Small Business Websites
What Are They For, Why Do I Need One, and How Can I get One?
My wife and I are away on holiday at the moment, I needed to find a small business to help with a service I required. Outside of the main centers of New Zealand it doesn’t look like many businesses have websites, and there are no reviews easily accessible, so it was a bit tricky to know who was around and who was reputable. I did eventually find what I needed using yellow pages, and one business did have a quite simple website – the business with the website is the one I selected.
In this blog post I go over why a small business should have a website, how it could help your business, and related things you should do to ensure your business appears like a trustworthy, reputable business that someone would want to hire. This article is mostly about service businesses, but applies to stores selling products as well.
Why Should A Small Business Have A Website
How do consumers find products and services they need? Speaking for myself, primarily using Google. I also use personal recommendations, and I really like independent reviews that aren’t on a website – reviews on a third party website are more trustworthy. People used to use Yellow Pages (online or print), newspapers, or other advertising, and I’m sure some people still do, but that seems to be dying out. If you’re not on the internet you’re invisible.
What Do You Need In A Website
To get new customers it’s important to have a website that has information about your business, the services you offer, ideally the prices or price range, the person or people who own the business or provide the service, and contact information including address, phone, email, and a map. A good photo of your business and if applicable the owners and / or staff can go a long way to create a personal connection and trust in your potential customer, but beware as a poor photo makes you look unprofessional and may lose you this customer. If you sell products you may want to have an online store, or at least a list of products or brands that you stock.
Any service website should be mobile friendly, as around 50% of searches are done using phones and tablets as of 2016. This is probably doubly true for people on holiday or away from home. It should also be reasonably fast, because customers are typically impatient, and mobile connections can be slow.
You need a website that is Google and SEO friendly. This means a fast, mobile friendly website that clearly communicates what your business does and where it’s located. This is done both by putting it on the page and by using Google My Business to locate the business on a map. Google has clearly said that mobile friendliness and website performance are both factors in ranking. If you’re not on page one of Google for your target phrases you probably won’t benefit near as much as you could.
You should have your own domain name, ideally country specific if your target market is in one country. The common .com addresses are fine if you want to sell anywhere in the world, but .co.uk, .co.nz, .au, etc are best if you’re selling locally. A domain name typically costs anywhere from $10 a year to $50 a year, depending on the type of domain you want. Country specific domains tend to be more expensive than the more generic .com, .org, etc, but worthwhile.
Having a professional email address, such as [email protected] also gives your business more credibility than using @hotmail, @outlook, or @gmail email addresses. Some web hosting can provide you with an email address, but using a specialist email host for between $2.50 and $5 per month per account tends to give you a more reliable email service, with emails to you from customers and vice versa arriving more reliably.
If you’re wanting to sell products online, directly from your website, things can be a bit more complex depending on what you need. You can have a website custom made, which can be very expensive, use free software to run your own website, or use a hosted website as a service with an online store provided. The best option will vary depending on the needs of the business.
How Can You Get A Website?
There are an huge number of ways of getting a website, and there’s no single answer that suits all businesses. Some options are:
- Create yourself a free website using Wix or similar – though customers know these are free websites, and are less credible to both a person and Google than a better looking and performing website. The advantage here is it’s cheap or free, and quite fast to do.
- You can use one of the various website creation tools around, such as SquareSpace, using your own domain name. You can do this yourself which ends up being relatively low priced and a moderate quality option. Alternately you can hire someone to help, which ends up being a mid-priced option, with a higher up-front cost from your designer but a low monthly cost. This gives you quite good flexibility and doesn’t take too long.
- You can have a WordPress website built and hosted for you. With thousands of themes available for reasonable prices you can choose the look you want for your website. Like the option above it tends to cost more to start, but you end up with a highly customised website for a moderate price – hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on your requirements. Web hosting is an additional expense, which can vary from $5 a month up to $100 a month for small businesses. Higher prices tend to reflect the quality of the hosting and the support, which is important when things go wrong – and things always go wrong at some point. This type of site can take between a few days and a few months to set up, depending on how busy your web designer is and how complex the website is.
- Hire a website designer to make a truly custom website. This is the slowest and most expensive option, and even simple websites can cost thousands of dollars, but you get exactly what you want, and can have a unique look.
There’s no one size fits all option, the best way to decide what you need is to have a chat with an experienced web designer or website provider. PTS can of course help with this, if you need help you can contact us for a free quote.
Regardless of the option you choose it’s important to have reputable help. I’ve heard many stories of web designers taking the money and delivering either nothing or not what was expected, with poor or non-existing support.
Related Web Services
There are a few other things that can help as well as having a website:
- Google My Business helps Google find you, your business, and your website. You can specify exactly where your business is, opening hours, and add other details that can add beside your website if someone searches for you. A key feature is it lets people with a Google account (ie almost everyone) review your business, and it shows these reviews when you appear in search results. A business with at least a few good reviews will stand out over a business with no reviews, and may rank higher.
- Google Analytics can help understand who visits your website, how often, and how they use it. This helps you improve your website.
- Google Search Console helps you understand how you appear in the Google search results, which can help you understand how to rank higher.
- Google Adwords lets you advertise your business on the Google Search Results pages.
- Various review websites can help give customers other sources of independent reviews, which can add credibility. These vary country to country. For example Yelp, Wedding Wire, etc.
Putting It All Together
To recap, it’s important for business to have websites to attract new customers and new business – Google is the first port of call for many people looking for a product or service. A fast, mobile friendly, well optimised website helps you rank well in Google, which helps customers find you. Additional services like Google My Business can help add information to your search listing, and independent review sites such as Google My Business give your business more credibility. A professional email address adds to the professional image, as does professional quality photos. This makes your business or service easily discoverable and accessible to a large number of potential customers
If you need help with any of this PTS is happy to help – contact us and we’ll guide you through the process of working out what kind of website works for your business.