January 4, 2021
Why You Need A Website
One of the things I've always argued for is that every business needs to have a website. Having a single source of info is crucial to increasing traffic.
One of the things I've always argued for is that every business, especially local businesses, need to have a website. Some of my clients are totally bought in to this idea. Often, my clients are looking for me when they start their business. About 25% of my clients initially don't understand why they need a website. Luckily, I do, and I can sell them on it.
I tell them, at the very least, that they need one single place where all their information can be found. Business hours, phone number, email, their story - in short, everything about them that they want the public to know. I tell them about how even basic SEO can increase their traffic and business. Then I tell them about selling online. About how when accessibility is increased, their potential customer base is also increased. I tell them that not everyone has Facebook, and that some updates posted to social media may not reach all their customers. And there is so much more.
A Single Source of Information
When I'm working on building a quote & project path for a client, I always start with three pages (aside from a landing page). One page about the business, one about the products/services offered, and a contact page. Everything the business wants the public to know: who they are, what they do, where, when, and how to visit them, and how to contact them. This information is crucial. Having it all together means customers can quickly gather all the information they need to decide to come to your business and not another business. It also means that your website is the authority.
Warning: I'm about to talk about COVID.
Right around the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of restaurants near me shut down. This happened quickly and was difficult to navigate because a lot of the places near me didn't have websites. They just had pages on the local delivery platform or Uber or something similar. When they closed down, either temporarily or permanently, these platforms took time to update to reflect those changes (or never changed at all).
Obviously, that was frustrating as the user. When I called and the phone didn't stop ringing, I just figured they were busy. With a website that they could update themselves, it would be super quick to just throw a message on the landing page. Something like "hey we're gonna be closed for a bit, thanks for the support and stay safe". Or they could contact their web developer and ask for that quick update. I have a few restaurants for clients and updating those sites to reflect changes in hours and post any COVID updates is always easy. That's a part of the core functionality of a site - making it difficult to change is not in anyone's interest.
How Basic SEO Improves Traffic
So if a website is the authority on your business's information, why does Google throw up your hours and phone number when somebody searches your business? They may be a source but an authority they are not. With some basic SEO, you can make sure search engines have the right information. In turn, your customers will get the correct information when they use Google - or anything that uses Google. A good case of use for this is when somebody says "OK Google, when does MyFavoriteRestaurant open?". When that happens, Google Assistant basically performs a Google search and reads back the hours - which are in a machine readable format on your website. Without that configured, Google has to rely on user reports.
Google (and Yelp, Foursquare, and others) asks the public for business information if they can't find it. When somebody searches or reviews a place that has incomplete information, they can report that info. Sometimes, that is not right, though, and misinformation can get out there. A website can have the correct hours (or whatever piece of information) formatted in a way for the platform's web crawler to see and prevent incorrect information from getting to the public. This train of thought applies to all the major services, such as Apple Maps, Yelp, navigation devices, Foursquare, and others, as well as social media.
If a business sells a product, they should really sell that product online. Ecommerce has grown significantly over the past 5 years. There are many successful business that don't have a physical location and only sell online. I don't just mean your uncle who sells his Matchbox car collection on Ebay. I mean businesses selling clothing, art, food, almost any product you can imagine, and selling on their own platform, not Amazon or Ebay or Etsy. Not to mention the amount of growth that has happened in the age of COVID.
Even if you don't ship your product and just have a way for a customer to order a pickup, ecommerce can be such a huge boon to any business.
A few years back, I was a bicycle courier. While there, I built a website for the company that employed me that allowed customers to order food from our partnered restaurants online. My partner and I turned that in to a business (gittr)and sold the web app to other courier companies. We make money from that now - and we don't even deliver the final product. If that's not a perfect case for the point I'm trying to make, I don't know what could be.
How Accessibility Increases Traffic
My family has a lot of blind people in it. My mom is blind, dad is missing an eye, and my sister has the same disease my mom has. I'm probably gonna be blind before long. So accessibility is important to me. Remember when I talked about your website being an authority on your information, and how that information can be syndicated to Google, Apple, etc? Well, when my mom wants to find a business' information, she just asks her phone. Unless you don't want blind folks to find your information, making sure that information is correct is crucial.
Another case for accessibility is when deaf people need to find information about your business. Calling isn't an option for a lot of deaf people, even if they are using a captioning service. Having your information online means that they can access your info without involving a third party.
Selling online means that people who need physical accommodations can check out all you have to offer before stepping foot inside, or just ordering online altogether.
Social Media Updates
When I was talking about those businesses that closed during COVID, I intentionally left out that they probably updated their Facebook pages because I felt it deserved its own section. I don't have a Facebook account. To view a Facebook page, you have to log in. This caused issues for me when I was trying to find out whether a business was closed or not. I'm sure at least half of those restaurants had a diligently updated Facebook page, but I could not see it. Social media is not enough.
So Much More
Here's a quick-hit list of things that a website can help you with:
- Customer testimonials: want real reviews? Don't wanna pay for Yelp? Have customers review your business on your website. Pick and choose what you highlight, address the poor reviews directly.
- Coupons: UberEats and Postmates offers are a real rip off. Use your ecommerce site to offer coupons to first time customers and don't lose money doing it.
- Customer Service: Responding publically to a poor review can be difficult and sometimes embarrassing. Use that testimonial functionality to track issues and provide stellar customer service.
- Booking of services/spaces/tables/rentals: Remember when I was talking about selling anything? Sell bookings online. Take reservations through the web. Rent out your equipment, whatever!
- Order management: If you're selling stuff online, you can probably use your website to manage those orders and update the customer rather than typing up an email whenever there is an update.
- Wanna just write about something? Provide an update or say thanks to your customers on an anniversary? You can probably blog on (or add a blog to) your site.
- Want people to see high quality photos of your products? Facebook compresses images so badly, so it's probably not a good place for that. Your website is a perfect showcase for your products and services.
There is so much more that a website can do for you. I have seen some of my clients grow from a single page site to an integrated online ordering solution. Their customers can book a table, order for takeout or delivery, and see tonight's specials. Other customers have passed on integrating ecommerce, others let their domain expire, and just a year or so after publishing their sites, they are no longer in business.
If you're looking for a website, I offer free consultation and would love to talk about the solutions that I could see working for you.
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