Many small business owners—especially those in the e-commerce space—can’t imagine operating anywhere other than the Internet. However, Inc. Magazine reveals that over 50 percent of small businesses don’t have websites at all.
Retailers, service businesses, and other enterprises that run out of brick-and-mortar buildings might think that they don’t need to devote energy to online efforts. Small business author Jim Blasingame disagrees. He told Inc., “Every small business needs a website. Period. Nonnegotiable.”
Whether you lack a website or you fail to give it enough attention, you might have fallen behind the game in your online efforts. To give your business the boost it needs to reach the next level of success, consider addressing these eight online issues that small business owners often neglect.
1. Building and Maintaining a Website
You don’t just need a website for your small business—you must also maintain it. Entrepreneur columnist Tim W. Knox names professional web design and regular updates as essential components of an effective website.
If you fail to build a website or if you don’t maintain it, you’ll encounter one of two disastrous scenarios:
- Potential customers will search for your business online, fail to find it, and go with a competitor instead (because, you know, they have a website).
- Potential customers will find your website, see that it looks like it was built in 1999, and go with a competitor because they assume you’re not very professional (or that you closed back in 1999 and keep the website live for posterity’s sake).
Neither scenario spells success for your small business. If it happens often enough, you’ll render your business obsolete, even if you have a strong community presence in your neighborhood.
The solution? Build a website and keep it up. Contract with a professional design firm or teach yourself to run the website. That way, when potential customers look for you, they’ll find your business instead of your competitors’.
2. Creating and Distributing Content
A website by itself doesn’t keep your business relevant. It’s just a placeholder for engaging content. Content serves as an effective magnet that attracts visitors to your website.
You can create plenty of different types of content, including:
- Articles: Educate your audience with well-written, informative articles that teach a valuable skill or divulge insider knowledge.
- Infographics: Display intriguing statistics and figures that help visitors better understand a complex idea or assertion.
- Video: Create a how-to or an entertaining video that illustrates your company culture or helps your audience solve a problem.
- Podcasts: Talk directly to your audience and fill their ears with interesting information.
- Newsletters: Invite readers to sign up for your email newsletter, which should contain useful information, coupons, information about product/service launches, and other essential news.
Then you’ll need to distribute that content. For example, use your favorite social media platform to broadcast links to your blog posts, infographics, and other website elements.
You’ll need an organized and strategy-fueled content marketing plan to make your content work effectively. While it might sound like hard work, you’ll reap the benefits of increased interest in your small business and greater brand visibility.
3. Optimizing the Website
Small business owners who fail to optimize their websites often fall into one of two camps: people who don’t believe that SEO (search engine optimization) is relevant or people who continue to use dated SEO strategies.
It’s true that SEO strategies have changed over the last decade. Keyword stuffing no longer increases your rankings in search engines, and Google penalizes low-quality content that doesn’t serve a useful purpose. Although SEO continues to evolve, it remains essential to an effective online campaign. It allows potential customers to find your small business’s website and to interact with you and your products or services.
4. Connecting the Website to Social Media
Many small business owners fail to set up their own websites because they assume that their Facebook accounts or Twitter feeds will serve the same purpose. This is a misconception.
For one thing, you don’t own Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or any of the other major social media platforms. If Mark Zuckerberg decides to delete your account or take down your posts on Facebook, you have no recourse.
You also don’t have control over a social media site’s design aesthetic or its content beyond your page. Therefore, you can never truly brand it to match your business’s culture.
However, although you need a website in addition to your social media accounts, you shouldn’t neglect either one. Use social media to amplify the content on your website.
People who might never otherwise visit your website will peruse posts on social media in search of information and inspiration. You can use that tendency to your advantage if you stay active on social media and engage with your followers.
What You’re Missing Out On Without a Website
Now that you understand where to focus your energy online, it’s important to realize that you’re missing out on a host of benefits if your small business doesn’t have a website. If you’re one of the 50% of small businesses without an online footprint, consider these perks:
- Selling your products online. You could open an online store and greatly increase your sales. People from far-flung lands can order your products even if they’ve never visited your physical store.
- Establishing your authority. The content on your website can establish you as an authority in your industry and gain significant respect for your small business.
- Building your brand. You have a brand whether you craft it yourself or let it happen without intervention. If your business has a website, you can play an active role in building your brand so it matches your vision.
- Educating your customers. What if your customers have a question about your service contract or your product’s purpose? A website provides them with a powerful go-to resource for information.
- Starting conversations. Never in the history of business has relationship building been more important. Your website allows you to connect with your audience and get to know them so you can deliver what your customers want and need.
- Funneling visitors. You can use social media platforms to link to your website. That way, all of your followers, fans, and friends can find you in one space—that you control.
- Analyzing your advertising strategy. A host of metrics tools for websites allow you to analyze your advertising strategy’s effectiveness so you can tweak it as necessary.
As you can see, a website isn’t just a luxury or a “nice thing to have.” It’s essential to the success of your small business. If you focus your efforts on crafting an effective online strategy, you’ll find it much easier to scale your business and maintain its relevancy well into the future.