There’s really little left to say about the world ‘going digital’. We went digital a decade ago; since then, the reach and importance of connecting with your customers online has only grown. If anything, it’s accelerating. In 2017, 13% of all retail sales occurred online, compared to 11.6% the year before. That’s a nearly 11% increase in market share year over year, and online sales growth is trending upward.
It’s not just retail sales that are booming online. Internet access and average time online per day are way up. Emerging markets in Africa, Asia, and South America have helped grow internet access at an historic pace; over 50% of the world’s population, some 4 billion users, are connected to the internet as of 2017. 88% of North Americans are connected: some 509 million people on our continent who you can reach via the internet.
As the internet continues to grow its reach at a dizzying pace, traditional communication platforms are losing market share. Fixed telephone lines have fallen from an all-time high of 1.26 billion worldwide in 2006 to 972 million in 2017, despite world population growing by nearly one billion over the same time period. Rapid reduction in listenership by younger generations and the emergence of streaming services in vehicles has FM radio in a bad position, with an expected plummet in listenership by the 2020’s. Finally, while print’s demise may be exaggerated, the demographics profile of individuals who still regularly read newspapers and periodicals is not a healthy one for sustained success. The majority of readers are aged 50+. Within the 50+ demographic, readership increases the older the individual is. That is a number trending in the wrong direction.
So, if ever there was a reason to question whether your business needs a website, it seems like that time is long gone — isn’t it?
The Problem With Websites…
I promise, this isn’t going to be sensationalist. I won’t even bury the lede. A website is a powerful marketing tool that many if not most businesses should have, but it’s not the only way to succeed. There is an epidemic of godawful, worthless, terrible, no-good websites out there. Whether they’re ancient relics from the days of dial-up or brand new but fatally flawed, if your website sucks it might be detracting from your business success.
You Need to Keep Your Website Up-to-Date
I am very much of the philosophy that if you’re going to do something, do it really well. This naturally extends to your website. A great website only stays great for so long without updates, adjustments, and fresh content.
There’s problem number one, and one of the main culprits for ineffective websites. Websites that don’t evolve become burdens instead of assets. A perfectly serviceable website in 2011 (like the Netflix screenshot seen above) would look like low quality and perform poorly compared to a well-done 2018 design. That will hold true about 2018’s web design trends in 2025 as well. Websites aren’t ‘set it and forget it’ marketing solutions, even though many businesses treat them as such.
You Need to Have Genuinely Good Content
Let’s tell a quick story about marketing days of yore. Once upon a time, SEO (Search Engine Optimization, for the uninitiated — basically, making your website rank higher in Google search than your competitors) was a crude science. SEO specialists would find a way to game the system, using techniques like keyword stuffing, where they’d write content that repeated the same set of keywords over and over until Google was forced to rank them near the top.
Google would uncover these sneaky techniques and build a more sophisticated algorithm that prevented that sort of abuse.
This battle between SEO experts and Google has raged for about two decades now. The result is that improving your SEO is trickier than ever. There’s no shortcut to success; you just need good content. Google’s algorithm is so sophisticated that you really can’t fool it. It takes into account your writing quality, readability, website performance, and a thousand other factors, then ranks you against your competitors.
The drive for great content isn’t only relevant for SEO rankings. Internet users have higher standards than ever before. An average page doesn’t grab their interest anymore. If you want to convert more traffic into customers, you need to do better than OK. You have to aim for greatness.
You Need to Build Websites With Intention
If you’ve ever read the famous self-help book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you’ll probably remember the habit ‘begin with the end in mind’. It’s a mantra about intention. Act thoughtfully and purposefully. Consider what your end goal is before you begin any task. This holds equally true with websites.
I’ve met numerous clients who just want a website, but haven’t asked themselves why. Their thought process seems to go something like this:
- I don’t have a website
- Everyone else has one
- I should have one, too
You’ll notice that there’s no solid rationale for building a website mixed in there. For too many people, it’s simply the thing to do. Now, we sell websites. We believe in their power as much as — more than — anyone. But websites only work for you if you put them to work. Figure out what you need to do for your business to take the next step. Then, build a website that helps you do that. It could be that you need more brand awareness, or a better way to manage your leads, or maybe you simply need faster sales. Whatever your pressing business need is, a website can help you. But only if it’s built to help you.
The Problem With Websites is That They’re a Lot of Work
Websites give back what you put into them. If you want a website just so you can say you have one, go right ahead. Keep it simple and keep renewing your hosting package. Users will find it when they Google you (hopefully), and some will shoot you an email or place a phone call. But if you want a website that genuinely impacts your business, be prepared to spend time on it. Just the same as a brick and mortar store needs to be cleaned and maintained, a website needs a little TLC from time to time. It needs good content that gets updated regularly, and a design that grows and evolves as your business does.
Just the same as a brick and mortar store needs to be cleaned and maintained, a website needs a little TLC from time to time.
A website is invaluable if you treat it right, but they aren’t for everyone. More than anything, if you take one message away from this article, it should be this
Do What Works For You
Some people really embrace websites. They blog, check their stats every day, and funnel clients through their site. For them, a website is the right approach. For many others, it may not be.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your business online. There are a lot of ways to reach your customers digitally — more every day. We have clients who never find themselves sitting down at a computer, but love Instagram. They’ll post three times a day, keep their stories fresh and interesting, and comment on all their friends’ photos. For them, a website might not make sense, but a social media campaign certainly would. A little planning and content strategy can turn their social media hobby into a legitimate business outreach campaign without having to learn a new technology. They keep doing everything they’re doing, just with a little more purpose. Depending on what type of business you’re running, you can leverage social media into serious sales. If you need proof of that, consider the rise of social media celebrities. Savvy social media usage can reach tens of millions of users and persuade them to change their shopping behaviour.
Do you want to do better business online? We can help you reach online audiences in a way that works for you and your business. Contact us today and see what BlackBean can do for you.