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Do I Really Need a Website?

Do I really need Google? Can I just use Facebook and Social Media

     
4:08 pm on Jul 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I met a plumber in the area here and he asked, do i really need a website? He was thinking of a website appearing on Google.

It depends, was the rather woolly answer I gave.

A plumber who's a sole trader and small busiiness, for example, could get away without a site just by using all the local facilities available: A Facebook Page, Instagram, Pinterest, a twitter account, offline advertising in the locality, his name on his van, business cards, leaflets to drop through doors, his reputation by word-of-mouth, etc., and not one of those things requires a traditional search engine. Of course, they could use Google My Business to get on the Maps, Google+ for a page and reviews, and that wouldn't be a bad thing. Still no website needed.

A plumbing company, on the other hand, could do all those things I mentioned, and use a website as the centre-piece of all that to bring it all together. But, could they get away with just using social media, and a Page on Facebook?

How would you find a plumber? You'd probably ask a friend, either by phone, text, or face-to-face to see if they can recommend anyone. You might ask friends on Facebook for recommendations, too. There are Facebook ads for plumbers, too, and they appear to be just Facebook Pages.

After any of those recommendations, you may want to find that plumber online to familiarise yourself with them. Anyone still use online directories for local business? I know many people that do. They go straight to the local directory, bypassing a search engine, and look for the local listings.

I also did a search and found plumbers on Facebook - and not a website in sight!

It all pointed back to Facebook as an ecosystem that surely must be a concern for any search engine. Once people and businesses are locked in to a site, such as Facebook, need they go anywhere else? Do they even need to worry about having a website?

Once Facebook sorts out its search I think it's going to become a more significant player than it is right now.

Also, and interestingly, I did a quick search on google for a plumber: Google's maps 7-pack seemed to be placed beneath the ads, and three organic results, with lots and lots of ads, some badly targeted. The bad targeting is down to the advertisers, or course. Lots and lots of competition vying for the top spot on Google. Facebook, on the other hand, relatively, an untapped opportunity.

Once again, is it getting closer to the point where we can get away without a website, and using Google, too?
4:34 pm on July 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Hopefully yes.
4:56 pm on July 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Closer, but I don't think things will get completely to that point, if ever.

For me (admittedly, not Joe Casual Surfer), if I am searching for or reviewing a business, it's a red flag to not see a web site listed. I've found several businesses where I did a search and found listings in the SERPs for them on Yelp, FB, TripAdvisor, and various directories. But I view all those as 3rd party platforms that can limit the information that the business provides about itself. And any of them could go belly up or change their terms of service at any time. And most of them just provide the exact same information as the others. To me, having a dedicated web site is as important as having a dedicated phone number was in years past, if not more so.

Even if the business owner has gone to the trouble of adding original content (beyond the basic name, address, telephone info) to the sites, most likely he has added the exact same information to all the sites. Especially if he's used some service/company to update all those. So other than portal-specific reviews, there's pretty much all the same. And even for reviews, a lot of the people post the same reviews (especially if they are negative) to multiple sites.

Especially when it comes to restaurants, I usually want to see a menu with prices before I go. Sometimes there will be one on their Yelp listing, but most of the time they are poor scans or very outdated.

Granted, I have also seen some incredibly crappy web sites, which also tends to be a red flag for me.
5:29 pm on July 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Over the last few weeks I have met a number of small businesses with no website. They seem to be surviving, happily, despite that.

As I mentioned, originally, it depends on what they do. Yes, Restaurants with reviews would work, but, still, do they need a website? They can get their reviews and likes appearing against their record.

Obviously, a larger business will require a website, and you can do so much more with the content, and marketing, such as data capture, and running a database, and, of course, sell from your site. But even selling from your own site is under threat. Google Announces Test of Purchases, with "Buy on Google" [webmasterworld.com] Pinterest Ecommerce "Buyable Pins" Rolls Out to Apple Devices in US [webmasterworld.com] Facebook Shops Being Tested On Pages [webmasterworld.com]
4:31 pm on July 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Hi, My name is Liza, I am new to WW. 99% of my time here is read only. An example is today I clicked on most recent post and for the past hour have gone down the list. What I have learned in this forum is is priceless to say the least. This is only from a personal experience and I just wanted to post it in case it has any meaning or value to anyone.

First of all we are a small taxi business in a relatively small market. Yes, we do have a primary website but it is only 3 months old. Others in our city have been around for years. Most of the keywords we are targeting for our website has us on page 1 but mid page or lower.

Our Google plus page has us at the top (not sure what you call it?) of the local listings with the phone/info/map next to it. Most are in the top 3. It is all due to our Google Plus biz page description. At least I thinks so. We are targeting different keywords for our website and Google page. Everything we are targeting our G+ page has us at the top. Our phone has been ringing off the hook (an old expression my parents use). Our analytics show it all from Google biz page.

Our business has been around for some time. Only our website is new. Due to ride-share apps our business dropped considerably. Before that our business was doing good by word of mouth and re-peat business.

I am now a firm believer that a Google+ biz page is a must for local small business.

Thank You,
Liza C., College Station TX

excuse typos, misuse of the English language
it's a family tradition : )

Edited: corrected a couple typos
4:43 pm on July 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Liza's comments helped me realize I didn't explain myself very well. Her experience, as well as what I've been seeing, shows that having a web site is only part of a marketing strategy.

If people are looking for your niche (e.g., a local taxi), then as long as some page related to your business is showing up well in the SERPs, you're ahead of the game. However, with 3rd party sites (Yelp, etc.), you're limited to what you can do SEO-wise, and all your competitors can do exactly the same. Granted, they can pretty much do the same on their own web site as you can do on your own web site, but if you DON'T have a web site, then you're most likely already behind your competitors that do have web sites.

But if people are specifically looking for your business name and your web site doesn't show in the SERPs, or you don't have a web site linked from your page on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google+, etc., then that's a red flag (to me).

In terms of links, my opinion is that people would be more likely to link to your web site than to your FB or Yelp page.
4:57 pm on July 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Just to clarify these are not as a result of direct search results for our company name. That would be too easy. They are for keyword strings that have us at the top of G+ local search results. I could be wrong but my thoughts are that your G+ biz description is of utmost importance unrelated to anything else you have online. When we change our G+ page description and change a few different keywords, a couple days later we are ranking at the top in local results for those. Could be a coincidence, but doesn't seem to be.

Again I am no expert, only a person that pays attention to detail. I am here to learn. Not give advice.
5:15 pm on July 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Cabbie, your input and experience is valuable - we are learning from you! :) Oh, and a belated welcome to WebmasterWorld.

You might also want to comment on these observations about the value of the five/seven pack. Measuring the Value of Google Five/Seven Pack Mouse-Over [webmasterworld.com] This is something that a "local business" ought to be aware of, and to be using as a way to get to the target audience.

G+ still has its place, and although it's not what it intended to be at the outset, you'd be surprised by the number of opportunities. As a social platform, it's in the shade of Facebook, but as a ranking and branding opportunity in google, it's very valuable.