Websites have typically been the anchor for SMB digital services. A survey from InfusionSoft/LeadPages found that 71.6% of SMBs have a Website. Of these, 75% see them as a marketing vehicle.
For many SMBs, Websites remain highly relevant anchors for driving leads and showcasing relevant content and services– blogs, maps, photos, videos, event calendars and scheduling. Most critically, they play a major role in driving search ranking and in some cases, triggering ecommerce. They are also ideally optimized for mobile renderings.
The question for many SMBs is: how much Website do you need? Websites are hardly a “one size fits all” affair. In terms of complexity, they might be tiered as follows:
- Landing pages. These provide basic business and contact info. These are often triggered by specific promotions
- Template-driven Websites. These provide more of a home for SMBs, with a dedicated URL. They typically contain mostly static business information and images. There is some debate whether these mass produced sites are penalized by the search engines.
- Customized Websites. These typically use the Web as a marketing anchor, integrating marketing features and services. They generally provide a certain amount of personalized content and programming.
At the lower end, Websites can be an inexpensive commodity service. The template-based products by companies such as Wix, Web.com, Go Daddy and others are very serviceable and provide many of the things that a typical SMB needs. SMBs need to watch out for template-based services, however, because they stand the risk of being seen as copycat sites by the search engines, and downgraded.
SMBs also need to consider their need to maintain independence from their Website provider – and take their Website and content elsewhere if they find a better solution. Some Website providers do not allow transfers of URLs and content, and they require use of a dedicated telephone line that goes through the provider.
At the higher levels, Websites are likely to be more customized. They are also more likely to act as a “responsive” hub for all kinds of marketing. In this way, they are natural successors to the old Yellow Pages. In fact, the Yellow Pages companies are among the top providers of these premium Websites.
Dex Media’s “DexHub," for instance, includes a website, social media marketing, business listing/reputation management, customer relationship management, text marketing, and appointment scheduling. Other premium Website providers include small business online marketing specialists, such as ReachLocal, Yodle and HubSpot.
Ultimately, the development and maintenance of a Website is a strategic decision for SMBs. In making their choices, SMBs need to weigh whether they need a simple solution that will give the information they need to walk through their door; or – if they are done effectively -- a complex marketing solution that will act as a sales and marketing solution in itself.