What a website can do for your business

In a time when more industries have migrated online, it’s important for small businesses to have an engaging digital presence.

The average consumer will consult around 10 sources before making a purchase, and you want your company website to be at the forefront of that information.

Social media is certainly a useful tool, but it doesn’t replace a well-designed and updated website. While social media is helpful for interacting directly with customers, it does not give a business the freedom to tell its own story. The business becomes one of many similar social media accounts, which may divert customer attention to price over value.

This article explains two key benefits to having a website: it makes a business more find-able and establishes your company’s credibility. Below are some statistics explaining how consumers interact with websites and why small businesses should take advantage of this tool.

A website makes your business more findable on the internet

Most consumers are using the internet to make their spending decisions. One survey found that 97% of consumers learn more about a company online than anywhere else, a trend that local businesses can use to grow their customer base. A website is like a digital billboard that can advertise to a global network. Different from a billboard, however, a website gives a company the freedom to customize their content with almost unlimited space. From visual media, to blog posts, to company news, entrepreneurs can use a website to tell the story - and therefore advertise the value - of their company. In a time when the internet gives us almost unlimited choices, highlighting your company's individual value is critical to making it stand out.

From visual media, to blog posts, to company news, entrepreneurs can use a website to tell the story - and therefore advertise the value - of their company. In a time when the internet gives us almost unlimited choices, highlighting your company's individual value is critical to making it stand out.

What is the benefit of a website versus social media page?

Many small businesses opt for social media pages instead of a website, but they could be missing out on a large number of customers this way. It is important to note first that not everyone has a social media account, or at least not everybody has the same social media accounts. And, as opposed to a social media page, a website is more easily found when consumers make an internet search. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the key to small businesses getting to the first pages of search engine results.

What is SEO, and how does it work?

SEO is the process of improving your website so that it gains more and quality traffic. Search engines, like Google and Bing, scan every site on the internet, collect the information found, and store it in indexes. The search engines then rank that information, based on a number of criteria such as quality writing, content keywords, multimedia variety, and site reputation, to name a few. When someone makes an internet search, the search engine examines the high-ranking sites in its index and displays them in the top search pages.

Social media pages also get indexed, but think of what optimizing your SEO means. It means that you are using a variety of tools provided by a webpage, like well-written and keyword-laden articles, personalized media, informative titles, links to other trusted websites, visitor history, and website navigation clicks. To effectively and aesthetically use these elements in a social media page is more difficult, as your posts will be written according to the site’s policies and formatting. Therefore, a personal website gives local businesses the freedom to incorporate more information to be found by search engines.

A website establishes your company’s credibility

Credibility is not only found in a site’s content but in the form of the website itself. A global tech company found in a survey that 86% of consumers prefer that a business have a website over just a social media page, and 77% believe that a website makes a business appear more credible. And credibility is important, as the Edelman Trust Barometer found that 81% of consumers need to trust a brand before they buy from it.

How does a website convey credibility, especially compared to social media?

One idea behind website versus social media credibility is that anyone can make a social media page - it’s quick, it’s free, and it’s easy to use. A website, on the other hand, requires more investment. Not only is it a financial undertaking, but it is a project that requires time to craft an engaging space for consumers. A company website therefore demonstrates this diligence and establishes that the business has long-term professional goals.

As mentioned in the previous section, a website gives you the space to build a reputation as an expert in your niche. Publishing blog posts, case studies, how-to resources, and other relevant content establishes your business as not just another store, but as a knowledge source. When customers are looking for a certain type of business, but don’t know which company to choose, your credibility places you in a consultant role. Your business becomes the first choice when a customer has questions or wants some guidance.

Information is only as useful as it is accessible, and so to put all of those resources on a social media site would require multiple posts that are spread out and not easily found with one click. In a website format, a collection of resources can be its own page, so that customers and search engines can easily target this information.

Are older websites just as effective?

While we shouldn’t judge a book only by its cover, the cover certainly gives an important first impression about what’s inside. A survey done by a business-growth firm found that 75% of consumers make a decision about a company’s credibility based on the website’s design. So an older website with an outdated design or irrelevant information can suggest that the company is not actually in business, or at least that it's not doing well. An updated website design is evidence of a modern business that provides quality products and services. The site design is like a storefront window; it should attract customers and give them the best impression of what that business has to offer.

And even with informative and up-to-date text, if given 15 minutes, it’s been found that two-thirds of consumers would rather read something beautifully designed than plain. So while having aesthetically pleasing font style, spacing, and color palettes may seem inconsequential, these elements do impact customer judgment.

How does a website get clients through the door?

Like an attractive storefront, an effective website brings paying clients to your business. One survey found that 88% of customers who search for a certain type of business on their phones call or visit that business within 24 hours. A business site with an visible call-to-action button, like "Contact us today!", makes it easy for customers to make their decision. They can access the page for free in any browser, without having to go through the multi-click process of logging in to a social media site. A webpage therefore makes a business accessible to a larger number of people than those businesses without one. With a website, and a credible one, small businesses can get more customers through the door.

This statistic is especially pertinent for local businesses in tourist towns. Over 70% of travelers “always” use their smartphone while traveling, especially to find what to do, where to eat, and how to get there. With so many people using the internet to navigate their vacation plans within a limited amount of time, smaller businesses should strategically place themselves quickly in customers’ browsers.

So, do you need a website?

Your site is a chance to make a first impression on the customers you have yet to meet. A webpage is an extension of the company itself, and a page's design, information, and accessibility all tell a customer about how their experience with your business will be. A customer may never even see the company in the first place, if there is no site, or no updated (read: credible) site, to be found in search engine results.

Social media is a useful tool, but it is most effectively used in combination with a central portal that tells your company’s story. Take advantage of the flexibility of a webpage and build your site today.