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The Benefits of Developing an Online Presence For Your Company

01.07.2014
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It seems every business has a website these days, and for good reason. Establishing a web presence is one of the best ways for a business to market themselves, communicate with customers, and meet customer expectations. A web search for a business that turns up nothing but phone listings and 3rd-party review sites makes a business look like it is behind the times, and out of touch with its customers. The ubiquity of the internet has made a web presence a necessity for any business.

Who Needs a Website?
Every business needs a website. This point is so important it bears repeating: every business needs a website. Many business owners believe that since they do not sell products online, or do not conduct any business online, that they do not require a website in order to operate effectively. It is true that the operations of a business may not be affected by the lack of a web presence, but a business that lacks a website is missing a key component of how a business is represented that customers are expecting. In the past, it may have been true that establishing a website was cost-prohibitive, but these days hosting and setting up a website is so cheap that any business without a web presence is missing out on vital opportunities.

Necessities and Advantages of Web-Based Marketing
The greatest advantage of a website to any business is undoubtedly the ability to utilize it for cheap and effecting advertising. A website is, in essence, a giant advertisement. Listing products, services, and contact information, a website creates a centralized point where all information about a business can be accessed by a customer. A website also gives a business owner the ability to choose how their website is represented; most customers will use the business’s own website as the primary method of evaluating the credibility of a business, and a well-designed website can make sure that an ideal image of the company is what the customer is seeing and absorbing. In addition, a website allows a business to have an “anchor” on the internet. Using technologies such as search engine optimization (a method of designing a website with relevance in a web search as a high priority) a business owner can ensure that their website appears in a search for similar businesses or services. For example, if a plumber sets up a website that is optimized for a search engine, then his business will appear when a customer searches “plumbing services” instead of requiring the customer to search the name of this particular plumber’s business. This means the advertisement aspect of a website really comes alive during a web search. Forget the yellow pages, most customers will search for businesses and service on the web, and having a link to a well-designed website in the search results means traffic to the website, and traffic to the website means more business.

Customer Expectations
The web is the number one method of searching for business, and it is number one by a long way. Customers expect to be able to find a business online, and if a business does not appear with an original website in the results of a web search, customers tend to find that business less reputable than their web-friendly counterparts. Customers also want information quickly. If a person is searching for goods or services in their area, they will want a quick index to search through to find what they need. Customers rarely check businesses beyond those that appear near the top of the results of a web search; because of this a well-designed and efficiently designed website is vital; customers need to access information quickly, and be able to use this information to evaluate a business. Customers will also use a business’ web presence to “validate” the business. This means that customers judge a business’s whole operation simply by the quality and content of their webpage. The advantages of this are huge; a customer can make a quick and simple decision simply by evaluation the web content of a business. Of course, if the business has no content to offer, then this evaluation never occurs, and a customer is lost to a competitor. Customers are also beginning to desire quick and efficient communication between themselves and a business, and websites offer an easy way to implement communication strategies that allows a business to respond to customers quickly and effectively.

Advantages of Web-Based Functions for Business Owners
A website isn’t just for customers. There is much more function to be gained from a website then simply acting as an advertisement. Websites have sections that are not accessible to customers, which may be utilized by business owners. These sections, known as “backends,” allow a great deal of software to be run and data to be stored. Everything from inventory information to accounting data can be safely and securely stored on a business’s website. Specific software to perform functions can also be loaded; for example, it is popular for many business owners to host timeclock and employee scheduling software on the website’s backend. There are a few major advantages to using the backend of a website: the content can be accessed from anywhere by anyone with the correct credentials, meaning that employees can check their schedule from home, and a manager or owner no longer needs to be in the office to take care of bookkeeping or logistical tasks. In addition, an efficient utilization of the backend is a huge cost saver. It is no longer necessary for a business owner to license software from many different companies when comparable programs are available at a much cheaper rate for websites. The backend also allows for a quick and simple set-up of an e-commerce store. Any business that sells physical products should have some form of e-commerce implemented. A business’s online store creates another avenue for customers to purchase products, and any additional avenue means additional profit.
The advantages and necessity of investing in a web presence should now be fairly apparent. Failing to produce an online presence will fail to produce customers, and leave a business owner wondering why their web-friendly competitors are so successful. Websites should be embraced as the next generation advertising and communication tool that will reduce the workload of a business owner, and reduce the overhead of a business.

Mike Smith is a freelance writer who has been contributing to the Digital Hothouse team for a number of years. His wealth of experience within SEO makes him the ideal candidate to offer an insight into the benefits of developing an online presence for your company.

Published at DZone with permission of Paul Andrews, author and DZone MVB.

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