No Website, No Social

Somehow it seems both ironic and perfect that our 100th blog (Whoo hoo!!!) doesn’t deal with social media at all, but with probably your most important digital marketing tool: your website.

I have been contacted by several potential clients recently who have come to me for help with their social media marketing, but for whatever reason, they don’t yet have a website. Or, perhaps they have a website, but it’s old or overly simplistic. This is most definitely a misalignment of priorities. If you are in business, you simply must have an appealing, functional website before you worry about your social presence. Your website acts as the “front door” to your business. While social media is important for businesses, it is not as crucial as a website. Before people look for you on social channels, they will look for you on the Internet. Without a website, it doesn’t matter what you do on social channels, you’re essentially invisible.

Your customers will eventually look for you on social channels. It’s still important to have a social presence. But before they follow you on Facebook, they’re going do an Internet search. They’re probably not going to Google your company’s name directly unless they already know you. They’re much more likely to search by keyword and location. For example, “massage therapy Omaha.” Their search will return a list of the most popular massage therapists in Omaha. Then they’ll click on the websites they see, check them out, and call the one that looks like the best fit for them.

If you have no website, you’re out of this transaction completely. Your competition is cleaning up your potential customers. Your company might as well not exist. You can have the best Facebook account around, but that’s just not how people initially find businesses. While you can search “massage therapy Omaha” on Facebook, people just don’t do that. They find the company they like and THEN they look for them on social media. Without a website, your primary source of leads doesn’t even exist. Even if a potential client should happen to see one of your posts on social media, there’s no website where you can direct them for more information.

Unfortunately, this problem is even more complicated than simply having a website. If you have a website, you also need to have good Search Engine Optimization (SEO.) SEO helps Google or Bing or other browsers decide how authoritative and relevant your website is. When someone searches for your keywords, your website pops up in the results. You not only need a website, you need one with strong SEO.

If you have a website, try this experiment. Open a private browser window and search for keywords that describe your business. These should be words that someone would use to find your product or service, like “massage therapy Omaha” or “electrician Springfield.” Look for where your website appears in the search results. Is it on the front page of results? Is it on page 5? According to Leverage Marketing, “Research shows that websites on the first search engine results page receive almost 95% of web traffic, leaving only 5% for remaining search results pages.” That means that if you’re not in the top 5 results or so, most people aren’t even seeing your website in a search. So what do you do if you aren’t appearing in those first few search results? Improve your SEO.

There are a variety of ways to improve your SEO. We’ve written about that before. Most importantly, if you don’t have an up-to-date website, you need one. Obviously if you don’t have one, you need one, but if your site is old, it probably needs an update. Google doesn’t rank websites that aren’t responsive anymore. In other words, if your website doesn’t resize to fit tablets or smartphones, your website is not going to show up in a search. So your first job is to get a new website.

Now there are programs out there which will let you make your website yourself, but I don’t recommend going that route. Not only will your site look a lot more professional and visually appealing if you let professionals design it, it will perform better in searches too. That is because most web designers will optimize your site for good search results as they’re making your site. You’ll be getting an optimized site right from go. Is it more expensive to hire a web designer? Of course. But you really must think of it as a key investment in your business. Your website is your primary sales tool. Web designers also come in a broad spectrum of price points depending on what you need. Comparison shop!

A couple of things to keep in mind when you’re shopping for website designers:

  1. Some hold your site “hostage.” In other words, they’ll make your site, but then they insist only they can update it and you cannot transfer your site to another server or webmaster. If you aren’t happy with their service, you have to start all over with someone else. That’s a lot of wasted money. Be sure to read the fine print on the contract. Make sure you have full rights to the site once it’s created.
  2. Ask for examples of their previous work. Examine the graphic design – does it look professional and appealing? Read through all of the copy. Is it well written, clear, and meaningful? Are there spelling/grammar errors? Click ALL of the links. Do they all work? Do an internet search for the keywords of the sample company. If it’s a Mexican restaurant, Google “tacos Syracuse.” Look for where the site ranks. That will give you some idea of how good the SEO is. Keep an eye on how fast the pages load. If it loads slowly, that can be a problem for search ranking.
  3. Ask around. Surely you know other entrepreneurs in your area. Check out their websites. If you see some you like, ask who did their site. As with every business, word of mouth is very powerful.

Once you have a working, up-to-date website, we can talk social. Until you do, there’s really not much I can do for you.

Darlene McCarty Cohn

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