Not having a website in 2010 is akin to not having a telephone number.
Why would you make it hard for customers to find you?
Why would you cede your online presence to TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon, Yelp or Merchant Circle? That’s what I find when I Google you and you don’t have a website.
Related post on Tourism Currents – Check your social media icon buttons
Yelp is your website? Awesome.
That is bad business, and it is unworthy of you.
Shiela, I agree that most businesses should have a website, even if it’s just the equivalent of an online brochure.
I live in the Mount Shasta area and recently started looking for someone to detail my car. (A nine-year-old Outback. I heard you wondering.)
I found precious little online, and only a couple of places that do detailing, both auto body shops. I’m looking for one of those mobile detailing outfits, but no luck on the net.
Thanks, John. Yeah, businesses don’t need something super-fancy, but they need SOMETHING. Not sure why so many haven’t figured out the importance of their online real estate. Surely they Google/search for info online themselves when they’re looking for something, at least sometimes?
This frustrates me too. It is so easy and inexpensive to have a basic website. Sadly, some of these businesses without websites probably still put ads in the yellow pages.
Yes, a Yellow Pages ad buy is what they’ve always done and they think it’s a “safe bet,” so many keep going in that direction. The question to be asked is whether one’s market ever uses the Yellow Pages to find their particular business, and do they use it more than Web search engines. If they do, fine. But no one ever asks the question before spending the money.
You are right by about half.
Not having a web _presence_ is akin to not having a phone number, but a website for many small businesses tend to be anywhere from useless to a liability. Sure you can put up A website easily and cheaply. More correctly you can put up a BAD website easily and cheaply. Further, you can put up a useless and bad website easily and cheaply.
If you aren’t going to invest the time and money to make a site that is professional, updated and optimized you are better off relying on Yelp, Google Places and Facebook to present your online persona.
To John’s point, doing a google search for auto detailing near mt shasta returns two Google Places results with map above every other result. The first page of results only has yellow page results for auto detailers. These index sites have spent/are spending $10k’s to stay optimized and on top. Some auto detailer putting up a website is likely not going to get indexed for weeks and won’t rank for months and will likely never show up on page 1 serps. That same auto detailer can claim a Places page, put 5 hours into making it sing and show up on page 1 every time. When the auto detailer has the ability to do whatever he wants with his site, he’s got a better chance of turning customers away than if he curates his yelp and Places profile effectively (cf. http://theoatmeal.com/comics/design_hell ).
In 2010, it’s bad advice to tell a business to build a website unless it is their actual platform for transaction execution. The question to be asked is whether one’s market ever looks beyond the listings at the top of the Google page 1 serps to find their particular business, and do they use it more than the Google Places results. If they do, fine. But no one ever asks the question before spending the money.
Why not do both? No, not a bad site or blog, maybe just a simple one. Many people have talents in designing simple to maintain sites. Perhaps a small business can barter for a basic website or blog.
Sheila, on a local level I disagree with your post. A website is not critical to being found and once found to experience a high rate of conversion. If you have a website you are relying on page 1 of organic search results to be cold found. According to Google 90% of searchers won’t look past page one of the results page. To a local business I say “Not having a Google Places page in 2010 is equivalent to not having a telephone number listed in the phone-book in 1980” I had an experience with one of my customers who owns a salon. The website they had was mediocre and had outdated information. The strategy that we implemented was to redirect the salons url to a fully optimized Google Places page. From there visitors had several opportunities to be dropped into the salon’s very interactive and engaging Facebook page. The results we experienced were profound.
Prior to removing the mediocre website the phone calls received by the salon went something like this. “Hi, I saw your information on Google. I would like to book an appointment this week” Salon receptionist “I’m sorry we are all booked this week. We can’t get you in until next week.” Prospect Client “If you can’t get me in this week I am going somewhere else.”
After implementing a web 2.0 fully engaging social media strategy that bypassed the website, the salon has received phone calls that go something like this. “Hi, I saw your information on Google. I would like to book an appointment this week” Salon receptionist “I’m sorry we are all booked this week. We can’t get you in until next week.” Prospect Client “You know I think I can wait until next week, I really want to get in with you.” OR “You know I need to get in this week, so I am going to go somewhere else, but can I book my next appointment 8 weeks out with you now over the phone?”
For this salon the volume of phone calls did not decrease after we made this change. The biggest change we saw was that prospect clients now had an emotional attachment to the salon because they were directed to Google Places and Facebook which have an interactive and existing satisfied or unsatisfied customer touch / involvement. For this salon the quality is high, the satisfaction is superb, which people quickly pick up on when they land on the Places page or Facebook page. The website itself could not offer this and therefore prospects had no emotional attachment to the salon after simply viewing the website.
Hi hawks5999 and Jordan,
I really do appreciate the time that y’all took to write long and thoughtful comments; thanks very much.
I don’t agree with you but you made me think about the situation differently. 🙂
Here’s my concern: I think people should own and control their Web real estate just as they do their brick-and-mortar business. I really have a problem with ceding all of that to Google and Facebook, so I lean to Miss Dazey’s position, which is to both have a website AND claim your territory on things like Google Places.
Why do Jordan’s hair salon people like Facebook? Because the average website is about as interactive as a chair (and it doesn’t have to be that way, either.)
I get the importance of search engines, of course. But I am not a slave to the damned things. A Web presence that you own and control….as much as you CAN “own and control” anything on the Web….is my point.
Why are we so willing to give all content, control and data to entities like Google and Facebook? As far as I’m concerned, they are tools to be used for the betterment of my life and my business, in exchange for me letting them have access to some data, but I do not necessarily trust them as far as I can throw them.
The best thing out of all of this so far – y’all’s analogies are better than mine, that Google Places is the phone book equivalent. Now I have to go figure out (and articulate better) the role of a website.
I’m finding that an integrated approach to your small business and online marketing is vital. Yes – you need a website. But why not make that website a blog? Nowadays you can use platforms like Headway (oh hell yeah, shameless plug) to make your blog look like a very cool website. The more you update (blog) the better your SEO. Be sure to tie it to Facebook and Google and Yelp as well. Don’t forget the new cool tagging options.
Simply put – create an online marketing plan, take the time to create it so it works for you and then promote promote promote. Websites are vital – and if used properly can add a whole new dimension to your marketing plan. Your cost? Mostly just time.
Sound like too much time? Hire someone. Or build the time into your schedule – and remember, like a billboard – the results are not immediate!
Deb from http://www.debworks.com
Thanks for stopping by! And hey, what a great idea, a MARKETING PLAN. Thanks for fighting the good fight up there in Iowa.
I’m with Deb. I say go for the integrated approach. The cost is nominal. Most of what we are talking about is free, other than building the website and that is very inexpensive, or can be if a person takes some time and digs a little.
We wanted to own our name, so we captured the domain. Who wouldn’t want to get that done. We also have a website AND we have a presence on Google Places (with pictures, video, hours, descriptions, etc. We also are on Yelp, blah, blah, blah. My point is, if I were a detail shop, I would be all over these places as well. Including a website.
I would advise getting some help if you don’t know what you are doing with a website. Definitley.
One last thing about the blog post…if anything I think it was a bit too curt and therefore lended itself to be challenged.
As an actual brick-and-mortar-with-employees small business owner, I really appreciate your input and ideas.
Yes, I was a little curt. That’s why it’s a 2 X 4 and not a warm ‘n fuzzy suggestion. I’m impatient with a lot of things. 🙂
My opinion: you can use some one else’s platform to establish your web presence if you want. I would only recommend that as a first step, as part of an integrated plan of action.
Yes, my bricks and mortar business has a Google Place page, a Facebook Page, and a Twitter account. But it also has a blog, acting as the main website. And it will keep its own site, no matter what else happens in the world.
Let’s go the opinion of Chris Penn, in “You own nothing in social media,” where he says, “Whatever you do, own your database. When today’s Facebook becomes tomorrow’s MySpace, you’ll be glad you did.”
Thanks for your thoughts. I think a lot of Chris Penn’s work.
I remember when AOL and Yahoo! were the biggest, baddest game in town. Things change. It’s smart to be current with whatever’s influential with your customers. It’s also smart to have an anchor; a business site that isn’t subject to tech whims. The Google and Facebook borgs will be supplanted; that’s how it works.
Can’t happen? Yeah, and General Motors will never fail, either, sports fans.