Why is it that something like half of all small businesses go without a website, even though somewhere between 80 and 96% of all consumers go to the web for information on local businesses?
It’s an interesting question, and I’ve had students take this on as a fieldwork project for a couple of years now. I’ve shared some of the results in this blog in the past, but this semester we’re seeing a new answer.
When asked why they don’t have a website, some small businesses respond that they don’t need one, because “Google already knows” about their company.
In other words, they show up on the local results map when people search, or in Yelp or some other listing.
So — if you already show up in local results, is there any reason that you should have a website?
- You are not in control of your web presence if you don’t have a website. Your Facebook page, Google Places page, Yelp listing, or whatever list you’re on has one serious problem: it doesn’t belong to you. When the service you rely on shuts down, decides to charge for their service, or changes their algorithm, you have no recourse. You also have no control over how the information is presented, what reviews are posted, or even the language used.
- You lose a lot of valuable information. Josepha has pointed out that companies without websites are also doing without analytics. Your Google analytics tell you where your visitors come from, how they find you, what they’re looking for, how much they like different things you’re offering, and much, much more. Without a website, you don’t have any of that information.
- The internet is not just for ads. You may feel that your business is represented when it shows up on in a list of local services. But would your customers like to be able to make appointments online? Would they value a chance to place orders online? Would you like a chance to provide samples, collect email addresses for marketing, or to build a platform for future e-commerce? There are so many things a website does beyond just showing your address that “Google knows” really isn’t a good reason to do without a website.
If you know of a small business that isn’t online because they simply don’t have the budget, you can give them a free website at GYBO, Google’s start-for-free website initiative. Small businesses in many states can get online for free. We’re not going to pretend that this is as good as a professionally built and managed website. But it is certainly better than having none. If Google knows where you are, take their word for it that you need to get your business online.