This is a difficult post to write because it seems so intuitive to me. But I realize not everyone thinks or uses technology or even runs a business the same way. So let’s talk about the value of websites.
1. Websites Give You Credibility
I hate that this is my number one reason but it really is. It’s not compelling, it’s not a promise of guaranteed clients, or even guaranteed interaction from potential customers. But you still need to look like a legitimate business. And, these days, that involves a website and at least one social media page – preferably Facebook.
Speaking as a customer and not a designer, the first thing I do when I hear a business recommendation from a friend is to look it up online. If they don’t have a website, oftentimes I won’t go there. This is both because I’m looking for one central place to find the answers to my questions (location, hours, services, etc) and because not having a website makes it feel like that business doesn’t know what its doing.
2. Information for Customers
After credibility, I’d say the primary purpose a website serves is to answer your clients questions. They might be able to find those answers on Google or Facebook, but the best way to make sure customers get the correct information easily is to have your own website. Even without great SEO, most websites will come up in the search when the company name is Googled and that’s where your customer will click.
It’s not enough just to have a website – it needs to function and it needs to provide the basic information that your customers are looking for. Things I recommend you place in the header or footer so they’re always visible:
- Phone Numbers
- Email Address
- Social Media Links
Outside of that basic contact information, almost every website will NEED a services or products page, an about page, and a contact form. The about page will not receive nearly as many visits as the services page, or contact information (whether in the header or on its own page) BUT it needs to be there to reassure your customers that you are a real, legitimate business (see point #1).
3. Building Community
Obviously the best place to build community is on social media. But if you blog, your website can be a great resource as well. Blogging is good for SEO and it’s also a great tool to get customers returning to your website regularly to read your new content.
Why is community so important?
Mere-exposure effect. What this means is that the more often you come into contact with something (a person, business, concept) the more you like it. In this case familiarity breeds comfort rather than contempt.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed when researching a product to buy and ended up choosing a familiar-sounding brand? I have.
We live in a world of choices. Sometimes way too many choices, and sometimes we just want something that feels familiar and safe. If you use your website (and blog) to build a community, that’s a network that will look to you for answers and, eventually, help solving their problems with your product or service.
I’m listing advertising last because SEO (search engine optimization) is such a tricky topic. You might be able to get to first page of search results for your keywords. But it will probably cost you some money, for an SEO expert and possibly PPC ads or various other Google SEO services.
While your website isn’t the absolute best tool for customer outreach, it is a pretty fantastic place to showcase your deals and offers. So advertising works very well in conjunction with community. You build your network and then, when someone shows interest, you send them to the relevant page on your site for all the information they may need.
This also works with social media offers and PPC (pay-per-click) ads. Alone, the ads can pique a potential customer’s interest, but they’ll want a legitimate, informative web page to get more information before they sign up. And that’s what your landing page should do. Reiterate the offer, explain its value, and then provide an action for your user to take.
And that’s really what it’s all about. You need a website because you need customers. Customers need reassurance that you’re who you say you are (credibility), to know how to reach you (information), to feel comfortable with you (community), and a call to action to get started (advertising).