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Does My Local Business Really Need a Website? Small Business Website Myths Revealed
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By Mark Kolier

When was the last time you used the yellow pages or any kind of phone book? We all have them (many of them) and there are times when it can be convenient -- if you know exactly what you are looking for. Hopefully you will even find a few worthwhile listings. But the ease of internet search (particularly Google and Yahoo) means that fewer people are using printed books when searching for products and services. So why would you continue putting your efforts and marketing dollars into advertising there?

The American economy, in times both good and bad, is driven by the success of small business. Yet so many small businesses do not have a good searchable website, or worse they have no website at all! I know that small business owners are among the busiest people, and I have heard some claim they do not have the time or financial wherewithal to develop a good website. This is a BIG mistake! Customers are continually searching the internet looking for products and services. And rightly or wrongly, they often judge whether or not to do business with your company on the basis of your website. Here are some small business website myths revealed:

1) It will cost tens of thousands of dollars to create a website. Not necessarily. There are plenty of excellent websites that can be produced for well under $10,000 and can help drive new customers to your business. However it is true that the more pages there are on your site (for those of you with a great deal of information to share), the greater is the investment.

2) I don’t have the staff to update the website. This is certainly a legitimate concern, since having an out-of-date website with tired content that is never updated is possibly worse than having no website at all. But many Content Management Systems (CMS) are so good now that it is an easy task to update the website – so easy that your 12-year old can probably help you do it!

3) My competition does not have a website so why would I need one? The other variation on this is when I hear “My industry isn’t into technology, so we don’t need a website.” It simply isn’t true. In fact, if you are seriously asking this question you probably are headed for either retirement or extinction.

4) I can get away with a simple, freebie website. All too often I see that a company has created a ‘brochure’ website. It has a Home page, About Us (maybe), Hours, Contact Us and perhaps a Company History. But since the web is such an interactive visual medium (not to mention the ability to really engage with sound) a brochure website is boring and not at all engaging.

5) I don’t have lots of frequently updated content for my website. Another way for you to avoid the ‘brochure’ website syndrome is to use things like photo galleries showing happy customers and employees, or a short video, like something that shows “behind the scenes” or the quality processes that go into your business. An interactive Q & A is another way to engage visitors.

6) All that SEO stuff is too hard to figure out. SEO or search engine optimization refers to using the words and phrases on your website that your customers will use when searching for the type of products and services you offer. Let’s say you are a dry cleaner and there are several competitors in your area. A new family moves into town, or an existing family is unhappy with their current drycleaner, and while they can ask people for a recommendation, chances are greater that they will search for a drycleaner on their own as well. What do you think will they type into the search engine? Often the search phrase will include the type of business you are in (dry cleaner) as well as your area, county or town. Create your own list of possible phrases, but an in-depth analysis of what people are actually doing (this can be done by your search marketing vendor) will probably surprise you. Having optimized keywords (one per page being best) will bring your site higher on Google and Yahoo. Having a website that is search optimized is fast becoming the single most important thing that can help your business.

So if you are a small business and have a less than great website or no website at all, you are missing a great opportunity to be there when potential new customers are looking for your product or service. And you are also missing an opportunity to tell your story in a fun and engaging manner. Customers are looking for what you have to offer. Will they find you?

About CGSM
CGSM is a privately held direct-marketing agency specializing in the marketing strategy, creative design and production of on-line and off-line direct marketing campaigns. Its media neutral approach and production skills combined with a focus on improved targeting make it possible for CGSM to offer a unique approach to customer acquisition and retention. For more information please visit www.cgsm.com.

Mark Kolier is the President and Founder of CGSM.
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