A Capital One survey of 400 small businesses in 2016 found that only 56 percent have a company website. And only 53 percent of those were mobile-optimized. Put differently, fewer than 30 percent of small businesses surveyed had a mobile-optimized website, which is critical for local searches.

 Today, many believe that websites are no longer effective in the local market place. The conflict is the competition for relevancy in a market with so many other media platforms, like: social media sites, directories and review sites, which are often viewed as a viable substitute for websites.

 A survey conducted by the Local Search Association shows social media dominating the small business arena. Almost 43 percent of small businesses surveyed indicated that they would chose social media if they could only select one form of online marketing. According to the survey, Social Media was almost twice that of SEO, which ranked second at 25.6 percent. This preference would explain why social media like Facebook are considered a substitute for a website.

 Small businesses surveyed

Other substitute social media include directory listings, which contain sufficient information to satisfy most customers. Third-party websites with multiple functions such as e-commerce, online booking and reviews attract a bigger and broader audience than an individual website. Even Google and Bing web pages, profiles and snack-pack listings take away search traffic from a lone website.

 A study conducted by Wordstream show a median click-through-rate (CTR) from a #1 result on Google is down 37 percent over the last two years. That seems to support the theory that fewer customers are visiting websites and are instead relying on social media.

 While the data above appears to support social media and other third-party websites as a substitute to a business website, other data (there is always other data) reveal a different story. Local searches for local business have evolved into their own category. Every local business especially small businesses needs a company website for local search marketing as the following 5 facts will attest.

 First, consumers use search engines and websites to find or engage with local businesses.

Because so many consumers rely solely on the web to help them find new companies, a business’s website can make or break its success in securing new leads. In many ways web searches have replaced word-of-mouth referrals that were once the bread and butter of small businesses.

 According to a Local Search Association report dated April 2017, “The Digital Consumer Study,”  websites were the second most used media to help find local businesses. Only two forms of media were used by the majority of consumers: search engines and company websites. These two forms of media are inseparable when it comes to local searches.

 63 percent of the time, consumers use search engines and websites to find or engage with businesses. And while it’s thought that the large variety of media available to consumers would decrease website use, the survey shows an increase over 2015’s 60 percent rate.

 In summary, these numbers indicate that despite the growth of other media, the value of websites have not declined, in fact, just the opposite has occurred. While Wordstream’s study showed a decline in Click Through Rate from Google Search Engine Results Pages, consumers are making up the difference by clicking through websites listed by other sources such as Yelp, YellowPages.com, Google My Business listings and Bings Places for Business. 

Second, websites influence local snack-pack and Google maps search results.

According to pros like Moz, the biggest influence on local search ranking is a business’s Google My Business (GMB) profile and the proximity of the searcher to the local business. However, an optimized GMB does not guarantee that a business will rank for a listing in Google’s snack pack or on map results.

Furthermore, the fact that proximity, physical address and GMB business category rank as the top 3 factors in Moz’s local pack ranking, Google often lists businesses that are not in the initial search area while omitting results that would otherwise match the search query. Google does this because it has determined those other results are more authoritative.

 Some other factors of a website that affect organic and local SEO rankings are backlinks, domain authority and clicks.

Third, the top 10 local organic factors for SEO are related to websites

A survey by BrightLocal in 2016 showed that 95 percent of consumer searches used search engines to find local businesses. And 69 percent reported searching for a local business at least six times per year. So, SEO for a local business website is a big deal.

 Please Note that we’re not talking about searches in which a business’s name is specifically typed into the search box. Those results commonly return Facebook pages, Yelp listings and Groupon listings. We are talking about finding new customers who looking for a local business.

 The top 10 factors for appearing in organic Google search results, according to Moz’s 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors, are related to a business’s website or domain name. A few of these factors are: how authoritative your website is, based on who is linking to your site, how many third parties are linking to you and the quality and relevance of your content.

 Some will say, these factors can be fulfilled on a Facebook page, but that really doesn’t happen. For instance, a major factor — authority of the site — is difficult to achieve on a social media site, since Google doesn’t consider social signals such as likes or followers in ranking. I searched for “lawn care” in Houston, TX and after browsing though 10 pages of a Google search, I did not find one Facebook listing for “lawn care”.

 In summary, maintaining a business website that has quality and relevant content that is consistently referenced and linked by other reputable third-party directories, sites, articles and posts is critical to being found in a local search on Google and other search engines.

Fourth, a whopping 30% of consumers won’t consider a business without a website

Did you know, consumers on an average consider three different sources before making a buying decision? Just because someone looks at a company’s Facebook page or reads reviews on various directories doesn’t mean they don’t want to review a business’s website. Furthermore, 30 percent of searching consumers automatically strike a business from consideration if that business does not have a website.

Consequently, businesses that don’t have a website are losing ready-to-buy, high-intent potential customers to those businesses that have a website.

 Fifth, Confidence and TRUST

Yes, potential customers can find a business’s Google Map, Yelp listing and Facebook page, but a huge impact on a company’s credibility comes from their company website. Research conducted at Stanford in 2002 (PDF) found that 46 percent of consumers made their decision about a websites credibility based upon its design, composition and layout .

 First impressions are key to brick and mortar stores, salesmen, product brochures and the products themselves. Today, websites have taken their place and a company’s website is key to that first impression, something Facebook and other media sites cannot provide.

 A website is that storefront on the INTERNET and it reflects a business’s identity, which allow consumers to form opinions on the quality of the products or services a business provides, the trustworthiness of a business and whether or not that business is a company a consumer wants to buy from. This is especially important for service oriented companies. A study from the e-tailing Group and Oracle (PDF), revealed that 75 percent of consumers state that the quality of product’s images is essential in deciding whether or not they will purchase a product online or contact a service type company. For a service oriented company, a website is your product image.

 What now?

U.S. Website Studio has carved out a niche from the world wide web. We specialize in local searches, websites and lean heavily on service oriented businesses. With tons of information on the INTERNET, it is easy for a SMB to make a marketing decision based on incomplete or irrelevant information. It would be easy for a SMB to look at the time consumers spend on social media looking for products and services versus a company website and quickly conclude that its marketing resources should be allocated to that social media arena. Or worse yet, decide that it can rely solely on social media.

 U.S. Website Studio would like the opportunity to help any SMB decipher the informational tonnage available on the INTERNET. For more information on what, where and how we can help you establish an INTERNET presence click here.

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