Why Small Businesses Don’t Have Websites – and Why They Should

If your small biz doesn't have a website, you may be short-changing your own growth.
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With free and easy DIY website builders available there's hardly a reason not to build a website for your small business. (Photo: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

Think your small business doesn’t need a website? Think again. A new survey by professional services research firm Clutch indicates not having a website could be stifling your company’s growth.

Yes, even in this digital age, a surprising number of small businesses still don’t have websites. According to Clutch’s 2016 survey, half of small businesses didn’t have a website. The 2017 report indicates that number is on the decline. Now, only 29 percent of small businesses surveyed are website free.

While more are getting on board, creating an online presence remains a real issue for many small businesses – especially those earning under $1 million annually, which are 30 percent less likely to have a website than higher-earning companies.

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Often, businesses mistakenly overestimate the cost and skill-set required to build a website, says Riley Panko, a content developer at Clutch. (Photo: Riley Panko)

Top reasons: technical experience, resources and the rise of social media

Why are so many small businesses putting off a website? Those surveyed stated they don’t have the technical know-how, finances or staff to build and maintain a website, suggesting businesses with lower profit margins struggle with resources and technology.

Do small businesses really need to invest in a website?

In a word, yes. There’s little debate on whether having a website is a good business decision or not. Ninety-two percent of survey respondents anticipate having a website by the end of 2018, indicating that the majority of small business owners recognize the importance of a permanent online home for their brand.

Often, business owners assume the cost to build a website is too great and the skillset needed is too advanced for the average small business owner. But that’s not the case, said Riley Panko, a content developer at Clutch.

In the marketplace today, a number of DIY website solutions are available for a very low cost, or even free. Popular web builders allow you to create a website without knowing a single line of code, she said.

Related: What Customers Expect from Small Business Websites

Issues with opting for social media instead of a website

The Clutch survey indicates 31 percent of businesses without websites are relying on social media to fill the gap. “For some businesses, social media is all that’s needed for a healthy online presence,” said Panko.

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Website analytics can provide more information about your audience than social media can. (Photo: JETACOM AUTOFOCUS/Shutterstock)

But total reliance on social media can severely limit your ability to connect with and serve your customers, she said. Because social is a highly crowded marketplace, small businesses without an ad budget and resources for keeping content at the top of their customer’s feeds will likely fall short. In fact, their audience may not even be seeing their posts.

Related: Why Social Media May Not Pay Unless You Do

According to Panko, the biggest issue with using social media in place of a website is analytics. “Social channels don’t provide adequate lead generation like websites do” she said. While platforms like Twitter and Facebook can provide great data insights on your audience, there’s no foolproof mechanism for tracking and following up with customers explicitly via social channels, like you can via your own website.

“Websites expand market reach,” said Panko, “and allow small businesses to build their brand, as well as interact with their customers.” Furthermore, even free website analytics provide more information about target audiences, whereas social channel insights are vague and difficult to understand.

And what if something goes wrong with a Facebook page or Instagram profile? Social media customer support is almost non-existent. With a website, at least, you can hire an expert or contact a hosting company for help.

Mobile-friendly sites still a problem with small business

Of the two thirds of small businesses that do have websites, 17 percent admit they aren’t mobile-friendly. Not having a site display across multiple platforms presents a critical factor in company growth.

“Small business owners miss a huge opportunity to tap into the quickly growing millennial and Gen Z markets that consider mobile browsing a part of everyday life,” said Clutch about their study.

Whether you partner with a small agency or build a site yourself, make it a priority to invest in a mobile-friendly website. “Building a website can be the key to putting your small businesses at the forefront of your industry,” said Clutch. Even if you don’t think it’s relevant to your industry, it still needs to be a priority.

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