In my networking adventures and other travels in the world of small business, I come across quite a few people who don’t have a website. To be honest, I’m a bit shocked when this happens. Unless you’ve got a constant set of clients, with new ones on the horizon to fill in any gaps if you lose one, then you’ll want to be findable.
When you think about getting the roof done, or finding a cleaner, or sourcing flowers for an event, or buying a product, where do you look?
Even if you look for a tradesperson on a Yellow Pages style website, I bet you like to have a URL to click through to, to look at their details. Right?
If you don’t have a website, even a single page with your name / company name and information about yourself, then what will people find when they search for you?
How do people search for companies, products or services?
People come to my website in one of four ways:
- They search for my name
- They search for my company name
- They search for something that I do
- They search for the answer to a question (“is it en route or on route?” “How do I repeat the header row of a Word document on every page?”)
This is what would happen if I didn’t have a website:
- If they search for my name, they’ll find my Twitter or Facebook feed, or photos of me socially, or mention of me on forums. All fine, but they’d probably rather find either my Facebook or my company information in one place
- If they search for my company name, they will find my Facebook or Twitter feed, however, those mention and feed back to my website, as they’re not enough in themselves to maintain interest and get me business
- If they search for something that I do, they’ll find someone else’s website and if they’re looking for someone to do that work, they’ll hire that someone else
- If they search for an answer to a question, someone else will answer it, and if they’re looking for someone to work for them, they’ll hire that someone else
This is what happens because I have a website:
- If they search for my name, they’ll find my website and my other feeds, which all link together. They’ll find out what I do and if they want to talk about work, they can contact me
- If they search for my company name, they’ll find my website, find out what I do, and possibly hire me, getting in touch via my contact form
- If they search for something that I do, they’ll find my website, find out that I do that, find references from people who I’ve done that for before, and possibly hire me – getting in touch via my contact form
- If they search for an answer to a question, if I can answer it, they’ll find out that I know what I’m talking about, and note me for later or sign up to receive emails when I post, and might hire me in time, or ask me a question or engage with my blog
The bare minimum
As a bare minimum, you should have a page somewhere that includes …
- Your name
- Your company name (if it’s different)
- A list of your services or products – make sure that you mention all of the forms of the things you do on that page (so I would include transcriber, transcription services, editor, editing, etc.)
- References from satisfied customers
- A way to get in touch with you – a contact form, a phone number (most people like to see this), an email address
- Professionally produced text – by which I really mean have someone check it for typos and spelling mistakes. Those will seriously undermine your reputation and send people running from your services – whatever they are
It’s a good idea to have your company name in the url for your website, but personally I don’t hold it against small companies if they have the word blogspot or wordpress in their URL – you don’t need to pay extra to have that if you don’t want to.
You can use a Facebook page as your company web page, however I would hesitate to ONLY use something that changes so often and is as unpredictable as Facebook. A company Facebook page is better than nothing, however!
You can add these extras if you want and if they add value. If you find that you’re getting a steady stream of enquiries via your simple website, and they turn into paying customers, then only add these items if you can see a clear value in doing so, rather than doing it out of vanity or because someone’s persuaded you to buy their service.
- A URL that’s just your company name – you will have to pay for this, probably renewing annually
- A professionally designed website – there are so many “themes” on offer that look as good as professional websites.
- A blog – this is GREAT for driving people to your website and setting you up as an expert in your field. If you only do one of these things, write a simple blog
- Someone to write web text and blog posts for you
- Search Engine Optimisation – a professional can ensure that you’re showing up in the search engines etc. But shop around – this can be expensive and there are lots of things you can do to SEO your site on your own (just have a little search engine search and see what you can find)
- A shopping cart and catalogue – very useful if you’re producing craft items or any tangibles – but you can sign up to services like Etsy and eBay which will do this for you
The big caveat
It’s really important to have a web presence so that people can find you.
It’s really important to be super-vigilant, because unscrupulous companies prey on small businesses’ lack of expertise in this area.
- Always ask around fellow small business owners or someone whose website you admire and see who they use
- If someone offers to make you top of the search engine results, ask what other sites they’ve worked on (always ask for references anyway) and do a search for yourself
- If someone offers to revolutionise your website and make you a millionaire overnight, they’re probably over-selling. Ask for references
- If someone offers to build your website make sure – no, MAKE SURE – that you will be able to edit and update the text and pictures on that website whenever you want to. Never hand over the full ownership of your site to another person such that you can’t update it yourself.
If you haven’t got a website, and you haven’t got a steady stream of new and regular customers giving you a good income stream, I really do suggest that you get a website!
Read more here about growing your business, have a look at my advice on blogging and social media, read about how to set up a WordPress blog and website (starting with this post) and read about my own business journey in my book, Going It Alone At 40.