In 2014, only a few years ago, it was stated in an article in Canadian Business Magazine that only 41.1% of small businesses in Canada had a website. It was only a little over 50% in 2020. What is worse than this, most companies that have invested in a website are not sure what business results in the way of leads and sales they are receiving from their website.
Importance of a Website for Businesses
With 87% of Canadians having access to the Internet, it is incredible how so many businesses have not gotten on the digital bandwagon when it comes to investing in a website and digital marketing for their business. This investment is one that even a struggling business cannot afford to miss out on having. The Internet is here to stay, and customers are getting younger, so it is no longer an option to have a website. Those businesses that do not have a website will be left behind and will start to see their business suffer over Time.
Making a Decision To Have a Website
Investing in a website is only the first step in this journey. Next is having the right website for your business developed. Before you think, I know a cousin that understands HTML, STOP. This is your business, and a website is not a placeholder on the Internet. A website is your storefront on the Internet, whether you sell online or not. The first impression visitors have when they visit your website will be the one they have about your business. If the impression is poor, your business might be discounted without any consideration of the strength of your business and products.
What Is Important To Have In a Website Today?
Branding – Your website should incorporate your brand and look like your other corporate marketing.
Works on all Devices - Your website needs to be responsive, which means it will render on all devices. More and more visitors are searching with tablets and smartphones.
Meaningful Content – The content on your website needs to be beneficial to your target audience(s). It requires updating regularly and must engage your visitors.
Optimized Content and Website – SEO today is not the SEO of five years ago. It is vital that you optimize your website for search engines by ensuring that your meta tags, descriptions, titles, and content are optimized for SEO.
Navigational Ease– Your website's content must be easy to find and navigate. Otherwise, the content will not be read. Responsive sites conform to mobile devices, so ensure your visitors do not have to navigate too far to find content.
Accessibility – Websites need to be accessible, and if your business is over 50 employees in Ontario, you must conform to the current accessibility standards. This is true of most other provinces and even most countries today. In many cases, if good design and development standards are followed, your website will likely use most of the standards needed. This is important to know, as your business can be fined for non-conformance by the government.
Hire a Professional – This is an investment in your business, so do not hire someone who is not a professional to build your website, or it could cost you more in the end. There are many reputable web development companies; it is up to you as a business owner to do your due diligence. Check references of the companies you hire and look at their work. You need to check client references and ask to view their work.
CMS versus HTML site – Make sure the web development company creating your website uses a CMS (content management system). This will allow you to make changes once it is fully developed versus paying them for every minor change to content. A reputable firm would have already recommended this option. You do not want to have a static HTML website today. A CMS-developed website might cost you more up-front but will be cost savings over Time.
Blog on Website – If you have a blog for your business, make sure it is incorporated into your website wherever possible. Blogs drive traffic to your website.
Be Serious About Investing – If a professional is going to develop your website in a CMS that is responsive and is optimized, you are not going to pay $500.00. If you are a business and need a site that is more than 5 pages – expect to spend around $2000.00 for a professionally developed site for your business. Ecommerce will cost you much more, but this is your business at this point.
Now I Have a Website, Now What?
A website is constantly changing, and as a business owner, someone in your company needs to take ownership of this task to keep the website up to date. Web updates should be part of your ongoing marketing efforts and should be budgeted as part of marketing. When purchasing a website, it is up to you as the business owner to ensure your staff has access to the metrics, especially if you are paying your web company for maintenance and SEO. Do not just believe someone that is telling you that you are moving up on Google; someone needs to verify this. No one can promise you Page one. This takes Time and must be done correctly otherwise, Google could ban your website. Those making these promises are using black hat tactics and no longer know what they are doing. It is about waiting and developing the right content today. You cannot beat the system once you optimize your site and build content.
Google Analytics is FREE and your website will have been set up on Google Analytics as part of your website project. If this is not included in the project, this is not a reputable web company. You or your staff should also be given access to Google Analytics and some basic training.
In addition, someone needs to track the leads you receive from your website. Tracking is as simple as keeping track of all the leads that come through forms or asking clients when they call how they found your business. Online leads must be followed up on within 24 hours of being entered into your site. If you wait to answer, you have probably lost that potential lead to a competitor.
Basic Metrics To Watch and Track
You can create almost any report you need. The metrics below are included in Google Analytics. This is not an inclusive list of everything tracked but is meant only as an overview of the available base metrics. Much of the reporting changed with Google Analytics 4, launched recently (2022). Below is a sample of the information you can see.
Realtime - How real-time visitors interact on your site (within the last 30 minutes.
Acquisition- How are visitors getting to your site?
Users Over Time and Real Time - the default report shows how many users and new users exist for the chosen time period. There is also a chart of real-time users on the site.
Channels – will tell you where the visitors are coming from directly through organic search, referral, social media, or paid search.
Organic Search Queries – will tell you the terms visitors are typing in search engines to get to your website, what pages they landed on with that search term what geographies they came.
Engagement – What are visitors doing on your site once they are there?
Average Time – looks at the average time users are engaged on the site.
Event Count – looks at the different events users engage in on your website.
Views by Page – look at users' various pages on the site.
Monetization – What are users purchasing on your website?
Retention - Who are the returning visitors to your website?
Demographics - looks at your traffic's geography, age, and interest breakdown.
Tech - analyzes your traffic by platform, browser, screen size and operating system.
List of Reports - an area where all your reports are stored and where you can create new reports or modify the ones you have.
If you are serious about growing your business, having a professional website for your business is a must. A website is an essential investment in your business and is as much of a priority as hiring a salesperson. Whether your target prospects are B2C or B2B, all are searching for information online before calling or visiting your business in most cases. If you have an inadequate website or cannot be found by your prospects, you can be assured you are losing out on business.
Once you have a website, it is vital to keep it up to date and measure performance to ensure you are getting the expected results. We work with many reputable web companies and refer our clients only to firms that create professional business websites that conform to the standards outlined in this article. Choosing the wrong company without due diligence can cost your business considerably down the road.
We have worked with several web companies over the years and refer clients only to reputable ones that we know will provide them with a website that will work for their business.