is a little insight into when a local business should have a website and also what kind of website they should have…
The New Customer Factor
The purpose of having a website is almost always to get more new customers. For local businesses, the opportunity is strong to attract new customers in your area (and those visiting your area) when you have a website.
The smartphone era has actually increased the importance of websites for local businesses. People look for all kinds of local services and products using their phones. Google, Google Maps and even social media often skew results for certain searches to offer location-based results.
If you search for “burger”, for example, on your phone you’re going to likely get a handful of results on a map showing you the best restaurants to get a burger.
Even if you’re on a computer you’re going to likely get the same type of results.
If you want to capture new customers that are searching for local businesses like yours you very likely need a website. You can fill out Google My Business. That is a key factor. But Moz has found that having a website greatly increases the odds of better rankings for local search results.
The Social Media Factor
Another question for local businesses is whether a Facebook (or Instagram or whatever) profile is as good or better as having a website.
On the surface, a Facebook page is very similar to a website. The trade off is that a Facebook page is free, but you’re limiting the reach of attracting new customers. Facebook’s search is okay, but it’s not in the same league as Google.
Some people search for things like “burger” on Facebook. And you get okay results. But many more people search for “burger” on Google and Google Maps. More people use Google because Google crawls billions of websites and other content to figure out the best results for that search term. Facebook pretty much only uses what’s on their platform.
Also with Facebook you’re somewhat limited by what you can do to your profile. And they change the rules from time to time. You get access to all the people that use the platform, but you’re at their mercy if they want to change things.
For most local businesses the best option is to have a website and social profiles. Use both to attract new customers in the ways that each platform offers you to do so.
The Startup Factor
Another question is if your local business has the money to launch a website. You might be a startup business with limited cash available for a website.
We’ll get into website options in the next section, but let’s assume that you have no money. You’re just starting out. Maybe you’re a new accounting firm for example.
In that case, you’re better served by using guerilla sales-type tactics to grow your business before you invest in marketing that costs even a little bit of money, like having a website.
It even comes down to time. Instead of spending 10 hours, for example, working on a DIY website, you could spend that 10 hours walking door-to-door near your office selling your accounting and bookkeeping services.
Once you get a few customers and you’re bringing in some money and you’re spending time on your product or service, you can start to look at the basic marketing investments like a website.
Website Options (Time vs. Skill vs. Money)
In the 2000s, you needed a company to create a website for you. Usually it was on some kind of unique software that the website company created.
Around 2010, WordPress started getting very popular because of blogging and because people could use it to create their own websites. And website companies would also use WordPress to create websites for businesses.
Website builders then started popping up and are very popular now. With a little time and effort you can create a pretty good website on your own for the cost of the domain and hosting and a little extra each month depending on the DIY website provider and the traffic you get on your site.
DIY websites are great if you’re the type of person that likes tinkering and figuring out technical things. If that doesn’t fit you then your next option is to pay someone or a company to create a site. You could have them setup a DIY site for you or maybe tweak a WordPress theme. That’ll be around $1,000-$2,000. You could also have them create a totally custom design. That’ll be around $5,000+.
Even if you’re a small local business with little money you’re probably still going to find value in any option. The totally custom design might be on the edge. A good way to do it might be to start with DIY or slightly custom and then look to get into custom in the future.
The final takeaway is that most local businesses should have a website from the very start. They should have a modern-looking design. The site should be organized just like the sales process. The biggest reason is that having a website boosts your chances of getting discovered by people using Google to search for local-related products and services.
If you’re not in the website game, you’re missing out big time.