With 97% of consumers searching online for local businesses today, websites are an essential part of a small businesses marketing efforts. There are three common types of small business websites – we think you should probably have type number three. Which type do you have?
1. A Placeholder Website
When the internet first started to develop, having a website for your business was a novelty that few people indulged. In fact there were so few websites that Yahoo got its start in 1994 by creating a hierarchical list of sites to help you find your way around the internet (this was a viable alternative to a search engine at the time).
The websites that began to appear at this time were extremely simple and can best be described as, “look at me, I’m on the internet”. The structure and content that businesses would put up were extremely varied because standard structures really hadn’t developed.
Businesses certainly did start to get found on the internet, but a website for a small business was really more of a novelty than anything else. Unlike today, it wasn’t one of the first places that people went to look for a business.
Today, these sites are still common and are readily recognizable by their limited size, limited visual appeal, and limited function. They are static, images are small and limited, and there just isn’t that much information about the business. There certainly is not enough information to help complete a sale, and they do little beyond allowing you to see that a business exists and how to get in touch with them (if you can find the website in the first place – depending upon the uniqueness of the business name these websites generally rank quite poorly in Google).
As the internet progressed, connection speeds improved and software that allowed the development of more aesthetically appealing websites (such as Flash) became widely available. With this technology came the birth of the “brochureware” website. Now it was possible to make websites look much more like a beautiful printed brochure, with little bits of motion or animated graphics as an extra plus.
One of the downsides of these “pretty” websites was and continues to be the fact that search engines can’t “read” them. Google looks at the text and links on websites in addition to some more technical elements like page titles, all of which is significantly more difficult/impossible for Google to read on a Flash website.
The other problem that developed with brochureware websites was a tremendous amount of difficulty editing them. Just like a printed brochure, small changes to the text or basic layout changes could completely destroy the look and feel of the website. In addition to this, the technical skills required to make a Flash website are significantly greater than those skills possessed by people who are not web designers.
3. Functional Websites
The third type of website that has developed can be broadly categorized as the functional website. These sites can vary significantly regarding the focus of their functionality, but the commonality is that they all enable some type of function to occur beyond just looking good. Three key types of functions that have developed are (many websites perform more than one of these functions):
– E-commerce – these websites allow a sale to occur without a human getting involved in the process.
– Lead generation – these websites are designed to generate leads for a business through a combination of web forms, tracked phone lines, and offers.
The great thing about functional websites is that they maximize the ability of your website to contribute to the bottom line of the business. They adapt and change over time and ensure that you maximize the chances of completing a transaction with your website visitors. It may be instant, or it may involve a sales process, but in either case, your website is playing an important role in the process.
At ThriveHive we think that a great website is critical to almost any small business. If you’re going to spend the time or money, or more likely both, to get a website, we recommend getting a functional website. If you need help figuring out what type of website you have or how to make some forward progress towards a functional website we would be happy to help. Contact a small business marketing consultant at ThriveHive who can help you better understand the options and the pros and cons of each approach.