A couple of weeks ago I was visiting my parents and we were trying choose a restaurant for dinner. I’m something of a picky eater, so we wanted to check out menus online before making a reservation. I was totally astounded when we couldn’t locate a website for their top choice. Had I not been web savvy and determined, we would have simply crossed it off our list and moved on. However, I employed one of my favorite tricks: I used the Google Image Search to find a current menu, which happened to be posted by the marketing firm that designed the menu. (To try this trick yourself, go to image search and type “{Restaurant Name} {city} menu” into the search box. It works just about every time.) The menu looked good; we ended up eating there, and had a lovely meal. But I wonder how many people would have taken that extra step to hunt down the menu, and how much business the place lost due simply to not having a website.

All of which brings us back to a startling statistic: Though 97% of consumers search online for products and services, according to the 2014 SCORE Customer Friendly Websites infographic , only 51% of small businesses had websites. A newer January, 2015 survey of over 14 million businesses (of all sizes) by the US Census bureau paints an even more astounding picture, reporting that only 24.8% of them have websites.

Why don’t these small businesses have websites? According to a research compilation from Statistic Brain, the following are the most often cited reasons:

  • Business currently does not need one (41 %)
  • Cost (19 %)
  • Lack of time (16 %)
  • Other (10 %)
  • Too complex (9 %)
  • Business will never need one (4 %)
  • Not sure (1 %)

If your business falls in that 49% (or 75.2%!) without an online presence, ditch the excuses and get a website. You really do need one, even if your business has only a local or regional customer base. According to the SCORE infographic:

  • 91% of people have visited a store because of an online experience.
  • 37% of people use the internet to find a local business at least once per month.
  • 70% of internet users read online reviews and compared prices before going to a store to make a purchase.

While launching a website for your small business may seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. You don’t need to hit the ground at a dead run and create a giant site right off the bat. To start, make sure your site has the basics:

  • A domain that fits your business. (Ideally, yourcompany.com if it is available. If not, see the September 2014 Tip post What’s in a Small Business Name? for tools that can help you pick a domain name.)
  • Your company name and ideally (but not critically) a logo.
  • Full contact information including:
    • Street/Mailing Address
    • Phone Number
    • Email Address
    • Hours
    • Website Address (yes they are at your site already, but visitors may have arrived via a search engine or other external link without noting your actual domain name)

  • A description of your company and the goods and/or services you provide.
  • At least one picture—your store front, your team, your products, etc. (See this post for stats proving that pictures increase engagement.)
  • Pricing. This includes actual prices for flat rate items, or hourly rates for service providers. Even if your rates vary, including a range gives customers a good idea of what to expect.
  • Information your customers will find critical. This will differ based on your type of business, but may include things like:

Once you have your basic content created, it is time to find a small business website provider. There is no dearth of those, but particularly for your first website, you’ll want to find a full-service provider that will:

  • Help you register a domain
  • Host and maintain your website
  • Provide an easy to use design tool with pre-made templates
  • Include tools to help you get your site indexed by search engines
  • Offer at least basic reports on website usage (such as number of page views and visitors per day, week, and month)

The following are some good low-cost places to start, but just about any hosting provider that meets the above criteria will fit the bill.

  • GoDaddy
    With their Website Builder product you can launch a small website for an introductory rate of $1 per month ($12 for the first year), that includes registration of your domain, a website building tool, templates, 1GB of disk space, 150 MB bandwidth, reports, free Office 365 email, and 24/7 email and phone support. Rates go up in subsequent years, but you can choose to lock in $2.99 per month ($35.88/year) for 3 years when you order. Secure pages, an online store, and search engine tools cost extra.
  • Arvixe
    Their basic “Personal Class” plan provides a huge suite of design and management features including domain registration, unlimited storage and bandwidth, unlimited email accounts, a “5-Minute” website builder with templates, robust reporting tools, an online store, and most importantly 24/7 support via email and phone. The service costs $3.20 per month when you sign up for 2 years ($76.70 total for the 2 years), or $4 per month ($48/year) if you buy a year at a time.
  • See The Best Small Business Web Hosting Services for 2015 from PC Magazine for additional options and a Top 10 comparison by feature for Arvixe, GoDaddy and eight other choices.

If you’re still hesitant, because you think you’re not tech savvy enough to use the tools provided by the hosting services, you can hire someone to do it for you. If you have teenage children or young employees they can probably take care of it (and will likely find it a fun job). You could also contact a local high school; your website may be a perfect project for the students, or you may be able to hire a budding designer at a very reasonable rate. You could also take the time to learn yourself. Most of the tools come with online tutorials that you can study at your own pace.

So, what are you waiting for? For as little as $12 up-front and a bit of time, you can launch a website for your small business. You will probably be surprised at the good feedback you get from your current customers, and at the new customers you will attract.

Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I'm the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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