The Internet is the first place most people go to look for a business, yet 72 percent of small businesses in Ohio do not have their own website, says Ryan Niddel, CEO of Brain Host.
“It’s surprising because having a website seems so commonplace,” says Niddel. “But if you find businesses in the Yellow Pages or the state business registry and try to pull up their domains, you see they don’t have a Web presence.”
Smart Business spoke with Niddel about the reasons businesses need websites and the costs and options of building and maintaining an online presence.
Why do so many businesses not have websites?
People think it’s more difficult, expensive or time consuming than it is. Small businesses don’t understand that someone can operate the site for them and it’s not going to cost thousands of dollars.
Businesses can get a website for free as part of a Web hosting contract costing as little as $15 a month. That way they can test the marketplace and see if their ROI increases and they’re making more money before expanding the site or getting involved in a social media marketing program.
Is a website a necessary tool for every business, no matter the product or service?
Yes, based on the number of people who search for businesses from a smartphone, tablet or computer. People look for restaurants and small businesses online before becoming customers. They want to see a website that shows products and services offered, price points and testimonials.
E-commerce stores, businesses that actually sell products online, are a small piece of the marketplace. Most websites are informational; it’s giving a consumer peace of mind about what they’re getting into before doing business with a company. Websites can benefit service industries, nonprofits, specialty shops and everything in between.
What is the advantage of a website compared to a free Facebook page?
Websites give additional validity to businesses because everyone knows Facebook is complimentary. When someone sees you’re willing to invest in your brand, it gives an additional level of comfort. Also, Facebook is a couple of pictures and quotes about your company, whereas a website can be much more in-depth.
What is essential to having a good website?
A good website not only provides insights into your business, but also enables you to capture and consistently follow up with visitors. You should leave any visitor with a hook that allows you to stay in touch periodically and keep them engaged with your brand. A company selling golf equipment — and that golf equipment doesn’t have to be sold online — might have a free download or brochure about how to take five strokes off of your game. Potential customers give an email address, and you send them specials or information about clinics or new locations.
Circle back with Twitter and Facebook accounts by sending an email that offers a 5 percent discount coupon if they ‘like’ your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter. Then, potential customers get an automatic update every time you post something to Facebook or Twitter; you’re getting an entire marketing package at no cost.
Websites have been referred to as a modern equivalent of an ad in a telephone directory. Is that accurate?
That’s correct. Catalog-size paper telephone directories are a thing of the past. About 95 percent of consumers will do some sort of online research before setting foot in your establishment. If they do an Internet search on a small business and all they see are sites with reviews or contact information, that doesn’t make them very comfortable about the business.
If you have a competitor nearby that has an Internet presence and they come up right away on a Web search, consumers are twice as likely to go to that storefront because they will not feel as engaged with your brand.
In today’s market of Internet savvy consumers, it’s imperative for small businesses to maintain a solid web presence or risk becoming obsolete.
Ryan Niddel is the CEO of Brain Host. Reach him at (419) 631-1270 or email@example.com
Insights Internet is brought to you by Brain Host
It’s tempting to always want the latest technology for your business, but it’s more important to determine what you actually need in a Web hosting service before rushing after the flavor of the moment.
“Cloud service is the way the market is going because it’s efficient and effective. But it doesn’t make sense to push everyone to the cloud. A local pizza shop that has only 1,000 visitors to its site each month could go with a $4 per month hosting package on a shared server that will fit their needs very well and they’ll be very happy with it,” says Ryan Niddel, CEO of Brain Host.
Smart Business spoke with Niddel about what to consider when selecting a Web hosting service.
What’s the first step a business should take when shopping for a Web hosting service?
The first step is to research the type of hosting services available, and then evaluate your needs. Hosting services are predicated on a few key performance indicators from your site’s traffic: the number of visitors, the bandwidth necessary to accommodate the amount of traffic on the site and your anticipated growth plans for the site. Choose a hosting solution that reflects your company’s goals.
What hosting options are available, and how do you know which is right for your business?
The focus is on need, but your budget is always a consideration. To host a small business site for a mom-and-pop pizza store, you could comfortably utilize a shared hosting environment for $4 to $15 a month.
From there, you jump up to a virtual private server (VPS) solution, which is having a piece of a server configured only for you and your business. It’s as if you’re the sole owner of a quarter of a box and you can do whatever you want with it — you own all the bandwidth and all the metrics.
Then you can upgrade to a dedicated server — basically the entire box. It’s ideal for larger, traffic-heavy sites or for someone who wants to segment out their own box and resell pieces of it.
Finally, there’s the environment where much of the world is headed, which is the cloud. It’s fully scalable and accessible in real-time, so the amount of bandwidth you need can actually be adjusted at any given point throughout the day, week or month. You pay only for what you use — no more and no less.
In a VPS situation, if you’re using more service than you purchased, it can take several days or even several weeks to increase the amount of traffic you can send to your site. Cloud hosting allows you to simply turn a virtual knob on a screen, and all of a sudden, you have all the bandwidth you need.
How do you know which Web hosting service is going to have less downtime?
Everyone providing a Web hosting service is going to promise you the world and it’s going to be tough to for them to deliver it. The best way to know for sure is to ask where their servers are located and what contingency plan is in place when problems arise.
You want someone with a clear plan and a cascading effect. If the main servers on the Eastern Seaboard go down, the hosting company should be able to recognize that and then quickly switch to an alternate server. Or in the event that there is a power outage, the minute that power goes out, a backup generator or another server should instantly kick back on in another part of the world, leaving you with only a few seconds of interrupted service. It should be an automated process, rather than one that requires people to monitor the servers and physically flip switches behind the scenes.
The red flag for a Web host is lack of transparency. If they refuse tell you what they do and how they do it, then it will difficult to believe that they will be able to deliver on all that they are promising.
Ryan Niddel is the CEO of Brain Host. Reach him at (419) 631-1270 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights Internet is brought to you by Brain Host