There are a lot of people and businesses that have websites (or webpages) around the world. There are a lot more of each who don’t have websites but probably should. When it comes to being or trying to market a business, a general question that has to be asked is whether it’s viable for the owners of that business to have a website or not.
As a former internet marketing consultant who’s still an independent consultant, the overall answer is easily yes. The reality, however, isn’t so cut and dry. Let’s explore the positives first.
A website can be a great extension of your advertising, if done properly. If you have products, it’s a great place to not only share information about them, but, if applicable, you could set your site up to sell your product at all times of the day.
A website can highlight your expertise, tell everyone what you do, tell something about you, and allow you to share your expressiveness with a whole new audience of people. If marketed properly, your website can see a whole lot more people than you’d ever meet. Not only that, but once it’s created, if it’s been set up and optimized properly all you’re left to do are occasional enhancements and updates; that’s not too much work for anyone.
One great thing about having a website is that, even if you don’t really do business online, it offers you many ways to accept credit card payments if your business doesn’t presently accept them. For instance, for my businesses, I accept credit card payments by sending people online links that will direct them through Paypal so they can use their credit cards. Paypal takes 2.89%, but that’s a small price to pay for having my money quickly, as it allows me to transfer funds to my bank account immediately and have money in my bank account within 3 days, sometimes sooner. There are other services out there that offer similar services.
Of course there’s the other side.
A website can make you look bad if the site doesn’t look good, or isn’t uniform. If you write the copy yourself and you’re a terrible writer, it can highlight shortcomings that you may not want others to see. If your product doesn’t photograph well, or can’t be easily explained, it could make marketing difficult. There’s a dicey balance between trying to show yourself as an individual that people can trust as well as a professional who’s open and inviting to strangers.
Then there’s this thing about keeping your website fresh and interesting, which I touched upon earlier, not only for the people who visit but for the search engines. The best optimization in the world won’t help your site out if, once it’s completed, you let it go and never do anything else with it.
Search engines such as Google will send out what they call spiders, that goes through your site and rank its validity. If nothing changes after a long time, they stop coming by on a regular basis. When that happens, you could drop off the face of the search engine universe, which means that the only people who will find your product are the ones who know to look for you, unless you’re in a specific niche that’s not too populated. If that’s what you want, fine; if you want more, that’s not going to get it done.
Websites take one of two things; time or money. Either the owner has to learn at least a little bit of HTML to consistently make changes and alterations, as well as, hopefully, add content, or the owner has to have the money to pay someone to do that for them on a regular basis. These days there are templates and blogging software that allows people to create websites using it. They’re easier to update and manage, but it still takes dedication to keep it up.
New business owners have to make a decision on how they want to spend their money, and what a website is worth to them. For instance, there are many hosts that offer the opportunity to create a free site, usually a one page site. If you’re a business, it doesn’t look good for you because your business name isn’t highlighted as much as the hosting site, such as Freewebs, Homestead, etc. You also can’t optimize all that much because it’s not really your site.
You could decide to use one of many programs to create your own site to upload, and I’ve seen a few people who have done a nice job with it, but formatting pages so they look uniform can take time, and also some knowledge, and if you’re not the type for that then you probably shouldn’t go there.
These days there’s a lot of people using WordPress software to create their own website; it is and isn’t easy, depending on your skill level. Some are using Wix or Squarespace, and a few are using GoDaddy, though I’m one of those people who believes it’s best not to host or create a website from the same company you purchase your domain name from.
Depending on what you want, creating websites can take a lot of time, and might cost you significant dollars, or you can go the less costly route and economize, not being too fancy and not having lots of individual pages. There are many companies that have templates you can use and then work on customizing, but they pretty much look similar to other sites.
Before you pay any money, talk with the person you’re thinking of using to try to decide just what you might want. For instance, I had one client who, when we first talked, said she only wanted five pages, which wouldn’t have cost that much or taken long to complete. By the time we were finished, we were over 15 pages, with research on top of the creation of the site, and the cost ended up in the thousands. This client was ready to pay it, which didn’t depress me; are you ready to pay it?
Have a vision for what you want your website to look like. I used to manage the website for one of the organizations I’m a part of. While I was consulting out of town for a while, they decided they wanted to freshen up the website. The problem is what they put out there for proposals was generic and didn’t say anything. When I finally saw it I told them that. I asked why they wanted a website change and they said they wanted something new; that was it. If you’re going to accept whatever the person who creates your website, no matter what it looks like then fine, but if you want something more specific you’d better mention that up front.
The same thinking has to come into play if you think you want to add a blog. I hate cruising blogs, only to see that many of them haven’t had an entry in over six months, sometimes years. Trust me, I understand this; I own 5 blogs, and 3 of them are hard to keep up with on a consistent basis, especially since I have more things going on at home than I used to. Luckily I keep up with my business blogs better; whew! 🙂
Blogs aren’t for the uninspired; it takes some kind of discipline to continually write entries, and, if you’re writing a business blog, the worst thing to have is a blog that has no recent activity. Some people try to write on a niche that’s too tight, and they find that it’s hard being confined to that one thing, so they just stop writing. If you don’t really believe that you have enough in you to consistently keep updating it, or you’re not willing to pay someone to create the content for you, then it’s best not to start.
So… should you have a website? Time and money; if you have either, then yes. If not, then no… possibly. After all, if your competition has a website you’re immediately at a disadvantage.
Make an informed decision either way. For a quick, down and dirty list, click on this website outline of pros and cons (this was taken from an old website I shut down, so it looks odd; just look at the information in the middle). I hope it helps you focus on your particular needs.