When you think of company websites, you may think of online retailers: Amazon, for instance. These giant companies live online – that’s where their customers are, where their products are sold, and where their money comes in. So it’s no surprise that they need websites. But what about a small business? What about your local plumbing company, or a small shop you run with your family? Do you really need a website if you run a business like that?
Yes, you absolutely do – because in this day and age, even business done in person often starts online.
Small businesses do need websites
When a customer walks through the doors of a local shop and buys something they need, it’s easy to imagine that the entire transaction took place the way it would have forty or fifty years ago. Maybe the person heard about the shop from their friends or family; maybe they’ve been coming to the same shop for years. Maybe there was an ad in the paper, or a coupon for the thing they bought was stuffed in their mailbox the day before. And it’s perfectly possible that one of these things is true – but it’s also possible that this transaction happened in a very modern way.
Maybe the person opened their smartphone as they got in the car and typed “stores nearby.” Maybe the person googled the product they needed on their computer and looked for stores where they could buy the item right away. In this day and age, that’s just as likely as any traditional explanation.
So what happens if this particularly small business doesn’t have a website or a Facebook page? Simple: the Google search or the phone’s map app leads the customer somewhere else – and that business is gone.
This same thing is true of service businesses and other types of businesses. If you’re not online, then you’re not in one of the primary spots where your customers will be looking when they decide they need something.
What kind of online presence does your small business need?
Your small business absolutely does need an online presence. But what exactly does that mean? Here are a few key things to keep in mind.
Your small business should absolutely have a website. Many customers find businesses with Google. Google is a search engine – it doesn’t have any content itself, it just points people to the right websites. And if you don’t have a website for Google to point your customers to, you’re out of luck. Get your brand’s domain name before someone else snatches up the URL, and put together a quality website that explains what your company is all about. There are plenty of reliable companies that will give you the tools to make your own website – or will make it for you, if that’s what you’d prefer.
Your social media presence
Is your company on Facebook? How about Twitter? While a social media count isn’t a substitute for a good website, it’s a vital part of your company’s online presence. Social media is all about engagement, and a social media page gives your customers a chance to give you feedback – both bad and good. If you do have a social media page, be sure to monitor it and respond to complaints, comments, and compliments alike. A good social media presence can help head off bad reviews on sites like Yelp, because it makes customers turn to you first for an explanation or apology. Without an outlet like that, expect complaints to go straight to third-party pages like Yelp, where they’ll sit on display forever.
Search engine optimization
Google is the signpost that directs customers to your website and on to your business. So help Google find you! Search engine optimization is the process of making your page as Google-friendly as possible. Using keywords is important – make sure that the same words your customers are Googling are in the text of your page. There’s more to SEO than that, though, so consider hiring an SEO expert to help you with your page.
Having a good online presence isn’t rocket science – it’s something that every small business can do, and that most small businesses can afford to outsource to website building professionals and SEO experts. A small investment in your online presence can pay off big-time for your small business, so be sure not to skimp on it!