Not hav­ing a web­site may be killing your small busi­ness

Only 51% of firms have one, and many of those lack ba­sic in­for­ma­tion

The Dallas Morning News - - ENTREPRENEURS - Lex­ing­ton Her­ald-Leader

There is a dig­i­tal di­vide be­tween small busi­nesses and con­sumers.

Only 51 per­cent of small busi­nesses have web­sites, ac­cord­ing to the Score As­so­ci­a­tion, a Herndon, Va.-based non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion of small-busi­ness coun­selors and men­tors sup­ported by the Small Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Among small busi­nesses that do have web­sites, many are lack­ing ba­sic site com­po­nents such as a phone num­ber, phys­i­cal ad­dress, email ad­dress or so­cial me­dia ac­counts.

To add to the prob­lem, 4 in 5 con­sumers have used a smart­phone to shop, yet 93 per­cent of small-busi­ness web­sites are not op­ti­mized for mo­bile.

This dig­i­tal di­vide is hurt­ing small busi­nesses.

The own­ers of th­ese busi­nesses give many rea­sons they don’t have web­sites: They don’t think they need one, it costs too much, they don’t have enough time, it’s too com­plex.

But they’re miss­ing a huge chance to con­nect with cus­tomers. Ninety-one per­cent of con­sumers have vis­ited a store fol­low­ing an on­line ex­pe­ri­ence, and 37 per­cent use the In­ter­net to find a store at least once per month.

While you can go the do-ity­our­self route, it may be bet­ter to hire a pro­fes­sional web­site de­signer to cre­ate a site or au­dit your cur­rent page.

Michael McCranie, founder of the small busi­ness-fo­cused web­site de­sign firm Type3We­bDe­sign.com, sug­gests the fol­low­ing when look­ing for a Web de­sign firm:

The con­tract should be pro­ject-based, not hourly, and should spell out what the firm is do­ing in de­tail, such as who is pro­vid­ing con­tent for the site, what con­tent man­age­ment sys­tem is be­ing used and what the cre­at­ing de­sign stan­dards will be.

The con­tract should spell out that the small busi­ness, not the web­site de­sign firm, re­tains own­er­ship of the web­site, in­clud­ing con­tent and do­main name.

The de­sign firm should be able to pro­vide the small busi- ness with cus­tomer ref­er­ences and links to its work on ac­tive web­sites.

The firm should lis­ten and be re­spon­sive.

A web­site can be as sim­ple or as elab­o­rate as you want; how­ever, the most im­por­tant fac­tor is that it pro­vides value to your con­sumers.

McCranie said a good web­site should: Be visu­ally ap­peal­ing. Share great con­tent above the fold, or be­fore users have to scroll.

In­clude con­tact in­for­ma­tion such as email ad­dress, phone num­ber and phys­i­cal ad­dress on ev­ery page.

Load each web­site page in un­der four sec­onds; two to three sec­onds is ideal.

In­clude a reg­u­larly up­dated blog.

Be mo­bile-ready so it can be viewed on all devices.

Search en­gine op­ti­miza­tion is vi­tal to help con­sumers find your web­site. It’s im­por­tant to in­vest in it be­cause it can help to drive tons of new busi­ness, said Grant Kantsios of the Char­lotte-based Kantsios Con­sult­ing.

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