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Okay, so on its face, this may seem like an absurd question. Websites are an essential part of every business! Why on earth would we be talking about whether your small business needs a website or not? But our current digital marketing landscape proves that websites aren’t the only way to reach potential customers.

There are hundreds of social media networks and online stores: Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Vimeo, YouTube, IGTV, Amazon, Facebook Watch, Reddit, and Etsy. I could keep going.

They all make some big promises for what their platforms will do for your brand. Some would even contend that they make websites obsolete. Many younger small businesses and brands are now completely skipping the once foundational step of developing a website and instead, opting for one of these platforms.

While many of these networks/platforms are fantastic tactics for building an audience, we firmly believe that every small business needs a website.

Let’s talk about three reasons why:

1. Ownership

It may feel like you own your Facebook page, your Instagram account, or YouTube channel—but you don’t. They are rented spaces. You are farming on someone else’s land.

Yes, you can upload, post, and share things on your social media channels, but at the end of the day, it’s still owned by Facebook or the specific social media platform. This might not seem like that big of a deal. It’s not likely that Instagram or one of these social media platforms is going to disappear completely.

You may own the content you are posting, but you don’t own the means that brings people to that content.

Let’s talk about a couple of scenarios that make this setup problematic.

A social media channel could lose its user base as new generations reject it and adopt newer social media platforms. In fact, only 9% of generation Z are choosing Facebook according to a recent survey. You could spend years tailoring your content for Facebook only to find that no one is there anymore.

One of these social media networks could dramatically change their model. We’ve seen this happen with Facebook several times. Business pages have been slowly pushed out of the News Feed. However, Facebook now, in its infinite mercy, let’s us pay to reach the audience we used to reach for free. These companies are trying all sorts of different ways to monetize their platforms and your small business could be caught in the middle. Don’t allow your small business to end up in a bad position. A paywall on a feature that was once essential to your small business could be very disruptive. 

Using online stores like Etsy or Amazon are excellent options to connect with users that are actively searching for specific items. These stores aren’t giving you access to the website out of the goodness of their heart. They take a cut. Be wary of increases or changes in their fees.

Don’t be scared off from these platforms. But understand that this is why websites matter so much for small business.

A website, you own. Want to change the design? Rebrand away, my friend. Want to add content? No one is stopping you. You are able to express your brand without any limitations. This means complete and total freedom when advertising your small business online.

2. Better for Search

Humans are creatures of habit. If there is one habit we almost all share online, it’s that we use Google to find things. Whether it’s a buying new car or researching a medical condition, the first place we go to is Google—for better or worse.

We view it as a mediator between us and the millions of websites. Google scans these websites and decides which ones will best answer our questions.

Good websites are built to be easily searchable and indexed (scanned and cataloged) by Google. This is frequently called search engine optimization (SEO). SEO often has a reputation of some sort of invisible magic that only digital marketing experts have access to. In reality, it’s just the act of making websites more desirable for search engines through structuring content, speeding up websites, and using desirable pieces of information so that search engines can connect users with answers to their search.

Now, of course, this requires a lot of work to get your website to appear in search results. But even on the most basic level, you want to make sure that when users search for your brand, you are the first thing that comes up.

Yes, your social media pages can show up in search results, but Google typically won’t give those as much attention as a website. There is one exception, which is YouTube. But it might have something to do with the fact that Google owns YouTube. I don’t know—just a wild guess.

3. Be a Research Assistant

Websites are wonderful resources for customers to do research. According to this AdWeek article, 81% of shoppers conduct online research before purchasing. We don’t need a statistic to tell us that. I won’t buy anything without reading online reviews, researching all product options, and being perfectly knowledgeable before buying.

For users, websites are an easy source of information, with little commitment. Maybe the user just needs an answer to a question and they aren’t ready to purchase yet. What if they are just learning about your brand for the first time? They probably aren’t ready to follow you on social media networks.

Websites can help users feel confident about making that phone call, submitting their information, or messaging you because they feel more educated about what to expect.

If you make things easy for the user, you establish a positive brand experience from the first interaction. Organize your information in easy-to-navigate and detailed explanations. The more information you provide upfront, the better.

These are the main reasons I cite to small business owners when they ask whether it’s still necessary to have a website.

If you are considering a website redesign, a new website, or just want a critical eye to review your current website, reach out to us. We’d be happy to share our expertise and make sure that your digital marketing is giving you the best results possible.