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Small Business Website Options: What Are Your Real Needs?

This article was originally published on the NextWaveSMB blog, which provides small- and medium-sized businesses with strategic insights and intelligence about the technologies and marketing trends that will give them a competitive advantage. NextWaveSMB is brought to you by Booker.

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Websites have typically been the anchor for SMB digital services. A survey from InfusionSoft/LeadPages found that 71.6% of small- and medium-sized businesses have a website. Of these, 75% see them as a marketing vehicle.

For many SMBs, websites remain highly relevant anchors for driving leads and showcasing relevant content and services — blogs, maps, photos, videos, event calendars, and scheduling. Most critically, small business websites play a major role in driving search ranking and in some cases, triggering e-commerce. They are also ideally optimized for mobile renderings.

Related: “If a business doesn’t have a website, they’re missing out on being taken seriously.”

The question for many SMBs is: how much website do you need? Websites are hardly a “one size fits all” affair. In terms of complexity, they might be tiered as follows:

  1. Landing pages. These provide basic business and contact info. These are often triggered by specific promotions
  2. Template-driven websites. These provide more of a home for small businesses, with a dedicated URL. They typically contain mostly static business information and images. There is some debate whether these mass produced sites are penalized by the search engines.
  3. Customized websites. These typically use the Web as a marketing anchor, integrating marketing features and services. They generally provide a certain amount of personalized content and programming.

At the lower end, websites can be an inexpensive commodity service. The template-based products by companies such as Wix, Web.com, GoDaddy and others are very serviceable and provide many of the things that a typical business needs. SMBs need to watch out for template-based services, however, because they stand the risk of being seen as copycat sites by the search engines, and downgraded.

Small businesses also need to consider their need to maintain independence from their website provider – and take their website and content elsewhere if they find a better solution. Some website providers do not allow transfers of URLs and content, and they require use of a dedicated telephone line that goes through the provider.

At the higher levels, websites are likely to be more customized. They are also more likely to act as a “responsive”  hub for all kinds of marketing. In this way, they are natural successors to the old Yellow Pages. In fact, the Yellow Pages companies are among the top providers of these premium websites.

Dex Media’s DexHub, for instance, includes a website, social media marketing, business listing/reputation management, customer relationship management, text marketing, and appointment scheduling. Other premium website providers include small business online marketing specialists such as ReachLocal, Yodle, and HubSpot.

Ultimately, the development and maintenance of a website is a strategic decision for SMBs. In making their choices, small- and medium-sized businesses need to weigh whether they need a simple solution that will give potential customers the information they need to walk through their door, or — if they are done effectively — a complex marketing solution that will act as a sales and marketing solution in itself.