Many people do not fully understand the value a solidly built, regularly maintained, fully optimized website provides to a business. Assume that it’s a non-essential item, something nice to have, like a new iPad or season tickets to the theater. If my parents’ small business didn’t have a website, why does mine need one, they think.
The problem, of course, is that the world has changed significantly. The vast majority of people shop in places they are relatively anonymous. Most people aren’t working alongside their neighbors and friends on the line either, shooting the breeze all day about the wonders of their new 8-track deck. Still, to the average person, the ability that a good website has to reach and entice new customers is a bit of a fuzzy concept, so let’s break it down with an analogy.
Imagine you are reading a magazine and see a new spring outfit you like that you think you can find at the local mall, so you get in your car and drive there. You park and walk in. You may know where you want to begin your search, but perhaps you want to window shop a bit as well. The anchor stores with their bright, trademarked logos greet you first, but other great (perhaps even better) boutiques are tucked away in the hallways that you’ve never explored. But say you are just going to walk around and browse to see what’s available. All around you are kiosks and signs advertising other spring merchandise – hats, sandals, scarves, pretty pastel purses – available for sale in a shop you’ve never visited before. So you check the mall map, find your new destination and go check it out. After that exercise, you’re hungry, so you drop by the muffin shop. The person in line in front of you is talking about the fabulous spring sale going on in another part of the mall – somewhere else to check out!
Most of us are familiar with the mall experience and how it lures you with its siren mall song to lighten your wallet and fill up your bags. They do not see how a good website accomplishes the same thing.
Let’s change the scenario a little. You are still reading that magazine, but you are reading it online this time. So instead of driving and parking at the mall, you go to Google and type in your search terms – item, product, service or company. Does what you are searching for come up right away? Do you see it on page 1 of your search or do you have to click on page after page to get to it? Page 5 of your internet search would compare to that hallway in the mall you did not know existed. So what do you do? Do you wander about aimlessly through the mall or do you do go with what comes up early in your search? If you are like most people, you will likely find something on page 1 to explore.
Why do some web pages have anchor store real estate in web searches? There are a number of reasons. Think of this as Google Ads as sale announcements for the sandals you want. Google takes notice of what you are interested in and brings up more of it for you to see. The top three websites Google lists as well as the advertisements on the right are all paid for ads vying for the attention of the browser. All of the other websites listed on page one show up because of factors not related to paid advertising. Reviews and testimonials found online from Amazon to Yelp act as your muffin shop word-of-mouth referrals, giving candid information and the exact location of the product you want (link to your site). Think of links and blogs online as the ads you walk by in the mall. They are saying, yes, visit this site: it has what you are looking for. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ are additional customer service, friendly and encouraging.
Mall businesses pay to develop, print, and distribute them, just as they pay higher rents for premium retail space and higher wages for better customer service representatives. When companies choose wisely what to spend their marketing resources on, they reap the benefits in greater sales and higher profits. It works the same online.
Your website may be great, but if it’s located in a far off corridor no one has heard of, it won’t get any traffic. Without word of mouth from blogs, articles, reviews or social media, no one will hear of it. Without the lure of Google Ads campaigns, people will not think to visit. Yes, all of this costs money and has to be done consciously, expertly, but, just like brick-and-mortars stores, online stores make more money with proper positioning and marketing.
Now ask yourself: Is my website channeling customers toward my business, or is it sitting in online obscurity losing money and missing opportunities?
Contact Tom directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 616-426-9303.