Are Websites Still Necessary?
Is a Facebook page currently the only online presence for your business, and is it enough? Should you really bother to create a time consuming or costly website?
As the former executive director of the Calaveras Visitors Bureau and the creator of the GoCalaveras.com website (which has since been redeveloped), I looked into the web presence for all Calaveras County, California tourism-related businesses. This was in order to create content for them on the new website.
What I discovered was that although almost all businesses had a Facebook page, a significant number had no website at all. Even some of the top tourism businesses in the county had websites in significant need of updating for mobile responsiveness, user-engagement, social media marketing integration, and smart navigation. But is this even a problem in the age of social media? Are websites still necessary?
Many small businesses rely on Facebook for their only online presence
It seems many businesses believe that their Facebook page is a good substitute for any other web presence, and this appears to be a good strategy… on the surface. Posting social media content is free and rewarding. After all, you get to see all the likes and new followers in real time and you can engage with them first-hand. Facebook is also the largest social media platform by far, and a highly recommended part of your marketing strategy by all marketing experts. So, yes. It is an essential tool in today’s marketing toolkit. But is it a good substitute for a website? Unfortunately, the answer is a definite no, and here’s why:
Managing your brand
With Facebook, brand control consists of trying to convey your business’s unique brand in your profile photo/carousel/video and the About Us section, within Facebook’s own branding. Another place to add top level information is in a pinned post to the top of the page, but this only shows in your followers’ feeds when first posted. So unless someone is coming to your Facebook page for the first time, or looking specifically for more information, they probably won’t find it.
As you make regular posts on Facebook (one per day is recommended), all previous posts are pushed lower into your feed. This means important information can be lost because virtually no one is looking through your entire feed for more information. Facebook is not designed to be an online brochure for your business. It is designed to be a news announcer.
Unlike Facebook, a carefully crafted website allows you to keep all of the most important, relevant information front and center on your home page at all times. A good web designer will make it easy for you to update that information when needed; the entire design of the site will reflect your brand and will lead visitors through the sales funnel to your conversion goals.
Lead generation and ownership
Well designed email marketing results in the highest ROI of all marketing strategies. This means that generating leads you can use independently of Facebook or any other social media platform will perform best for your business. A simple newsletter sign-up form on your website will generate leads interested in your brand. With an integrated email marketing platform, you can segment your audience, and analyze the individual results of each campaign. You can literally see who opens your emails and what they click through to, enabling you to customize content to individual preferences.
Obviously, you can market to your Facebook followers and target market segments with paid advertising through Facebook but Facebook retains ownership of those leads. A website allows you to obtain ownership to those leads by driving visitors from your FB posts to a conversion point like signing up to your newsletter and/or purchasing your product.
Here’s what to include on your website
So, are websites still necessary in the age of social media? The simple answer is that a Facebook business page does not take the place of a website. Both have an important place in your overall marketing strategy.
Facebook is great at communicating your latest news and generating online interest, but a website is invaluable for conveying the overall brand of your business. If you don’t have the budget for a professionally designed website, consider developing one yourself using easy drag and drop web-developing and hosting platforms like Wix and SquareSpace. Too busy running your business or intimidated about tackling this on your own? A web developer is not necessarily out of your budget range. Here are some things to look out for:
- Your new website should include a CMS (content management system) allowing you to easily modify digital content. Updates to the finished website should not rely on your web designer. Find someone who will train you and your team (if you’re lucky enough to have one) to make simple updates so you’re not saddled with a website showing outdated information.
- The majority of internet users are navigating to your website via their smart phones. That means your site must be mobile responsive, and has to look good and function well on mobile, tablet and desktop.
- Leverage all of your content by integrating your marketing platforms. Include social media sharing on every page of your website, as well as links to your own social media pages.
- Integrate Google Analytics into your website FREE so you can see what content your visitors are engaging with most and how they’re navigating through your site.
- Use free tools to integrate your Facebook page and website; Set up a Facebook pixel to track users navigating to your website through your Facebook ads for conversion rates and retargeting. Upload your newsletter subscriber list to Facebook to create look-alike audiences for paid advertising.