This article was originally published on May 17, 2019. It was updated on May 12, 2021.
Having an online presence has never been more accessible – or more important – for small business owners. But a question we see a lot is, “Can my small business get by with just a Google My Business listing or do I need a website?”
While small business owners are busy and would like to streamline their marketing as much as possible, the fact is that you do still need a website.
Here are seven reasons why a website is critical to small business success:
It’s 2021 and the reality is that having a website for your business is as basic as having a phone number. One study found that 70% of consumers feel it’s important for a small business to have a website. Another study says 30% won’t even consider a business that doesn’t have a website. And yet another study found that 68% of consumers think every small business should have a blog – not just a website.
People are accustomed to searching the internet to learn more about a company they are interested in. Having a customized website gives you an opportunity to give customers a sneak peek into your business before they physically walk in the door. Your small business website can show off your location in the community, have multimedia, sell your products, tell your story, link to your social media pages, share contact information and much more. Your website can be whatever you want it to be.
Customer expectations matter. Don’t disappoint people before they even show up because without a website, some of them won’t show up at all.
Consider including high-quality images and video, testimonials, employee profiles, and your company's history on your site so your customers get a sense of authenticity to your brand.1
A little over half of all small businesses have a website. If you don’t have a website but your competitor does, a prospective customer can go to your competitor’s site and learn almost everything they need to know.
On your competitor’s website, the prospective customer will be able to read their detailed “About Us” page and watch a video from the owner. The customer will be able to sign up for your competitor’s newsletter or read testimonials. They may be able to fill out a contact form, schedule an appointment, or calculate how much a particular service might cost. They might even place an order.
They’ll be able to do all that and more on your competitor’s site. If you only have a Google My Business listing, you’ll be missing out on all those amazing opportunities to serve and delight your customers. Not to mention the possibility of gathering their information to keep in touch and encourage return visits.
Even just a few years ago, the process of setting up a website was much more complicated than it is today. You would need to hire a designer and a coder, figure out how to buy a domain, point that domain to a server, set up and maintain security, and more. Nowadays, if you can handle something as complex as getting your taxes filed, making your own website is a breeze.
If you don’t need an intricate site, a website builder is probably the right fit for your small business. Website builders are easy to use on your own and will help you build a site quickly. It allows you to drag and drop text and images into templates – no coding required. Some website builders include a domain name, hosting and other perks for a low monthly fee, so they’re easy on the wallet too.
Google made their GMB listings fast and easy to set up, but building your own website is just as simple. If you have all the information and photographs you used to set up your listing, you’ve got the elements of a website already.
Elements of your online strategy probably include Google My Business, a Facebook page (and other social media accounts), business listings, and more. But it’s important that all your initiatives be tied to one official hub: your website. Without a website, your marketing tactics are disconnected. There’s no one place where you fully control the look and feel of your brand and your brand voice.
This is just as true for your offline marketing efforts. From business cards to flyers to in-store material and more, everything your customers interact with should have your website on it. If they want to return for more information, give them a central hub to do so. All roads should point to home!
Remember to keep your website updated with relevant information and add it to all your online properties (Google My Business, Facebook, Instagram, business listings, etc). Use the areas where your brand is present as additional opportunities to point people to your website for the full brand experience. Beware of typos, especially on printed material as they can be costly to replace.
Google My Business listings are a hub where you can gather and manage reviews, get your business on Google Maps, and help people learn important information about your business. There’s no question that Google My Business listings are a great resource for small businesses. We encourage you to get your own listing and optimize it to maximize its potential.
But on the flipside, Google has a long history of “modifying” some of their products on the fly. Just ask anyone who does local SEO and they’ll tell you that Google is constantly changing which elements appear in the search results, including how the Google my Business listing program is implemented.
Google also reserves the right to remove your Google My Business listing if they find something they don’t like in your profile. That’s not likely to happen if you play by the rules, but it can happen, and it can be detrimental for a small business. Additionally, it’s possible for your competitors to edit your Google My Business listing, which is an obvious issue to keep in mind and monitor.
So, as great as the Google My Business program is, always remember: You don’t have absolute control over your Google My Business listing. Google does.
While Google My Business is a quick and convenient way to get critical information about a business fast (especially on mobile), sometimes customers want more information to make a choice. Without a website, those customers can’t learn more about your business and you won’t be on their radar.
While Google does own most of the search engine market share, you can’t discredit other popular search engines like Bing. A properly optimized website can rank on different search engines, but a Google My Business listing will only ever show up on Google.
There are also other business listings that you can take advantage of. Make sure that you list your relevant business directories and that your information in accurate and up-to-date.
Google My Business listings are not fully customizable and are limited to the fields Google provides. With a website, you can do just about anything you want to. Even drag and drop website templates are customizable and can reflect all the unique parts of your brand in a way a GMB listing can’t.
Websites offer valuable functionalities to help your business grow. A few examples are:
Detailed business information
Direct purchases (including gift cards)
Job application submission
Business, founder, and employee stories
Links to social media
Google My Business listings are an important part of your overall online strategy. However, a website is the core element to a successful strategy and the glue that binds it all together. A website is the face of your brand and a direct line for your customers. It gives you the opportunity to inform, delight, engage and keep in touch with new and old customers alike.
It’s never been easier or more affordable to build a website. Your customers expect it, and it gives you a much-needed competitive edge. Use a website in conjunction with all your marketing efforts to maximize your presence and to grow your business.