One question I get fairly often these days is about the need for a website, especially with the explosion of social and professional media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Soundcloud. My response is usually pretty simple: Maybe more than ever, if you don’t have a website now, you need one!
While having social media profiles and posts is a great thing (and it certainly means that you may not need an incredibly sophisticated website) if you don’t have a personal website, you’re putting your professional career and business in the hands of people (and algorithms) that don’t have your interest in mind.
You can take almost any web platform: Facebook, Google, MySpace, etc. and look at how it has changed over the past five years or so and see how risky a strategy it is to rely on someone else’s platform for your business. Facebook has changed its News Feed algorithm many times in the last few years to try and give users what they want – which means that business pages get pushed further down unless they pay. The same thing has happened on Instagram, Google Maps, Google Search, and the list goes on. And that doesn’t even include platforms that disappear entirely, like MySpace, Vine, Google+, Friendster, and countless others.
While there are lots of lists of the “Top 100 Reasons You Need A Website”, I’ve decided to mention some that seem the most compelling to me, my clients, and seem to make the most impact for a business.
If you’ve debated on making a website for yourself, read on and see if any of these things may apply.
#1 People (and Search Engines) WANT to Find You
One of the most important reasons to have a site is so that when someone searches for you through Google (or Bing or DuckDuckGo or any other search engine), the first thing they find is what you want them to see!
Without a good website, the first few listings will probably be a Facebook profile or page, a Yelp page, or a competitor’s site. While having a Facebook or Yelp page as the first listing may not seem that bad, if you’ve gotten any negative reviews or if you don’t regularly keep on top of communicating with customers this can be a negative first experience with your business. Of course, if you don’t have any web presence and they find a competitor, then you may lose the customer before you even get in front of them.
Even for individuals, if you’re going out for job interviews, you can bet your employer is running your name through a search engine. It’s better for them to find your professional-looking website than your Facebook or Twitter profile unearthing some old college (or high school) drama. Of course, you should make that stuff private, but then you have no web presence at all!
#2 Reach Customers On Their (And Your) Terms
Although lots of people are still on social media, it’s getting harder and harder to reach people organically on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Both these platforms (which are both owned by Facebook, FYI) have drastically reduced the reach of unpaid content, which means that you have to pay more to get in front of people. As bigger and bigger businesses get into the Facebook/Instagram ad game, the prices for these ads are going to climb. A lot.
This kind of pattern has already happened to Google. Google’s paid tier for ads (that you see at the top of most Google searches with “Ad” in the left margin) used to be very cheap. Ads that currently cost $5-10+ per click used to be available for pennies. But as larger businesses noticed this new marketing area, they came in with 6- and 7-digit budgets, and raised the prices for everyone.
However, Google (unlike Facebook and Instagram) only sells ads because – by and large – people trust Google. It’s in Google best interest to highly rate websites which present the best answer to a users search – whether or not that website has paid for an ad. By making it easier for everyone to find quality websites, Google gets used more, which means that it can sell more ads, make more money, and the cycle continues.
So, if you make a website that can answer questions for current (and potential) customers, Google will rate your website highly, since it’s in Google’s best interest to do so.
Some other benefits:
- People find you when they search for you. They seek you out when they need you. You don’t need to spend money hoping someone needs your services at that moment. Most people don’t search “fix leaky toilet” until they need a plumber. But when you need a plumber, you need a plumber.
- You can gather email addresses or other contact information for your customers so that you can get in touch with them. Excessive emails can pretty easily blend over into email spam, so less contact is better, and only when you have something important (to them) to offer.
#3 Trust and Reputation
If you’re trying to sell something – whether a product or a service – then you need to have at least some baseline level of trust with customers. Especially customers that you haven’t met in person.
The more expensive or personal the service is, the more trust you need to generate with them to make the sale.
While sometimes you can generate enough trust by just being on a trustworthy site (like buying cheap charging cables from Amazon) that’s not much of a long-term strategy. Especially if you lack a quality product or good support (or both).
If you’re selling a personal service that requires you to have some level of knowledge and skill (like music lessons), then a website is a great place to signal your authority on a subject, and start earning trust.
#4 It’s (relatively) Cheap
If you compare the cost, benefits, and flexibility of a website to other marketing products or services, a website is often one of the most cost-effective ways to reach customers.
While websites can be very expensive, after the initial creation, the ongoing upkeep is relatively inexpensive (and predictable). Just a few dollars a year for a domain name and a few dollars a month for a host is often all you need to pay. Plus, the site is flexible – it can be as big or as small as you need.
Business cards and brochures are relatively inexpensive, but they are expensive to update or change. Plus, many times they are lost or misplaced when they would be most effective. I’ve gotten many business cards for different services, but I usually do a Google search when I’m looking for a specific business.
The same limitations apply to ads on TV and in newspapers and magazines. Plus, these are usually pretty expensive.
Word of mouth and positive reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. are excellent and free. But those are difficult to control yourself. You can ask customers for reviews and recommendations, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get them.
A website can do all of these things, all in one place, and be there when you’re customers are looking for you.
If you’re not sure how to go about getting started with a website, you can contact me. I’ve done sites for myself (duh!), other individuals, professional organizations and small businesses.
If you want a DIY solution, I’m happy to point you to some great resources depending on your needs and budget, but if you need more help or don’t want to do it yourself, I’m happy to work with you and design something that will fit your needs (and your budget)!