Gone are the days where having a website was considered optional for a business. Today it's expected that every business will have a website, and for good reason!
Your website is (or should be) the primary source of information about your business, and it's the only place online that you have full control over. On any other platform, your business is subject to the rules and business practices of the platform you're listed on. This may mean that you're not allowed to publish certain information, content may be limited in length, or you may even have competitor's ads shown on your listing!
Your website is the one location that is completely under your control. No restrictions, no competition, and no fees - just you sharing exactly what you want your customers to know about you.
There are a lot of things that go into building a great website – many more than we could list. Here are a few of the most important:
While there are plenty of other technical elements that are necessary to make your site perform to its full potential, having interesting, accurate, and current content is probably the single most important factor in having a website that delights your visitors.
Your website is also treated as a source of information by search engines, local listing directories, and other online providers. These sites may "scrape" your site for information such as address, hours of operation, reviews, and even snippets of content that may answer search users questions. This makes it even more important to ensure that your website is reviewed regularly and kept up to date.
The web is constantly changing, and sites that don't change with it will gradually lose their visibility and impact. Search engines evolve on an almost-daily basis to accomodate new technology, security threats, and user habits. Over time, they introduce new recommendations and requirements that websites are expected to meet in order to continue being indexed. If you want your site to keep drawing visitors, it's important that your site is updated to meet these requirements.
For example, Google has recently switched to mobile-first indexing, meaning that sites which are not optimized for mobile traffic are de-prioritized in most search results. Since nearly 70% of overall web traffic now comes from mobile devices, this can be a big hit. Google has also introduced Core Web Vitals, prioritizing sites that meet specific technical speed and optimization benchmarks. Slower sites that don't meet these standards are likewise de-prioritized in search results. The Chrome browser has switched to encrypted connections as a default, so sites that are not secured with an SSL certificate are blocked by an in-browser security alert. Missing the mark in any of these areas can dramatically impact your online visibility.
Visitors also have changing expectations. Sites that we would have considered modern and inviting only a few years ago now seem outdated and clunky. We've gone from browsing on low resolution desktop displays in the 90's, to larger, brighter and sharper laptop screens, and back to tiny phone displays. Sites that don't look great on every platform will frustrate their users and cost you visits.
Finally, and perhaps most important, having old and inaccurate information on your site is a sure way to lose business. Customers believe that they can trust whatever information they find on your site. Failing to update critical data such as hours of operation, holiday hours, or even staff bios is a betrayal of that trust. When customers make decisions based on the information they find on your site, and later learn that information was false, you've almost certainly destroyed that relationship.
After reading this article, you may have the impression that maintaining your website is simply a massive headache. That's where working with a digital partner (like Brentwood Visual) can greatly simplify the task. Our team works hard to stay up to date on the latest design and technical innovations and requirements. Our goal is that each of our clients has a website that they are proud to point customers to, secure in the knowlege that the site is a good representation of their business.