Why Local Businesses (Still) Need Websites
With the majority of useful business information now being displayed on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), a number of small business owners are starting to reject the idea that they need a website. Thing is, 2019 might be the single most crucial time since websites became an option for small businesses to have and maintain a site.
Why Small Business Owners are Opting Out of Websites
The thought here is that since Google shows business times, phone numbers, locations, busy hours, reviews, and more right on the SERPs, why have a website just to convey the same information? Furthermore, this idea is only compounded with the prevalence of social media. When it’s nearly impossible to truly engage with new and loyal customers over a website, why not just funnel all of the interactions to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram?
On the surface, the availability of information and the engagement of social media make for a strong argument as to why a small business owner should forgo a website while saving a few bucks in recurring upkeep in the process. But as we’ve all heard a thousand times, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Or in this case, you shouldn’t judge the functionality of SERPs and immediate responses in social media as being the only presence that businesses need online. Sure, that phrase might not be snappy enough to gain any kind of traction, but what it lacks in catchiness it more than makes up for inapplicability to online marketing and business growth.
SERP Rank Correlates to Position on Local Search
While there are a variety of methods to optimize Facebook business pages, YouTube channels, and other online mediums to rank well on search results, these pale in comparison to what’s available to an actual, functional website. What’s more, a recent Moz report shows that businesses with high SERPs rankings for their websites are far more likely to rank well for same or similar local pack results.
Note: the local pack is the three physical businesses that Google SERPs show when the search engine thinks you are looking for a local business.
While a well-ranking company website doesn’t always result in landing business in a local pack, the correlation isn’t absolutely guaranteed for every search, but it’s more than strong enough to warrant both having a legitimate website and using SEO to get it to rank well.
For example, when the search for “best hamburger new orleans” gives us this local pack:
If we compare that local pack to the search results, we will see that The Company Burger and Port of Call websites are both on the first page of SERPs, and that New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Co. is high on the second page:
Results like these are similar for a number of searches across a number of cities in a number of industries populated by small businesses. Be it “San Diego plumber”, “Seattle sushi”, “best New York City locksmith”, “bed and breakfast St Louis”, or a ton of other searches in specific locations, the correlation mentioned above is so widespread that it seems impossible there isn’t a cause and effect happening between having a website show up on both the local pack and the first page of SERPs.
And with Google ad content and the local pack itself now taking so much real estate on results, not having a website competing for top spots on SEO could mean the difference between struggling for business and thriving above your competition.
About Those Directory Sites and “Best of” Pages…
While customers might like those aggregate pages showing the Best Whatever Wherever 2019, they can be a double-edged sword for small business owners. On one hand, getting listed as one of the best businesses in your industry can go an incredibly long way, especially when talking about what is essentially free, excellent publicity. On the other hand, those aggregate lists and the businesses they promote are in direct competition for top spots in Google’s SERPs.
However, that’s also where having a well-ranked website gets even more important.
Let’s take a deeper look at the “best hamburger New Orleans” search since we already have a visual of what the local pack and first page of search results look like. In those results, there are only two actual businesses, which we saw also appeared on the local pack, and eight “best” lists. Of those eight lists, every single one them brings attention to Port of Call and The Company Burger, the two burger joints which appeared on the first page. This means these two businesses each have a presence on 90 percent of the first page of results. The only reason it’s not more is that, obviously, they don’t mention each other in their own company websites.
Conversely, New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Co. (NOHSC) only appeared on two of those lists. While appearing in 20 percent of the total results might sound nice at first, the two sites it appears on are Yelp and TripAdvisor in the 26th and 13th spots respectively. It seems the only reason NOHSC is mentioned at all is that these sites automatically populate with locations and the lists go fairly deep. The Foursquare results, which is the only automatically populated “Best” list that doesn’t show NOHSC, only shows 15 businesses.
When it comes to the lists actually written by human beings on the SERP, The Company Burger and Port of Call were included 100 percent of the time. It’s almost like having your restaurant’s official website on the first page of results for “best hamburger New Orleans” is an easy way to be discussed, and viewed favorably by, writers looking for the best hamburgers in New Orleans.
Aesthetics Matter and Topical Expertise
Even if you don’t really care about SERPs or Google’s local pack, there’s one thing having a website offers that small business owners love: total control. Unlike how businesses are presented on social media and Google, the layout and look of a website can actually match a company’s intended aesthetic. This also helps to separate unique small businesses from corporations who don’t have to take much risk when trying to bring in new patrons.
Likewise, company blogs help small business websites get a lot more traction than people tend to assume. These blogs, when updated regularly, help small businesses in two powerful ways. The first is that consistent on-topic content can do wonders for SEO efforts, which in turn helps to get to the first page of Google search results. The second is that the business becomes increasingly recognized as an expert and influencer in their industry. The SEO pulls new customers in and the expertise works to convert them into paying customers.
If you’re a business owner looking to start or revamp a website, contact Big Easy SEO today for a free consultation. We’ll be glad to discuss a permanent place on the web for you and your company as well as the best ways to promote and grow the business.