Contrary to Growing Speculation: Local Businesses Still Need a Website

Kickoff Facts:

  • Local businesses should still have a website in order to sustain high SEO, brand recognition, and organic link building.
  • 97% of consumers conducted an online search of a local business in the previous year. However, less people cared about visiting the actual website.
  • Last year, the average click-through rate for the top rankings on Google fell down 37%, indicating that fewer users are interested in clicking on local business websites.

Maintaining an online presence is an essential practice for businesses that strive to reach large audiences on the web. Therefore, many businesses forge their online presence by creating a website. From local businesses to worldwide conglomerates, websites provide consumers with a variety of information that can be used to influence consumer action. Also, websites supply local businesses with a wide array of SEO benefits that can increase its chances of gaining organic traffic, which can then be converted into leads and potential sales.

Nonetheless, there is a growing speculation among local businesses owners that a website isn’t necessary for the outward promotion of their business, and that there are other online methods that can alternatively stimulate the same results as a fully-functional website. As you will learn by the end of this article, local businesses still need a website, regardless of this speculation.

Is a Local Website Optional?

Believe it or not, there is actually some truth to the assumption that local businesses do not need a website to succeed online. According to the CNBC|SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey in 2017, approximately 45% of small businesses lack a website. In fact, the 37% percent of local businesses that possess a website only use it to share news with their customers and other potential clientele.

While it may seem preposterous that nearly half of small businesses do not possess a website, it may actually be a fair argument to believe the former, and there are many reasons why it is entirely plausible to do so. To begin, the value of Google rankings has dropped significantly in the previous year. Per Wordstream, the average click-through rate for the #1 Google search ranking has decreased by 37%.

Therefore, if the value of Google’s top rankings are low, the businesses that occupy these rankings could be missing out on meaningful organic traffic flow and prospective customers. As a result, many local businesses could be turned off from the prospect of building their own website. Rightfully so, the aforementioned data provides enough substance to suggest that consumers don’t regularly look for local business websites. Though, there are other reasons why local businesses may forgo the installation of a website.

Numerous local businesses instead opt to enlist the services of Facebook pages and Yelp listings to maintain an online presence. After all, both methods connect with online users who may want to learn more about a local business in their area. Hence, a website may not be a necessary asset for a small business, but there is still much more basis to this theory.

Google is Changing the Game

As Google becomes more personalized to the search requests and demands of its users, businesses will constantly receive promotion on the world’s largest search engine. In previous years, local businesses had to possess a website in order to reach prospective customers online. Now, it’s much more simpler for businesses to be showcased on Google due to some stunning improvements.

For example, if an individual is searching for the best donuts in their area, all they have to do is perform a quick Google search, and they will receive an exhaustive list of restaurants via Google Maps.

Google Maps Website

By using this method, an Internet user can find search results that satisfies their intent without having to visit the website of a local business. Although, users can freely access websites through these listings, it has become much easier to gain information through Google Maps.

As a matter of fact, mobile users may not be tempted to visit the websites of local businesses they are interested in, mainly because they can just call the business through these listings to receive the information they need. Consequently, this type of interaction is beneficial for small businesses who can acquire leads without a website.

Moreover, the recent rise of Google My Business is suitable proof that traditional websites may be going out of style. Local business owners can create their own Google My Business listing for free, and receive a mobile version of this listing as well.

As of January 2018, Google announced the possibility of adding “action buttons” to a Google My Business listing, which can include actions such as “call us”, “message us”, and “get directions”. These features can supply web users with enough information to make a consumer decision, which can defeat the entire purpose of a traditional website.

Google My Business also has some other defining features that can somewhat take the place of a website. Since November 2017, this platform has allowed businesses to create their own business descriptions, such as “mexican food” or “a variety of mexican food”. Further, Google My Business allows customers to view food menus from its platform, rather than accessing the business’ website.

Additionally, Google My Business allows business owners to post news and updates straight to its platform, which appeared to be the sole reason why many small businesses used their websites in the first place. Google My Business Q&As is a platform that allows prospective customers to ask questions that can be seen and answered directly by the business owner.

All of these features of Google My Business, as well as the decreased value of top search results on Google, has prompted the belief that local businesses do not need websites to obtain an online presence.

While it is a valid argument that websites may not be essential marketing tools for local businesses, it is also true that websites provide incredible SEO benefits and results that cannot be replicated by any other means.

Websites are Critical for Local SEO

It may be possible to rank in local listings without a website, but the process of doing so is actually very difficult. The widespread use of mobile and voice search has made local SEO a hot commodity among local businesses. Without a website, local businesses will find it difficult to obtain visibility in search engines for a variety of reasons. One of the most important reasons for the former is because Google search is becoming smarter.

As discussed in Google’s 2018 I/O Conference, machine learning is becoming a vital part of Google’s new search algorithm. Essentially, machine learning is the process in which machines can learn new information. The impact of this new focus is tremendous, to say the least. In the broadest sense, machine learning will make it possible for Google to accurately present its users with the most relevant search results pertaining to their inquiry.

It’s impossible to predict how Google will do this right now, but Google could automatically reject local businesses without a website and rank the businesses that possess a website significantly higher. With new studies being published about the impact of machine learning on SERP rankings, it’s safe to say that a professional website can make it easier for local businesses to be ranked well by Google’s ever-changing search algorithm.

Consumers Continue to Regularly Visit Websites

website graphic

Despite the earlier trends mentioned in this article that suggest that the click-through rates of top Google websites has decreased, it’s still a proven fact that consumers prefer to shop at a local business that has a website. According to the Digital Consumer Study conducted by the Local Search Association, approximately 63% of consumers used a website to collect more information from a local business. Also, these consumers used a website to interact with the business.

Regardless of Google My Business’ new features, visiting websites is a common practice among consumers who may be interested in a particular service or product. The reason why is because consumers want to receive all the information they can about a local business before they make a decision to purchase.

Google listings and other optimized information on search results can expedite this process, but consumers are usually more comfortable viewing a website before they make a decision to buy.  Therefore, in order to reach prospective customers and provide them with extensive information about your business, building your own website is your key to gaining consumer trust.

Websites Promote Link Building

Link building is commonly referred to as the “web’s currency”. The aggregation of links is essential for obtaining referrals and boosting your SEO. However, possessing a business website makes this process much easier for local businesses. For example, if you operate a local advertising agency, it makes sense that you want to indirectly promote your business throughout the web. This promotion comes naturally as satisfied individuals and businesses use your website’s link to rave about your services and refer your business to other people.

Though, what happens if you don’t have a website? What if you only have a My Google Business listing instead of an actual link to your website? Not only is this blatantly unprofessional in the eyes of prospective customers, but the lack of a website can severely inhibit your chances of obtaining exposure online through link building. The collection of links across the web can lead to potential leads and revenue for your local business, and the only way you can take advantage of this is by building your own website.

Website Content Improves Online Relevance

If achieving widespread online local visibility is one of your goals, you should be focused on generating useful content on your website to improve your online relevance. Of course, your website is the only effective method of hosting your own unique content. As a result, you can receive backlinks, organic traffic, and local visibility if you can create useful content that becomes viral online.

Your Website Represents Your Brand

Regardless of your niche, it’s nearly impossible to build your brand without a website. Your website is essentially your online image. Also, your website can serve as your storefront and your personal office. If your local business appeals to B2B and B2C customers, it’s very important to have a website so you can showcase your business’ identity and culture to any prospective client.

Your website also gives you the opportunity to display what makes your business truly unique. Google listings may be a convenient way for potential customers to view your business, but millions of businesses already use this method to market their brand. A personalized website can encourage customers to learn more about your business and eventually purchase your service or product.

Your Website is Your Portal for Customer Service

There is a growing trend where many modern consumers utilize social media for customer service. Granted, social media is quicker than some forms of traditional customer support methods. However, this method isn’t practical, especially if the comments of numerous customers can be seen on your social media page.

Having your own website will allow you to handle your customer service privately and efficiently. Also, you can create a useful FAQs page on your site to quickly give customers the information they are looking for and completely expedite the customer service process. Nonetheless, your website is the best way to engage in customer service for your local business.

The Verdict

Although Google’s constant developments have made it easier for local businesses to distribute information to potential customers, these personalized experiences are not an effective substitute for a business website. While Facebook pages, Google listings, and other online directories are important for your local visibility, your website is the greatest marketing tool for your business

In the foreseeable future, there is bound to be numerous new improvements to Google’s search algorithms, and it’s entirely plausible to assume that Google will continue to give users a countless amount of information about local businesses. Be that as it may, there lacks a strong indication to reasonably convince anyone that websites will be replaced by any online method as the premier online image for local businesses.

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