Recent research about how small businesses use websites and social media suggests some striking trends: One in five small businesses use social media in place of a website, yet 24% of small businesses report that they do not have a formal strategy guiding their social media presence. The findings come from Clutch, a research and reviews firm based in Washington DC.
“Sometimes business owners think web design is the last thing they need to think about,” says Vanessa Petersen, ArtVersion’s Executive Director of Strategy. “But once you make that decision to put in the work to [build a website], it’s amazing what it can do to ease some of the burdens of doing business.”
One such burden is managing a small business’ online reputation, which is significantly easier when a small business manages their own website and tends strategically to their online presence overall.
Build Trust and Credibility
By providing accurate information and allowing potential customers to corroborate their presence online, small businesses can use a website to build public trust and credibility. When potential customers want to learn more about their options for investing in a product or service, most turn to Google to complete initial research. Businesses that do not have their own websites leave their brand reputation up to others on review sites such as Yelp.
Instead, businesses it is recommended that businesses ensure that potential customers have access to accurate information by maintaining at least a simple web page featuring their location, hours, contact information, and a description of their approach, products, and services.
Additionally, potential customers may be skeptical of a business that does not have a website. Small businesses that maintain their own websites achieve a higher degree of control over their brand’s reputation, ensuring that they appear trustworthy and credible.
“You need to be able to be found,” says Petersen. “Having a website is a qualifier.”
Regularly Refresh Online Presence
Once a small business has invested in a website, it’s important to periodically refresh and update the content and design in order to keep pace with changing consumer preferences and SEO standards.
As more consumers rely on their smartphones and devices, small businesses should also plan to upgrade to responsive web design or a mobile-friendly website in the near future. Virtually all (94%) small business websites are predicted to be mobile friendly by 2019.
As small businesses budget and plan to expand their online presence, it’s helpful to plan for a phased or tiered approach that includes long-term maintenance and future updates.
“You don’t necessarily need to launch your e-commerce with your first-generation website,” says Petersen. “Start small, create a landing page, build your social media, and get your basic information [online].”
Maintaining an updated and modern online presence enhances a business’ online reputation, ensuring that customers not only find the information they need, but have a positive experience when interacting with a brand online.Read More...