With the rise of Social Media and business profile pages being offered everywhere online, I have been asked on a couple of occasions recently if there is any future in a business or organisation having its own website.
I know..! This sound like a silly question to most small businesses that are struggling to survive; having been advised countless times by online marketing professionals that every business needs a good website if they are going to rank against competitors on Google and other Search Engines.
It isn’t so surprising though that small business owners are asking if having their developing website is really worth it. The costs involved in setup and hosting, as well as web designer fees can seem a lot. Even with a SiteBuilder there are often hidden “addons” and ever increasing monthly price plans once that promo or free trial has ended. Then we see large international third party online services taking over such as TripAdvisor for accommodation, or Just Eat for takeaway restaurants for example; I’ve met with many business owners in the hospitality and service sectors who feel they no longer have any control. They are worried to be at the mercy of unfair customer reviews ruining their business reputation, or booking commission fees spiralling out of control.
Don’t panic, and more importantly don’t give up. We need to remember that the Internet is for all of us. A business CAN survive from a Facebook profile alone and there is nothing wrong with that, but the Internet’s historical growth was always mainly due to its freedoms not its costs! Freedoms of both sharing information and the platform for any business or organisation to freely promote itself. The Internet’s main rise in userbase and as a primary source of information will never be lost, no matter how many large corporations build membership and profile-based websites. With that in mind, why would anyone want to put their own business solely in the hands of third party companies?
The original freedoms that gave birth to the Internet still stand and in those lie the beauty of owning your very own website.
Why A Business Still Needs Its Own Website
There are six main advantages to such freedoms which I always try to advise clients about when considering if a new website build will be worth it:
- You Control Your Website
There are no guarantees who will stay and who will go on the Internet. Large companies such as Facebook may be popular now, but we all used similar Social Networking services in the past without expecting that our MySpace accounts would one day be lying dormant… A lot of time and energy goes into building a great Social Network profile, at least spending that time on your own website means you can carry that content over to newer and rebranded websites that may follow. Best of all, you at get to decide when that happens!
- Internet Marketing Without Vested Interests
The big Internet Marketing portals, Review sites or Social Networks attract us with free accounts and the promises of a platform to promote our business (which is great). The problem comes a few years down the line however, when these companies with over 1 million users logging into their free website really need to start making money. All of a sudden there is a catch, and your business page on that once free website suddenly contains Ads, is limited in functionality unless upgraded, or you start being bombarded with emails and marketing from other websites.
Your very own website only promotes your business and will only ever need to.
- for SEO, Content Is King
Search Engine algorithms are constantly updated and refined, new guidelines from Google are also published alongside with what they consider good content.
With your very own website you can choose to use as many SEO techniques as you wish, update the SEO in place periodically and change your website software to meet any new criteria, such as adding a Mobile/Tablet responsive design for example.
The same sadly can’t be said for using a third party site, Website Site Builder or Social Network. Your content should be yours to publish as much or little as you like. But third party sites may restrict the amount of images you can upload, whether they can have SEO friendly filenames or descriptions and other on-page SEO elements such as headings or meta tags.
If you own your own bespoke built website there is always a developer or SEO consultant at hand to help with any changes needed, or you have the option to update things yourself after doing a little research.
- Don’t Get Locked In Or Tied Down
With your own website you can choose to change hosting providers if there is a price increase. Similarly you can hire a different website designer if you’re unhappy with your old one. But if you use a third party company solely for your online presence there is no way to make such a change. You may be stuck on their website without any options to move your files or content somewhere else and you can also be tied-in to future contracts, minimal terms or monthly fees.
Surprisingly using a DIY SiteBuilder can be just as bad. The amount of times I’ve logged into a service such as SquareSpace, GoDaddy, Wix, Weebly, 1&1 etc to help a client transfer their website to a new provider and I’ve been with met with the news that “This website cannot be transferred from our service.” is quite shocking. So that website you paid for and you think you own isn’t actually yours at all if you wish to move it?!
Unlock your business from these shackles by running your website yourself.
- Better Branding & Professional Image
One of the most important reasons why it is still vitally important for a business to have their own website designed and hosted is down to brand identity. This will never change. I know myself, when I see a tradesperson’s van graphics or small business advert and the copy uses an AOL email address or Weebly/Wix web URL it never seems to look as stylish or professional as branded domain. It’s a similar feeling when a mobile phone number is listed rather than a landline. Potential customers don’t like anything that looks risky, and just as mobile phone numbers are seen as temporary, Hotmail or Social Network links are also regarded to be in some way less valid or legitimate too.
- Stay In Control of Your Marketing Budget
With Social Network advertising, Adwords and PPC – it is always more cost effective to have your own website with good organic search results. Trying to obtain an internet presence without your own website will always mean paying out for advertising, especially if competition is fierce. At least with a self-owned business website the budget is yours to adjust, with no nasty surprises or new fees or policies being introduced as they can be in someone else’s hands.
Mixed Online Marketing & SEO
I hope the above points help to show why more than ever owning your own business website is vitally important. There should be no wrong or right way on the Internet. The tools and third parties are all there to be used as any user sees fit. I more than anyone agree on the importance of using any resources available to help promote your business, using a mixture of resources as well as your own website is always best with online B2B marketing if you are looking to get to the top of Google.
Whatever you decide to do for your business, don’t give up on your own website. After all, without the many billions of individual websites in existence across the World Wide Web we would barely even have an Internet at all.